Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Prague is a charming and walkable city. We stayed at the Casa Marcello (www.casa-marcello.cz), within walking distance to Old Town and Jew Town where the Jewish Museum (www.jewishmuseum.cz) is located. We could walk to the Charles Bridge which spans the Vitava River across to the Castle and National Museum (www.ngprague.cz) as well as to many cafes and the Town Square.
There is much to see and do in Prague. I will talk more about it in the next post and then later share our trip 30 miles out of town when we visited Terezin, the "model" camp set up by the Nazis. Things are not as pretty as they seem here.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Home to emperors and kings, artists and astronomers, this beautiful and fascinating city has worked its magic on generations of visitors and lent inspiration to musicians and writers. Jews have lived here since the 11th century.
Stifled by communism for 40 years, Prague has returned to the capitalist fold to become one of Europe's most popular destinations. Largely undamaged by World War II, its cityscape offers a smorgasbord of stunning architecture. Behind the elegance and charm lies the prejudice and Bohemian sensibility that allowed for intermittent anti-semitism throughout the ages and during the war
55, 000 Jews lived in Prague at the outbreak of the war. 2/3 of them were killed. Prague has a tarnished golden history as far as I am concerned. More about that in the next post.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Vienna-Monumental Loss (Top)
Within the Judenplatz (Jewish Square) is the Memorial to Austrian victims of the Holocaust. Unveiled in 2000, created by British artist Rachel Witeread, the concrete cube resembles a library of 7000 turned inside out. The memorial's barred room and books that cannot be read represent the loss of those that were murdered.
This was the place that Jews were rounded up and shipped off to camps. The Jews who used to live in Vienna, educated and cultured, never got to live their lives and realize their dreams.
The sightseeing bus tours do not show the fire and terror once so much a part of the environment. Many Jewish stores and businesses as well as synagogues were destroyed on Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938.
In the late 1980's, the Austrian government began reexamining their role in the Holocaust. In July 1991, the Austrian government issued a statement acknowledging their role in the crimes committed by the Third Reich.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The cultured, well-educated Jews of Vienna who were killed during World War !! never had the chance to produce and contribute to the the world what they were supposed to. How much the world lost!
Known for its pastries and waltzes, Vienna has a checkered history of expelling Jews, Vienna was the center of the Hapsburg Empire. From 1938 until 1945, it served as the provincial capital of the German Reich. Anti-Semitic feelings persisted in Austrian society after the war and are still present today. In the late 1980's, Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi collaborator, was elected president of Austria.
Hearing the same sirens used by the SS during the war was an unsettling experience evoking the terror of that time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sightseeing in Vienna is an experience; everything is cultural, elegant and lovely. The Schoenbrunn Palace is the most popular site in Vienna, http://www.schoenbrunn.at
When we got to the Judenplatz, we were amazed at the Holocaust Memorial. Also known as the Nameless Library, it stands in Judenplatz as the central memorial for the Austrian victims of the Holocaust and was designed by the British artist Rachel Whiteread. The concrete cube resembles a library of 7000 books turned inside out. The memorial's barred room and books that cannot be read represent the loss of those who were murdered. It is a memorial to the 65,000 Austrian Jews killed by the Nazis. The Judenplatz (Jews' Place) was where Jews were rounded up during the war.
The day we arrived, there was an Israeli Fair in the Judenplatz, featuring Israeli music, food and crafts. I felt the loss and sadness of history here.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Vienna is a city of culture: it possesses a lively and vast array of cultural attractions. Whether classical or experimental theatre, film or dance festivals, opera or operetta, or exhibitions and concerts - no matter when you come and how long you stay, there is sure to be something exciting for you to discover. Or if your tastes are not quite so culturally refined, then you can visit one of Vienna's famous coffee houses or traditional wine taverns ("Heurige") and work your way through famous culinary specialities, especially Viennese pastries and coffee.
Vienna ia also a city of music. It has been synonymous with music for centuries, and was home to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Johann Strauss. This outstanding musical heritage has been preserved right to the present day. It still boasts one of the world's top orchestras as well as the Vienna Boys' Choir which is successful wherever it tours.
Vienna is also a city of art. Through the centuries, Vienna has always produced and nurtured world-famous artists. The collecting passion of art-loving rulers and monarchs has made Vienna a treasure house par excellence. The Museum of Fine Arts, for instance, is one of the world's largest and most distinguished museums, housing priceless works of art. Art accompanies you wherever you go in Vienna - even some of its underground stations are listed properties becasue of their elegant, ornamental Jugendstil style designed by Otto Wagner. There is a wonderful museum devoted to Klimt.
The exterior is elegant, charming and cultured. The architecture is beautiful. Our hotel is right in the center of town and close to the pedestrian zone Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth (www.kaiserinelisabeth.at) The people are nice and helpful.
But I am terribly uncomfortable here. Why? What am I picking up? What is all elegance and charm unable to hide??
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Vienna, the capital of Austria, 2 million inhabitants, is situated on the banks of the Danube. The influx of visitors from all over the world has made Vienna the most popular urban tourist destination in Austria.
Vienna - a romantically imperial city: Vienna is a dream city for anyone with a romantic streak or an interest in history. Sightseeing opportunities are to be found in abundance. Wander along narrow, medieval alleyways or across imperial squares and lovely boulevards, view Schönbrunn Palace or the Imperial Palace in the footsteps of Sissi and Emperor Franz Josef, and marvel at the majestic architecture along the Ring boulevard. You can be inspired by an atmosphere steeped in history - which also boasts the comforts and infrastructure of a modern city!
These guide book descriptions of Vienna are true but, unfortunately, not the complete story of this complex city. I, however, was overwhelmed by the complex underbelly of the dark past which tainted my time in Vienna.