Friday, August 07, 2009

And Now For Our Final Act . . .

It sounds really bad to say it, but we haven’t been looking forward to this final trip. There were many suggestions, only half-facetious, that we leave the group in Danny’s care, or that we switch flights with the Isaaks and go home on the 31st of July. It wasn’t the destinations – we’re going to see some fantastic places – it was just the traveling.
First off, we are taking all the students in a bus driven by Dragan for five days. Dragan is basically the Filch of our Vienna experience, and his bus was old in 2002 when we met him. Now it has a big crack in the windshield, the restroom and the AC don’t work, and it is held together solely by Bosnian swear words and his constant doting. But he knows all the destinations by heart, can back a bus into a driveway eight feet across and two hundred and fifty feet long, and keeps the costs rock bottom, so we continue to use him.
Secondly, we’ve done this trip more or less before, and we remember some things. We remember Will throwing up five minutes into it, and going through all the clothes we’d packed for him the first day. We remember him stripped down to his diaper and sweaty and wailing on the bus. We remember him having a blowout and then throwing up next to the fountain in the center of town where all of St. Florian was sitting out eating ice cream. We remember both Will and Sebi, in 2002 and 2006, running around the courtyards on the Hohensalzburg fortress, and falling and scraping themselves up but good. So we sighed and said “It’s probably Joss’s turn” and we packed our bags.
We’re done now with day three and we’re surviving better than expected. Both hotels so far have been nicer than we remembered. Dragan is behaving better than we’d hoped. The temperature dropped from Hellish on Sunday to cold on Tuesday and I proclaimed that God had heard the most fervent prayer of my heart. I kid you not. Even the concentration camp has a nice new exhibit center with great restrooms, and who would have expected that?! Joss has been tired and sweaty, but he hasn’t yet been sick, and he hasn’t made me ask people for “Creme fur rote Popo?” or scour Salzburg altstadt looking for diapers, or find a band aid at a random bus stop. It could still happen, and probably will, but in the meantime, WOW, we’ve seen some gorgeous stuff!

We started by going to Mathausen, one of the only concentration camps still intact in Austria. Rob and I saw it in 2002 while Betsy had Will and Maddie were outside the gates. That time, we felt like the 60-70 intervening years weren’t enough to erase the awful feeling of the place, and we practically ran back out to the kids. This time Maddie, Will and Sebi actually went in with Rob. Will made up stories of escape. It’s probably a healthy way of dealing with inconceivable cruelty. Joss and I looked at some video interviews with survivors. It was an amazingly mixed group of people, from all over Europe, and there were many people there who weren’t Jewish, but rather Romas (gypsies) or resistance fighters or prisoners of war. I was still glad to leave and glad to get it over early in the trip.

Here are Shelley and Danny in the Dragan Wagon, just so that you know I'm not exaggerating. This has a serious Partridge Family vibe to it. The upholstery fabric is also on the ceiling. Ingenious!
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