Today was an emotional one for us. We started the day with breakfast in the Pension, and then set out with Derek for the Schonbrunn Palace. It was an easy ride on the U-Bahn. Though the sky was sunny when we got into the ticket line, by the time we exited into the gardens, it was raining again. I managed to snap a few pictures before we returned to the Palace for our tour. Walking from room to room, we listened to a guide tell us the history of the Palace on our individual handsets. The decorations were elaborate, and the history fascinating. The Palace was the Vienna home of the Hapsburgs, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I couldn’t believe how many of the daughters were married off by the time they were 15 to much, much older men, nor that this happened in the 19th century.
The tour itself took about an hour. With our stomachs grumbling, we set out to find the apple strudel baking demonstration, primarily because there was a free piece of strudel at the end of the show. However, we had to pass through the café to get there, and we couldn’t resist the temptation of the tortes in the display cases. We stopped for cappuccinos and tortes, working in a few games of rummy while we sipped and ate. (Yes, we have managed to get Derek as addicted to the game as we are.)
While we were eating, the skies cleared a bit – at least enough so there was only a slight drizzle falling. We decided to take the opportunity to return to the gardens. After spending some time wandering around, I insisted that we try out the maze; Kendra and Derek took one entrance, I took the other. Somehow, they managed to exit the maze through the entrance I took, while I made it to the middle and climbed the stairs for a view of the entire maze, which was created from bushes. I heard my name, and looked over to see them waving at me. Taking this as my cue, I walked out the exit, and we all ran to the strudel show. Though we didn’t make it in time for the demonstration, we did get our free strudel! Given that I wasn’t really interested in the strudel-making process, I thought that was great.
It was getting into the afternoon, so we decided to go to the Synagogue where Kendra’s grandfather, Felix Bauer, had his Bar Mitzvah. We arrived at 2:30pm, and apparently, they only let people in with a guided tour. Having just missed the last one of the day, which had been at 2pm, we pleaded with the guard to let us in just to take a quick look. It was very important to Kendra to be able to visit. At first, he would not budge, but as we continued to explain her situation, he seemed to soften. After about 15 minutes, another guard spoke with us, or rather, interrogated us. I have never experienced anything like it – he looked at our passports and asked lots of questions. He then searched our bags, and we passed through a security gate. Though he said we could only stay for one minute, o
nce inside he was very kind and did not hurry us through the building. It was a very emotional experience for all of us, but especially Kendra.
The interior was beautiful, which was a stark contrast to the plain exterior of the building. Kendra found the names of her great-grandparents in the book memorializing all of the Vienna Jews killed in the Holocaust. The memorial contained hundreds of slate tablets with each name carved in small letters, the book could be used to locate individual’s names in the rotating exhibit. The tablets rotate very slowly around. Not wanting to take up too much of the guard’s time, we moved quickly through the building, and after thanking him, left.
It was a difficult experience, which we followed with lunch. We all needed a minute to sit and process what had happened. When we felt ready, we boarded the tram to Hundertwasserhaus. Created by Fritz Hundertwasser from 1983-1986, this apartment complex was a favorite of Kendra’s grandfather. It is a vary artistic approach to architecture, to say the least. As we wandered around the complex, the sun finally peeked out from behind the clouds.
We took the tram back to St. Stephan’s to meet Ericka Hausle, a longtime friend of Kendra’s family. She treated the three of us to a delightful dinner of Weiner-Schnitzel and good conversation. We all really enjoyed her company, and her tales of world travel. It was really wonderful for Kendra to spend time with someone who had close ties to her grandfather.
It was getting late, so we returned to the pension. We leave for Dublin tomorrow, so we’ll be spending the rest of the evening packing.