104 Slices
Medium 9781609520588

Mahnmal

James OReilly Travelers' Tales ePub

MARDITH J. LOUISELL

Mahnmal

As a resident of many camps, I can say that Guzen was the worst. This is not to say that the conditions at the other camps were not dreadful. Compared to Guzen, however, one might almost say that those camps were paradises.

—Rabbi Rav Yechezkel Harfenes, Slingshot of Hell

I had never wanted to go to Austria because of its Holocaust history but when my partner had to go to Linz for business, I went. If I had to go to Austria, maybe I could gain a small understanding of how ethnic cleansings occur. When I saw an audio tour of a concentration camp offered as part of the Linz Arts Electronica Festival, I signed up.

When the bus arrived at the site of the Gusen concentration camp, instead of concrete walls and barbed wire, I saw a yellow church steeple on a hill and beige houses with geraniums in window boxes—this concentration camp was now a middle-class housing development dotted with parks, newly built houses, and remodeled camp buildings on roads like Gartenstrasse where I would soon walk—as nondescript as the small town in which I grew up.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781932361926

SECTION II - Americans' History

Sophia Dembling Travelers' Tales ePub

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN New York City in the 1960s and 1970s, Ellis Island was a glowering, abandoned hulk in the river to which most New Yorkers gave little thought. In retrospect …how odd, especially considering how many of our families (mine included) entered the country through the building’s then-moldering halls.

Since 1982, and more than $500 million later (all raised from the private sector), Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (more on that in Chapter 20) have been beautifully restored, and Ellis Island has been developed into one of our nation’s most moving museums, focused on the great wave of immigration at the turn of the 19th century, when about 25 million people came to the United States to escape starvation, persecution, poverty, or just to chase the American dream.

The main building itself is a magnificent sight. The Great Hall, where immigrants waited to be registered and inspected, has been exquisitely restored, down to reproductions of the inspectors’ desks. Alongside the big story of how immigrants were processed, the museum is peopled with thousands of photos and artifacts, written and oral histories, telling individual stories of coming to the New World. It is all too much to absorb in one visit, but the overall effect is deeply moving and evocative.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609520588

Seal Seeking

James OReilly Travelers' Tales ePub

ANNA WEXLER

Seal Seeking

Few people succeed in getting a firsthand glimpse of the common, if controversial, practice of seal hunting.

The west coast of Greenland was rapidly fading into the distance when my bladder sounded the alarm. You have to pee, it said. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. But the last hint of land was now a brown crust on the horizon, at least two hours away, and I was on a tiny fifteen-foot fishing boat, alone with three men. There was simply nowhere to go. Worse, I was in the middle of one of the most breathtakingly adventurous moments of my life—seal hunting with the Inuit amidst shimmering icebergs in the Arctic Ocean—and I was the one who had talked my way onto their hunting trip.

The men, of course, had been relieving themselves all day. One of them, Jens, was already on his third piss: he cut the motor, turned his back to me, and whistled as he let loose a stream into the glassy water.

“Thirsty?” Jens asked. He had the relaxed look of someone who has just taken a particularly satisfying piss. He rummaged through the side of the boat, amongst the gun cases, and offered me a bottle of soda.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609520847

Rangefinder Girl

Lavinia Spalding Travelers' Tales ePub

BLAIR BRAVERMAN

Rangefinder Girl

She wanted so badly not to be afraid of it.

Maybe this is about rhinoceros. But it is just as much about the smell of myrrh, or the warm grit of water from a desert spring—how it coats the mouth with salt, as if even the land were sweating. It is about the men who were our guides, and the ways I misunderstood them—the ways I misunderstood all of it. Mostly it’s about how the desert looks when viewed through a rangefinder—shrunken and precise, with neat crosshairs through the center and a digital number showing just how far away it all is, the whole world so small and clean you could serve it in a teacup. And then you lower the rangefinder, let it swing from your neck, and everything rushes up around you, from the hot sand in your shoes to the red-black hills and the white of a dusty sky, closer than you could imagine.

I had come to Namibia with six other American students to do research on desert-adapted black rhinoceros. We would be tracking them for the next two weeks through the Ugab desert, a stretch of wilderness so barren that its name, according to the Damara people, means place of silence. At home in Maine, I often fantasized about the outdoors, about adventure, and I had been looking forward to the trip for months. Deserts could be tough, sure, but I had done fieldwork before, high in the Rocky Mountains and on glaciers in Alaska. I was prepared.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609520847

Half-Baked Decisions

Lavinia Spalding Travelers' Tales ePub

SARAH KATIN

Half-Baked Decisions

Moments ride on currents. If you don’t act, you’ll just be tossed along.

I awoke to the friendly chirping of my roommate, the gecko clinging to the flimsy wall of my palm-frond hut, and tossed on a bikini. No need to shower; the ocean was my bath, and salt and sand my natural exfoliants. My hut neighbor, the Dutch man, stopped by for a smoke. He was trying to quit, so he was having me hold his ciggies and ration accordingly. I didn’t think he was smoking any less, but I was getting my fill of longwinded existential conversations for which I had no answers.

I ate breakfast on a sprawling wooden deck with swaying hammocks and boldly colored triangle cushions, overlooking the blue-green water of the Gulf of Thailand. I’d been staying in this island hut for a week now, waiting for my next teaching contract to begin, and my life was starting to resemble a photo-shopped screensaver. I listened to Bob Marley, sipped bitter coffee sweetened with thick condensed milk, munched slightly burnt toast, and contemplated how I’d spend the rest of my day in Paradise. And then I went to the Internet café, where Paradise fell apart.

See All Chapters

See All Slices