The road less travelled

The road less travelled
It looks serene and peaceful now but this is the Auschwitz concentration camp, Oswiecim, Poland.

People travel for many reasons, among them, to see the beauty of foreign lands. Poet Robert Frost once wrote: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I, / I take the one less travelled by". I would think I belong to this category of travellers.

Another great man, Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first Prime Minister) had this to say of the world: "We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."

From history, some of us have learnt about Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland where there is a display of shoes, children's toys, piles of suitcases, and victims' hair.

Visitors to this place will go away with a dreadful, sombre and depressed state of mind, with a lasting image in their minds of the atrocities committed there.

Most tourists would not want to visit a museum of torture which showcases macabre and gruesome details of various forms of torture carried out during the Middle Ages and in the darker periods in the history of mankind.

This Museum of Torture located in Vienna, Austria, was difficult to find; it was located underground in a dark, dreary location.

Although I had to pay €6 (S$10) as entrance fee, my personal feeling was that it was worth it, if only to have "my eyes opened" to the methods used to punish people who committed crimes, so what we learn from history books comes alive.

During the medieval period, torture was a legitimate means of justice to extract confession or obtain names of accomplices. The nature of the crime would dictate the kind of torture to be inflicted on the guilty party.

There were, among numerous forms of torture, the Breast Ripper which was used to inflict pain or mutilate the breasts of women who committed adultery or had an abortion.

Another common method used to torture or kill a person suspected of witchcraft, murder, theft or blasphemy was The Saw.

Even liars were not spared; a Choke Pear which consisted of four parts (that would be spread apart) would be forced into the victim's mouth.

The Cage, made from metal to form a frame similar to the human body, was another favourite form of torture. This Cage would be suspended on trees in full public view and the victim would be left to die a slow death without food or water and beaten and tormented by the public.

I have photos from my personal collection which I feel may not be appropriate to be published, so readers will have to visualise the kind of torture from the terms used which are self-explanatory.

Moving on to a happier scenario, when in Austria, you should visit Hundertwasserhaus ("haus" is German for house), an apartment house in Vienna.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a famous painter who dreamed that mankind should live in harmony with nature.

What is unique about this building is that there are irregular windows and uneven floors and the roof is covered with earth and grass, and features large trees growing from inside the rooms.

Trees and shrubs on the balconies and roof terraces make the building a green oasis in the heart of the city.

As there are residents living inside, this multi-coloured building can only be viewed from the outside.

All travel has its advantages. If the traveller visits "better" countries, he may learn to improve but if fortune carries him to "worse" places, then he may learn to appreciate what his country has to offer.

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