Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Historic Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland

Click on title to view photo in large format. Historic Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland is the entrance to the city’s Old Town (Stare Miasto). Between 85% and 90% of the city of Warsaw was destroyed during World War Two following the failed Warsaw Uprising, which infuriated Hitler. The castle at right and Sigismind’s Column at left were victims of the destruction. Both were rebuilt between 1971 and 1984, incorporating the Read More

During World War Two, the mass murder of millions of Jews, gypsies, Poles, homosexuals, mentally disabled, physically handicapped, and communists was the result of simple, vile ideas that were espoused by one hate-filled man. Hitler did not grow up hating Jews. As a young man he was a German Nationalist, however at that time he did not equate extreme nationalism with antisemitism. It was only after World War One that his anti-Jewish and anti-other sentiments began to emerge. 

The words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Makes You Free) span the entrance to Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) span the entrance to Auschwitz Concentration Camp

In the second chapter of his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler wrote:

“Today it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to say when the word ‘Jew ‘ first gave me ground for special thoughts. At home I do not remember having heard the word during my father’s lifetime. I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded any special emphasis on this term as cultural backwardness. In the course of his life he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent…

…Not until my fourteenth or fifteenth year did I begin to come across the word ‘Jew,’ with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions. This filled me with a mild distaste, and I could not rid myself of an unpleasant feeling that always came over me whenever religious quarrels occurred in my presence.

At that time I did not think anything else of the question.

There were few Jews in Linz. In the course of the centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanized and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans. The absurdity of this idea did not dawn on me because I saw no distinguishing feature but the strange religion. The fact that they had, as I believed, been persecuted on this account sometimes almost turned my distaste at unfavorable remarks about them into horror.

Thus far I did not so much as suspect the existence of an organized opposition to the Jews.

Then I came to Vienna.”

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Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland, with Wawel Castle at right

Click on title to view the photo in large format. There’s a good reason that locals call the church atop Wawel Hill simply Wawel Cathedral. It’s complete name is the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, a considerable mouthful for casual conversation. However, the shortened name in no way diminishes its magnificence. It’s Gothic base is topped by three towers: the gold-domed Sigismund’s Tower, the Clock Tower, and the Silver Bell Tower. Since the 14th century, Wawel Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs. The tombs of King Sigismund II Augustus, his wife, and children are housed in Sigismund’s Tower. Read More

Saint Mary's Basilica and Main Square in Krakow, Poland

Click on the title to view photo in large format. The Main Square in Krakow, Poland, is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. Three large buildings dominate its central open space: St. Mary’s Basilica, with its soaring Gothic towers (shown in the photo); the historic Cloth Hall; and the Town Hall Tower. The entire square is surrounded by historic townhouses. During the spring, summer, and fall, the Main Square hosts all manner of festivals and performances. But nighttime Read More

Salzburg had been recommended to me as the second most interesting city in Austria, after Vienna. I’d planned to stop there for a few days, but several hours of searching for accommodations turned up nothing that was affordable. I gave up and bypassed the city entirely. A few days later, after thoroughly exploring all the wonderfully weird things to do in Vienna, I surfed over to my favorite tour aggregator, Get Your Guide. To my surprise, they offered a day trip from Vienna to Salzburg, which included stops at two of Austria’s pretty lakes.

The next morning I dashed through pouring rain and squeezed into the tour van with a New York Russian family. Four hours later, having survived a trip that involved more hydroplaning than driving, we finally arrived in Salzburg. The skies were grey and overcast, but at least the rain had stopped.

My Get Your Guide day trip from Vienna to Salzburg began at Mirabellgarten, perhaps most famous for the tree-lined boulevard at right, which was used in the film Sound of Music

My Get Your Guide day trip from Vienna to Salzburg began at Mirabellgarten, perhaps most famous for the tree-lined boulevard at right, which was used in the film Sound of Music

Our tour guide was a delightful Polish immigrant who spoke fluent English, Russian, and German. We began our discovery at Mirabelle Gardens in the new town area of the city. The park seemed vaguely familiar, and I soon learned why. Portions of the movie, The Sound of Music, had been filmed on the tree-lined pathway that borders the flower beds. Read More

Original Mozartkugel at Furst Cafe in Salzburg, Austria

Click on title to view photo in large format. Salzburg, Austria, is best known for its historic old town, castles, and age-old churches. But for my money, the real reason to visit this historic city is to taste one of the world’s most delicious candies, the original Mozartkugel at Furst Cafe. This small, round ball was developed in 1890 by Paul Fürst, who came from a long line of confectioners. After lengthy testing he came up with the perfect recipe: a center of pistachio marzipan, wrapped in praline nougat, dipped in dark chocolate.

The Mozartkugel was such a hit that competitors began copying it. Furst was soon battling in court with the likes of Mirabell, Reber, and Nestlé to protect the name. Today there are many imitations, but Furst Cafe is the only manufacturer who has the right to Read More