Underground in Austria for Freaks:
The original "Basements of Horrors" Tour - Part II
1.) Seegrotte Hinterbrühl: The underground lake in Mödling is a popular day-trip from Vienna and within easy reach. Ideal for a rainy day! You can enjoy a little cruise on, learn on the history of the place as a gypsum mine - or about the role it played during WWII as a Nazi labour camp. Mostly Jewish and Eastern European labourers had to build jet engine compartments under terrible circumstances.
2.) Museums of Torture: There are three museums of torture in Austria, all situated appropriately in basements or medieval castles. One in Vienna can be found under the Haus des Meeres concrete Flak tower, once built by the Nazis; one in the Salzkammergut is in Schloss Scharnstein Castle; and one in Carinthia can be found in Seeboden. The Carinthian town of Gmünd has an exhibition on the interrogation and torture of a woman that had killed her husband in the 18th century.
3.) More medieval torture can be seen in the various castles of the "Road of the Castles". For example on the Riegersburg in Styria, where an exhibition on witch trials shows you that the craft of persecuting and torturing women has a long tradition in Austria. Burg Schlaining in the Burgenland is home to the "Museum of Peace and Violence".
4.) When in the Burgenland and keen on basements, don′t miss out on the great wine cellars of this area. Try some "Uhudler" wine, which is very rich in methanol and was therefore banned by the Nazis. If you consume enough of it, you might manage to get blind - sort of self-administered torture!
5.) Speaking of the Burgenland: Stop by Purbach if you can! Like most villages of the area around Lake Neusiedl, Purbach was badly hit by raping and plundering Turkish troops in the foreplay of the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683. The villagers had fled to the nearby hills of the Leithagebirge and once the troops had advanced to Vienna, they returned to their homes. One Turkish soldier, however, had fallen asleep in one townhouse after drinking too much wine in the basement. When he woke up, he realised that the villagers had returned and presumably anticipated that an Austrian basement is not the venue where you want to be found by the people whose village you have just looted.
He decided to climb out of the chimney, but was spotted and with the aid of fire, the villagers convinced him to surrender. He was not killed, but only made a serve for the rest of his life; he was even baptised, but given that he refused to eat pork until he died, one might want to think critically about the motives for his conversion. Today, the turban-crowned head of a Turk in the chimney of the very townhouse reminds of the Turk who tried to escape from the wine cellar.
6.) Ebensee: The beautiful Salzkammergut village of Ebensee is situated in one of the most scenic areas of Austria. It is home to the country′s only salt mine that is still actively exploited. During WWII, old mines in Ebensee became home to a side-branch of the Mauthausen concentration camp, one of the most notorious labour camps of the Nazis. Here, slave labourers had to work on the construction of V-missiles, under ground, under inhumane conditions.
7.) Speaking of the Nazis: When in Salzburg′s city centre, walk from the Salzburger Dom cathedral towards the Franziskanerkirche. To your left hand-side, you will find Franziskanergasse Alley, leading to St. Peter′s Abbey. The building of Franziskanergasse 5a is part of the Franciscan monastery and - like almost all monastic property′s - was confiscated by the Nazis after the Anschluss. The Gestapo made the building its Salzburg headquarter and used its basement as an interrogation and torture venue for the first wave of persecution - mostly aimed at politically unwanted individuals (conservatives and social democrats). Today, the basement is home to a Catholic fraternity and I have had quite a few refreshing beers down there.
8.) Medieval dungeons in Western Austria can be enjoyed in many places - try for example the Hohensalzburg Fortress or Hohenwerfen Fortress in Salzburg; or Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck. There are innumerable castles and dungeons elsewhere, town museums often exhibit tools and toys that assisted in advanced information retrieval.
9.) Crime Museum (Kriminalmuseum): A tour through Austria′s most dramatic crimes throughout the centuries - a history museum with a somewhat peculiar focus, to be found in the Second District of Vienna, the Leopoldstadt.
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