One of the reasons I was so excited to study abroad in Vienna was because of the amazing opportunity for course trips. In the US, most of our field trips in school include going to the zoo or the local art museum. It gets a little bit old after going every single year. In Vienna, there is so much history and art to enjoy.
My art course in Vienna focuses on war memorials throughout Europe. We primarily focus on WW2 memorials, as Austria and the surrounding nations played a huge part in the oppression of Jews and other marginalized groups during this time. So, there are lots of monuments and memorials to learn about and visit. We also visit various religious sites and buildings that are crucial to understanding Viennese culture.
The Imperial Crypt
Most recently, my class went to the Imperial Crypt for a day of dark tourism. The Imperial Crypt is the resting place for roughly 150 members of the Habsburg Empire. The Habsburgs ruled over many areas from the 13th century until the 20th century. Initially, the Habsburgs held the superstition that in order to make it into heaven, one had to separate the body and bury certain parts in various locations. Other resting places include the Capuchin Church, the Augustinian Church, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Imperial Crypt houses the bones, heart, and any cremated remains. Don’t worry, sarcophagi – highly decorated stone or marble coffins – hold the remains. Each coffin is unique and very personal. The design reflects the importance of the person as well as their role in the empire. Fun fact: the most recent burial was in 2011!
Schmetterlingshaus (Butterfly House)
In stark contrast, my most recent trip was to the butterfly house. The greenhouse had fragrant flowers for the butterflies to feed on. It also featured a small pond and waterfall where butterflies swooped down right in front of my face. About halfway through the house, I ventured to a bridge on the top floor. I saw the entire butterfly house and the top of the waterfall from my perch. On my way out, I saw benches where you can sit and read or daydream in the midst of the butterflies. It should be noted that daydreaming is a very important hobby and form of relaxation in Austria and Germany. In fact, there is a phrase for it: Seinen Gedanken nachgehen. This means to be alone with your thoughts. Oftentimes, people will sit in nature or go to another quiet location like the butterfly house to think.
Overall, both excursions earn a 10 out of 10 in my book! Stay tuned for more class excursions and weekend adventures.