21 November 2010

Out of Burgenland

I have just returned home from my budget jaunt to the province of Burgenland, where the hills are neglible and the wine flows as freely as tap water at an American casual dining restaurant.

Burgenland - a province known for its Zweigelt grape variety and its proximity to Hungary is perhaps not Austria's most enticing province, but it is nonetheless a crucial cog in my newfound goal of visiting all nine Austrian provinces (although not necessary for my other newfound goal of visiting all eight of Austria's neighboring nations, even Liechtenstein).*

But beyond fulfilling my trivial and arbitrary geographic ambitions, I also had a great time reconnecting with some terrific American friends I made at orientation in Graz back in September and visiting some truly minor tourist attractions.  First and foremost among them was an eerie monument constructed by Nazis in the village of Oberschützen that has since been rededicated as a memorial to the horrors of racism and autocracy.
Approaching the former Nazi monument, finding the weather appropriate
Earlier in our travels, we also found a hideous, concrete dormintory that looked like a Soviet's failed attempt at completing a tangram puzzle without all the pieces.  We used the building as a background to practice making trademark, non-smiling Eastern European facial expressions.

Inconsiderate tractor traffic made for a very representative Burgenland photo
 We then visited a mostly-Hungarian cemetery and did our best to conceal any hint of enjoying the journey.
Perfecting the Eastern European art of not smiling in photos
Yet, at the end of the day, we were all happy to be together.  We enjoyed hot pizza and then a few of us even explored the village nightlife - namely the smoky halls of Discostraße. 

Americans prefer smiling, even while being burned by hot grease

Unfortunately one site that I did not make it to was the nearby village of Klingenbach, where in 1989 the Iron Curtain first ripped and allowed an indirect passage to the West for East Germans.  Another aspiration of mine is to return and snap a photo of myself running across the once-fortified border, hopefully under the surveillance of a confused but harmless border guard. 

Fortunately my somber and rainy return to the weekly grind at school was cushioned by the auspicious arrival of Waidhofen's official town Christmas tree, which, in my absence, appears to have been installed by municipal Christmas fairies in the center of one of our many traffic circles.

And finally, today's German word takes its inspiration from the lowly-populated region where I spent my weekend - das Dorf means "the village."

*So far I have been to four of nine provinces (Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria, and Burgenland) and only one of eight neighbors (Czech Republic).

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