Dachau

No words can express the experience of being near a place such as Dachau. The sheer weight of it, the gravity of the history encased within the walls and fences of this site of unimaginable tragedy is enough to pound a person’s spirit into the earth. Dachau was the first concentration camp in Germany, built originally to hold political prisoners and religious dissidents, though it soon evolved into a place packed full of any people deemed undesirable by those in power. Dachau was the site of vicious experiments on prisoners, of starvation, disease and daily tragedy. Over 30,000 people died in Dachau, and visitors to the camp can still feel the power of the atrocities committed in this place.

There is a sign near the entrance to the site of the gas chamber and crematorium that simply reads: “Remember How We Died Here”. This lonely epitaph serves as a most poignant reminder that mankind is quick to forget the travesties that have been committed not so very long ago, and that we should be reminded of what can happen when the entire world turns a blind eye to the suffering of their fellow man.

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The remains of the original platform near the train tracks, where prisoners were herded like cattle through the gates.

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The original train tracks, now rusted and dilapidated, lay just outside the gates.

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Many thousands of people walked through these gates, never to walk through them again.

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“Work Makes You Free”

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A watchtower, once filled with guards and lights and machine guns, sits high above the gate.

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The processing facility, where prisoners were first stripped of their dignity.

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“Smoking Forbidden”.

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Hung above these scarred floors, men were tortured, beaten and experimented upon. The troughs visible in the background once contained water used to wash away the bloody remnants of pain and suffering.

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One of the few remaining uniforms, actually worn by a prisoner in Dachau.

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There were private barracks reserved for clergy and important political figures, whom the guards treated with a certain level of respect, for fear of a mass revolt by the prisoners who felt that these men deserved special treatment.

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A guard tower still stands. Visitors are never allowed inside, because no one should ever stand where the oppressors stood, looking down on their fellow man.

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Just outside the walls, a quiet neighborhood still exists, with residential windows overlooking the camp.

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A “Pillbox” which once held a machine gun nest. Very little is known about this pillbox, as there is no record of this sort of defensive installation ever being placed in the camp grounds.

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Vines now grow over the barbed wire on the walls around Dachau.

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The wet sand inside the compound, the daily view of thousands, who were ordered to never look up.

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 Though the barracks are now gone, the foundations remain, each in its original location, as a memorial to all who suffered here.

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The original crematorium. A larger one was constructed soon after this model was deemed unfit.

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Guards would herd people into these shower chambers, packing them completely full.

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Outside the showers, hatches open, which were to allow guards to drop gas grenades into the room with the prisoners, closing the hatches behind them.

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Though there is no record of these being used as anything other than drains, these drains are connected to a gas line, which would have allowed gas to filter into the shower chamber from the floor.

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Another, larger incinerator, this one built by the forced labor of the clergymen of the camp.

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The clergymen are believed to have sabotaged the construction of the crematorium by mixing too much sand with the mortar, causing the building to crumble multiple times during construction. Evidence can still be seen of their intentionally poor craftsmanship.

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Crematorium. “Think of How We Died Here”

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The barbed wire separating the main camp from the crematorium site.

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The eerie reflection of a guard tower, still watching over the camp.

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 New growth, even amidst the cobblestones and rubble of this weighty, important place.

Prague

Arriving in Prague on a blistering summer evening, we were forced to rush through the city in an effort to experience as much of the diverse culture of the Czech Capitol as possible during our brief time in the city. A beautiful city unlike anywhere in the world, Prague is among my top recommendations for any traveller seeking an ancient city with a unique feel and a remarkable amount of culture to experience, even in a short time.

 

 

A bit of dusky traffic outside the Dancing House.

The famous “Dancing House” designed by famed architect Vlado Milunić with Frank Gehry in 1992.

The Charles Bridge.

The Charles Bridge is the site of some 30 statues, forming the sides of a pathway down the center of the bridge.

The bridge is also populated by large numbers of beggars, asking for some small consideration from the hordes of tourists crossing the bridge to Prague Castle.

After crossing the Charles Bridge and ascending the steep, winding streets towards the castle, tourists are rewarded with a magnificent view of the city.

St. Vitus Cathedral

A guard stands watch at an entrance gate as the castle grounds are closed for the evening.

The moon appears in the distance over the castle walls.

Prague Castle by night.

After historic flooding throughout Europe, Prague has prepared itself for the worst in many areas.

The areas surrounding the Charles Bridge are a vibrant collage of nighttime activities for many. And a convenient napping location for others.

Prague by night.

A taxit speeds by in the darkened street.

Praguers boarding a late-night trolley.

A poorly-focused man watches the camera.

The late streets of Prague.

This blurry trolley was the result of an accidental shutter press, but still manages to capture the mood of late nights in the city.

Mystery building, thought that it was a water closet, but all doors were locked, and there were park-living men sharing a needle behind it.

An entrance to the historic Jewish Cemetary in Prague.

The view through the bars of the Cemetary door.

A glimpse in the life of Europe’s thriving pigeon population.

In the middle of a Main Street through a major shopping district, a pole-vaulter propels herself towards the mid-day sun.

– T.S.

 

Vienna – City of Gold

Vienna, or “Wien” as it is called in the local parlance, has long been a city defined by elegance, and extravagance. As early as 1278, the Habsburg family came to power in Vienna, and created a dynasty which would consume all surrounding countries, and eventually even envelope much of the aging Roman Empire, to create the so-called “Habsburg Dynasty”. This powerful family lived and ruled in Vienna, building extravagant monuments to their own greatness in the form of a monstrous family compound and palace. Remnants of this era of immoderation and great power remain even to this day.

The palaces and lavish lifestyles of the ruling class caused great unrest and suffering amongst the common people of the day. In spite of this facet of Viennese history, the city now enjoys the highest standard of living in the entire world, with high wages and advanced city structures leading to the lowest per-capita crime rate in Europe. The Habsburg legacy remains embedded in the walls of the city even today, and the Viennese people embrace this legacy by enjoying lives of comfort and influence, and by setting the bar for cities across the world.

The modest home of a minor Habsburg cousin.

A few casual candelabras for when the in-laws are in town.

Even the lights are gold. That isn't brass!

The Volkstheater, a public theater founded by a collection of private citizens in 1889, as a response to the lavish Hapsburgtheater, built purely for the wealthy.

One of the many churches in the city, each more opulent than the last.

An example of modern architectural tastes contrasting with the traditions of a different time.

No city, no matter how clean or wealthy, is exempt from the touch of street artists.

A statue of Ferdinand Raimund, a famed actor, stands near the Volkstheater.

 

Apologies for the delay between posts, I have been slacking! We haven't stayed in one place long enough to finish a post, Prague and the Swiss Alps coming soon!

-T.S.

 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is a city of dichotomy. It has historically been divided neatly down the middle, split by the Danube River. On one side is Buda, the mountainous, beautiful home of kings and the wealthy upper class. On the opposing side of the river lies Pest, flat as a table and home of the working class. On both sides of the river however, this duality continues in the very architecture of the city. Stately historic buildings adorned in gold and covered with art, lie sandwiched between drab concrete structures and vandalized monuments to a darker time, when communism held sway over the people of Budapest. But in spite of the apparently opposing factions on both sides of the river, the people of Budapest are among the most friendly and genuine in all the world, and will go to great lengths to make a stranger feel welcome. This factor alone makes Budapest an incredible place to visit.

These buildings stood right around the corner from each other, dramatically different symbols of different eras for the city.
The shores of Buda, with the fortress protecting the palace atop the cliffs.
A perfect example of the duality of the city. A ancient saint stands watch over Buda as the old Soviet tram takes people to work.
A German couple giving money to a needy woman on the bridge over the Danube.
A skateboarder careens through the streets at dusk, narrowly missing pedestrians and cars.
On this bridge, are lamps, to which people have attached padlocks with their names and those of their sweethearts engraved or painted on the locks.
Workmen repairing the damage caused by the dangerously swollen river only days ago.

These chains stand as a monument to the Iron Curtain, and the lives lost and irreparably damaged during its time.

– T.S.

 

Is This Thing On?

Just a quick tester post to make sure the site is fully armed and operational before we leave this continent and my computer behind. I’ll be editing photos and writing solely from my ipad during this little excursion, which may very well be my undoing. I offer my apologies in advance for any typos or automatic corrections which may create errors. Feel free to help me out by posting in the comments if you see anything that needs correction.

To complete this test, here is a picture of my grandpa (far left), with his brothers and father. What a stud.

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