Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Johann Huber (born 1861), was a farmer who lived near Haag am Haustuck, Austria. Once upon a time this man’s friend travelled to the United States and heard about a little church we like to call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This friend returned to Austria and told Johann all about it. He liked it so much that on April 27, 1900 he was baptized in Munich.
But the story doesn’t end there! Johann went back home to Haag and taught his friends and family the gospel. Many families were brought to the church because of Johann’s teachings and example. Like any other new Mormon in these days, Johann faced much persecution because of his new religion. Therefore the members had to have their weekly meetings in secret. A small upstairs room in the Michelmeier farmhouse became the meeting place and a lookout was placed at the window so they could disperse and hide at the first sign of the Polizei. And guess who got to visit this farm? I did!
On Sunday, after church at the Haag branch building, we bussed on over to the farm that is still inhabited today by worthy latter day saints who also happen to be Johann’s descendants. They showed us firstly Johann’s gravestone that had been removed from the cemetery where we were told we could find it. I thought Brother Minert might die of excitement just from the headstone. Then the lady showing us around informed us that she had a whole bunch of documents concerning Mr. Huber and I think he just about had a heart attack! It was really fun to see Brother Minert get so excited to experience a little bit of Haag’s history that he hadn’t yet been able to. It made me learn to appreciate these types of things a little bit more.
Seeing the room they met in what quite the experience too. It was on a farm so of course the smell wasn’t the greatest, and it was just this teeny tiny room with a couple windows. The saints must have been really faithful when there were so few of them and they had to keep their meetings so secret. This made me grateful for the openness with which we can all meet in our churches today, especially in America. But it also made me grateful for the old Austrian saints who made it possible for the Austrians saints today to have the gospel.
We also got to see the Protestant Bible that Johann used. That book is older than America! That blew my mind. His book was older than my country. I love seeing how history paved the way for current circumstances. Johann Huber was a really influencial guy in bringing the gospel to Austria and I think his name will never be forgotten among the saints there.
I really felt the spirit in this place and can tell what it must mean for the members in Haag. We were told that back in the day, the saints knew they could come to Michelmeier farm if they were ever in need of anything, and that that tradition has still carried on to today! I love our LDS family and that we all treat each other the same way no matter where in the world we are. I love the Austrian members!
During WWII Adolf Hitler had to have more than one dwelling place to best keep him out of trouble. One these hideouts was in München, Deutschland. For Hitler’s 50th birthday this place called “Eagle’s Nest” was erected originally as a teahouse for the head of the third Reich. This location became an important one for planning meeting between the leaders of the Nazi party. This hideaway is located far up in the Alps, high enough to overlook Munich and into Salzburg in Austria. Tickets can be purchased to travel up the mountain to see this hideout and the spectacular view. Special busses are used to take tourists up the windy, mountain roads because normal buses just wouldn’t cut it. Once you’ve reached the top of the road, there is still an elevator that takes you to the teahouse. From there, there is the most spectacular view of the surrounding area and the German/Austrian Alps.
I loved this excursion but I still don’t think I was able to fully appreciate the beauty because of what went on there. It is sad that such a beautiful place has a negative feel about it just because it was used by Hitler and his advisors. Towards the end of the war, the Americans thought Hitler might be hiding in his hideout a little farther down the mountain from the teahouse, and so that part was blown to smithereens by bombs. At first I thought that I would like to see where Hitler had stayed on a few occasions but when we reached the spot I found that I was glad it was destroyed. For one thing, Brother Minert told us the Americans made sure that not much was left so that future Nazi sympathizers didn’t have a place to gather and mourn for and worship Hitler. I wouldn’t be surprised if monuments such as this were left intact and neo-Nazis used it as a rallying point.
Despite all the terrible things that happened in Europe due planning that was, in part, carried out in this place, you couldn’t deny that it was a magnificent place. It is no wonder that Hitler would love to stay in this place. I was sad that we only had about an hour to stay there and look around because no picture could do that place justice, and I wanted the images engraved in my mind forever. Far below the mountain were vast fields and plains, forests and trees, and seemingly miniature building and churches popping up to create what looked like toy cities. The nature there on the mountains was lush and green, and the farmers had sculpted the land to sow their crops in perfect multi-colored lines. This was definitely a place that I would like to re-visit.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
On Wednesday the group traveled to Salzburg to start our one of our “Short trips” that the Minerts have planned within our program trip. Our trip was amazing, but our first stop was a little sobering. We went to the Mauthausen concentration camp that has been preserved for viewing from WWII. We watched a video with interviews from people who lived through it and it was absolutely terrible. Seeing those images and videos of the completely worn-down and emaciated bodies is heart wrenching. I wondered what kind of pure hatred someone would have to have to inflict this kind of suffering on one person, let alone tens of thousands. The things the Nazis did to these people are, to me, simply unimaginable.
There were some carvings on cell walls from prisoners staying in the camp. One person wrote, “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” I felt almost sick to hear the way the devil could tear all hope and faith from some of these people. If this broke my heart, I cannot fathom the sorrow Heavenly Father faced as he watched these people suffer! And to think that the Savior suffered for not only the pains of each prisoner individually, but also for the sins of those who inflicted these atrocities on those people, is just mind blowing. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus LOVES these people and I know that if they understood that he has suffered everything they have, they would not continue to believe for a second that he had forsaken them.
This experience was really humbling and carved a place in my heart for love and sympathy for these people. But it also increased my love and gratitude for my Savior 100 fold. He really is the most incredible being that ever lived and words cannot express how indebted we are to him! Even the people who were forced to suffer through Nazi Germany.
On our way down an enormous stone staircase, that prisoners had been force to carry stones up day after day, my friend made the comment that she, “would never feel bad for myself again.” I really feel the same way and hope that I can remember these sufferers when I am feeling run down and remember that no matter how bad life seems, I live an incredibly privileged life.
Here are some pictures. You can tell by all the bright colors what a cheery place this must have been.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
After leaving the station, we followed the signs and our fellow tourists down the path that seemed to lead to Schönbrunn palace. As we rounded the last corner, we saw before us an expansive yellow building that seemed to go on for a mile. I was sure it would take me about 10 minutes just to count all the windows on the building. I was astounded at how large a dwelling the royal families got to live in. As we stood in awe and wonder at the place, I envied the Austrians for having such beautiful buildings in their midst.
But the fun didn’t stop there. The gardens were nothing if not more beautiful than the building itself! They were also many acres long and wide. We spent some time wandering and a lot of time taking pictures as we viewed the absolutely breathtaking array of flowers, vine covered archways, and intricate fountains.
After viewing an incredible statue-clad waterfall, we travelled up the extremely large hill just behind it. From the top we had an amazing view of the back of the palace as well as the city of Vienna behind it. It was an incredible view and we spent quite some time just enjoying the view and the good weather. Long enough even for me to get a sunburn on my neck.
There were other features such as a maze and a zoo that we didn’t enter because they cost money but I’m sure those would have been fun. A couple of the girls did, however, spend 4,50 to view an apple strudel making demonstration and receive a small sample. They were pleased to report that it was both exciting and tasty.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Once we got the baggage and were having a hard time fitting it into this randomly chosen taxi, Frau Feest called us “verrückt Menschen.“ Yep. Crazy people.
Once we got to the apartment she showed us to our section of the apartment, separated by a few doors from her section of the apartment. She showed us our bread, butter and tea bags for breakfast and told me "breakfast separate" when I asked if we could breakfast with her. Her English was about as good as my German so I got really confused when she told us a French boy exchange student would also be staying at her house. Uncomfortable? ya. (I found out later he won’t be sharing our bathroom so that makes me feel better.)
Once she was gone we started to unpack and I went to try out my converter in the outlet. Sparks and a fried circuit? Check. Electricity failure? Check. So... go tell Frau Feest? Hesitation? Check. Outright Fear? Check. You know it's bad when she comes in and all you can understand is "Sehr schlecht! Sehr schlecht!" (very bad, very bad). Luckily it was an easy fix. Moral of the story: American appliances=schlecht. Then I had a second realization: today I received Mother Nature's monthly gift. How thoughtful of her.
Never Fear! There is good news to the bad! We have a beautiful view and our magic windows shut out all the noise!
But unfortunately the bad news doesn't end. On Mondays the LDS Outreach Center, where the missionaries and LDS young adults hang out, have dinner for only 1.50 Euro and then FHE! Awesome right? So we set out for the Center and got there with no trouble at all! Perfect ending wouldn't you say? Well we got there about 7:05 and they stop serving food at 7. Out of luck. After everything that happened to me today, it was a struggle to hold back tears and I think the mission pres could tell cause he took pity on us and fed us anyway. Some mercy at last! Dinner, an FHE lesson in German, and cupcakes to boot! I think this day has turned around at last. Neville's killed the snake and the Dark Lord can now be vanquished!
I believe that every time someone makes a big decision, they always have that moment or day when they think “What in the WORLD have I gotten myself into?”. Up until this point I was naive enough to think that I had escaped having one of these moments. I guess Heavenly Father just wanted to lure me into this false sense of security so my unforeseen and unanticipated conflicts would frustrate me enough to give him a good laugh.
It could be worse. I could be in the Psych ward at St. Mungo's cause Bellatrix tortured me to insanity. Man, those Longbottom's have it rough.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
So today was another great one full of too much walking for our tired feet and information for our tired brains. The breakfast at the hotel Baronesse was quite charming. In fact it was probably the best at a hotel I’ve ever had. They even had the cutest little dining room with floral, cushioned seats, glass plates and a lady who served coffee (or hot chocolate which is what we all had). I don’t think I will ever tire of saying “danke” and hearing “bitte schön” in response.
Afterwards we went to the Austro-American Institute of Education, where we were briefed on our courses for the semester. Markus, our guide from the institute, showed us around more of the city. It is a very big place. We went to Nachs Markt (Sample Market) for lunch where I had a sample of some delicious candied pineapple. Now I know why Slughorn was so fond of it.
A while later we all went back to the institute to wait for our host families (or host person) to come pick us up. One by one the families/persons arrived and drove their students away. The host of my beautiful roommate Naomi and I recently lost her sister and is out of town for the funeral, so her neighbor was trusted to come pick us up. Then we were told that we needed to take a taxi to the apartment and she would be waiting for us there... Buuuuuuuut, she wasn't. So we waited there for a couple hours and tried to reach her on the telephone but in vain.
Now we are back at the hotel because no one knows what happened. It's a nice place and all but I hope we're not here for much longer!
And don't worry, the luggage all came last night.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011