Austria is a vibrant country with a vivid history. It was home to some of the most famous artists, musicians and historians for multiple centuries. Politics has brought this country through tumultuous times, especially in the 20th century. The kleindeutsch vs. grossdeutsch debate embarked on a century struggle between Germans in Germany and Germans in various parts of Europe such as Austria. Here are the top 10 places one must go to see when in Austria.
1. Linz: Hartheim Euthanasia Centre
Built in 16th century, this castle belonged to the Princes of Starhemberg. For centuries it provided a home for the physically and mentally disabled. With Anschluss and the incorporation of Austria into the Third Reich, came dire consequences. The Nazis were fundamental believers in survival of the fittest and eugenics. Between 1939 and 1940, they turned the castle into a euthanasia centre where they implemented Aktion T4 and built gas chambers and crematoriums. Before using Zyklon B to exterminate Jews and other prisoners of war, they experimented the mentally and physically ill using Zyklon B in asylums such as the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre. This centre went on to exterminate various Jewish people, opposing Catholics and clergy as well as prisoners of war throughout most of WWII. Approximately 18,000 individuals lost their lives at Hartheim. It now has a built-in memorial which remembers victims who died during the Holocaust.
2. Upper Austria: Mauthausen Memorial
The memorial stands on the former grounds of a concentration camp where approximately 37,000 were murdered and exterminated. This visit provides a sombre reminder of a baffled past in Austrian history. Your heart will drop as you look up the Death Stairs. Most of the concentration camp is non-existent as the grounds are used to build neighbourhoods.
3. Salzburg: Mirabel Palace and Gardens
This baroque style palace is built surrounding gardens. It is made famous by the movie Sound of Music. If you a fan of Sound of Music, this place is for you. You can walk in the shoes of Maria and other children as they sang “Do Re Mi” and used the steps as musical scales. The botanical gardens are astounding. You can sit, relax and enjoy a beautiful day surrounded by blossoming flowers, if you are there in the summer.
4. Salzburg: Mozart’s Birth House
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is famous for being a child prodigy. He spent most of his writing and composing music and operas. By the time he was 35 he had composed 600 works in total. When others are being schooled and take life easy, Mozart was writing symphonies and performing for royalty at age 5. When you go to Salzburg, you need to go to the Birth House. It is well kept and is preserved in memory of this great composer. Some of the furniture and instruments are still from Mozart’s time.
5. Vienna: Schönbrunn Imperial Palace
This summer palace once belonged to Habsburg Monarchs, who were imperial and colonial rulers until 1918. Individuals visited the imperial palace can view the French gardens, see the Sun Fountain and take a tour of the former residence of the monarchs. You can also relive history where John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev met to discuss the Cold War in 1961. If you are tired and want a snack, you can take part in a cooking class which teaches you how to make a strudel. You then can sample the strudel yourself.