Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a little military history

The last time I worked at our factory in Waldbron Germany we spent a week in Austria on vacation. On a day trip to Graz we visited the regional armory http://www.zeughaus.at/, home to 300,000 items of Baroque weaponry. The valley leading to central Austria was often assaulted by the Turks and Hungarians, so a kind of renta-armor collection was put together and sent on the road when the invaders threatened. I began to understand the enormous influence of the geography on the historical events.

This year we ventured a bit further east, on the way stopping at Berchtesgaden, Germany. We had toured the Eagle's Nest on a previous trip, but came back to look through the Holocaust Museum that has been constructed at the foot of the mountain. There is much documentation about how Hitler's regime manipulated society to make his ethnic cleansing program acceptable.
While we were in Hungary, we ended up in Budapest for a day. Now Hungary is a place with a lot of consonants in the language and a lot of 0's in the currency. Compared to Austria, it is noticeably much less prosperous. Buda is up on a big hill overlooking the Pest across the Danube - very defensible piece of land (until the last time). Shown is the funicular up the hill, and Pest across the river. There are 3 military museums in the area, a Holocaust museum, one devoted to the terrors of the Nazi and Communist regimes, and we went to the Military History museum. Hungarians are very proud of their militaristic culture - the collection of uniforms was fantastic, their war recruitment posters look like ours without Uncle Sam - but it sure is hard on a people who were on the losing end of the last century worth of wars.

Hungary is volcanically active, and there were a number of hills with ruins on the top. It looks to me like they have been needing those defenses since the first settlers could roll the rocks up the hills.
Now I am a lucky woman who has grown up in a country that has had few wars, at least not in the parts of the US where I have mostly lived. But I've been through the battlefields and cemeteries rolling across the hills of the east, and the horror has not diminished with the decades of stillness since the battles ceased. Austrians tend their cemeteries meticulously and plant colorful flowers to honor their dead. Every little churchyard we visited had multiple graves from the same family from both wars last century.
I don't know how to respond when men march in and burn your livestock and food. A country has to do what it has to do, but I don't want any part of it. Not quite what I expected to bring home from vacation.

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