Today’s entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers is just a few of the photos I collected around Europe showing the numbers of people who died in the two world wars.
In Britain, every town, every village, every city has its war memorial. It is a constructed object, such as a sculpture or a stone alcove, which serves to remind us of the people who never came home from World War I and World War II.
I once had the fortune to actually visit the war graveyard in Huddersfield. It’s not for the faint hearted and I remember trying to read every single headstone, the name of every single person interred there.
The number of people who died on both sides in World War I and II is staggering. When reading/experiencing that aspect of history, it tends to make me have a panic attack; the sheer inescapability of death was a daily reality for most of these people. Having PTSD, I find this immensely triggering and tend to suppress the anxiety, leading to the delayed reactions I keep getting told are really unhealthy – the migraines, the vomiting, feeling angry (because I’m feeling so shaken) for hours, sometimes days afterwards. I hate thinking about these wars, but I feel like I should, because they happened, and these people’s lives are over as a result, and the world would be very different if they had not happened.
I wasn’t born then, so of course I never asked them to go to war for me, to ensure my future survival, but they did anyway. Whichever side these soldiers were on, they were treated like millions of expendable ants at the beck and call of their country. For that, for the fact that they were put in this shitty impossible situation with no real chance of surviving it, we should be fucking grateful to them. We should have some empathy. It makes me angry to think that some people pretend these wars never happened, people pretend that the Holocaust never happened, how can anyone really believe that? I think in their hearts they know it to be true.
I’ve talked before about the memorials in the photos above in Impressions of Salzburg. What I’ve never talked about was my experience in Salzburg Museum, because it set off my PTSD and made me sickened and pretty depressed. The Salzburg Museum’s exhibition of the First World War was a particular eye opener. The Austrian point of view is that they were defending their assassinated archduke. The exhibit explained an awful lot about World War I that we in England tend to not get told, and English speaking resources tend to follow suit.
I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in the history of the Great War to research original non-British primary sources as well as the English sources we’re used to seeing, to get a more balanced view of the First World War, who was actually fighting it, and how it caused the second. I’m not taking sides here, but it’s damn scary to see how Britain actually contributed to the rise of Fascism and Nazism, and I think there’s a lot of lessons we aren’t learning while we pretend our government wasn’t part of the problem in that first war. The individual soldiers, of course, had no idea of this. The only people who should have been involved in that war were Austria and Serbia, and as a result of ridiculously convoluted diplomatic ties, millions upon millions of lives were lost for no reason on all sides. Many were aged 16-18.
We need to remember them, otherwise we could *be* them.
After a two day car drive to Salzburg, Austria, I arrived with a big list of things to do in Salzburg. I was expecting it to be cold, but instead I found Salzburg to be a mountain-surrounded retreat bathed in brilliant sunshine with clear air and perfect light for photography:
This big gold ball was a mystery, but it features heavily on Salzburg’s postcards and appears to be a bit of a landmark in Salzburg.
These bottles of Mozart perfume were everywhere in Salzburg. Presumably it’s a desirable thing to smell like a dead composer. The tagline on all the posters was “the magic of a nice feeling.” Mozart’s connection to Salzburg is that he was born here, at 9 Getreidestrasse. I didn’t feel inclined to seek out the house Mozart was born in, since I was far more interested in how the environment shaped his early music; all over Salzburg you could see Mozart’s music in the landscape; the colour of the buildings contrasted with Salzburg’s bed rock, in which it was nestled like a flute playing alongside a cello. Salzburg was light, airy, nothing that happened here could be truly terrible. This flautesque beauty was the enduring mask covering a darker past.
It felt like most of Salzburg was roughly hewn from the living rock itself, and the difference in heights could be profound in places.
This sign gets louder as you walk towards it. Sorry, it’s a science joke. Seriously, though, it’s pretty awesome that Christian Doppler (as in, the Doppler Effect) used to live here, I was surprised as I’d thoroughly researched Salzburg before I set off, and there was just so much more to Salzburg than the internet had suggested. Doppler died aged 50 but, like many of the “great men” from his era, he accomplished so much in his lifetime. Known as a mathematician and physicist, his work on the Doppler effect (the effect that explains why police sirens to get disproportionately louder as they approach, then they suddenly go quiet as they depart) is how we understand red-shift in astrophysics, and that’s the primary evidence we have which supports the Big Bang Theory. It was pretty exciting to see a reference to Doppler, the man who identified the origin of the universe, here in Salzburg, a place predominantly known for music and renaissance landmarks. I suppose it’s the old saying that maths and music go together – where a place is known for music, it tends to also be known for mathematics. Doppler’s tomb is in San Michele, Venice, so this is about as close as one can get to Doppler in Salzburg. I’d much rather see a perfume named after Doppler than Mozart – it could get stronger as one got closer to the person wearing it, and fade away unexpectedly as they passed. The tagline for advertising could be “Smell like the stars of the heavens” (Geruch wie der Gestern des Himmels) as a reference to his eponymous paper on binary stars (Uber das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne und einiger anderer Gestern des Himmels).
This was one of two fountains that I was quite taken with in Salzburg, in Rezidenzplatz, the plaza where many tourists seemed to gather. It was beautiful, with an aura of reflected droplets of water, and it could splash a person with water from twenty feet away. The fountain below has to win points for sheer class in a public park, though:
I explained what the deal was with this second fountain in my post about Mirabell Gardens back in December 2014.
I think most tourists visiting Salzburg don’t know what these plaques are for, embedded into the pavement, four or five inches square, and starting to tarnish. Tourists seem to walk around without even noticing them, which is tragic when you know what these are for. Salzburg’s more recent history is painful to touch, a dark shroud suffocating parts of the city and extinguishing the joy and wonder of Mozart’s and Doppler’s birthplace. Like when you see someone who has been in a horrific accident, and they keep assuring you that they’re fine… but it still just goes right through you, when you look at the wound. Much of Salzburg was a profoundly beautiful place with a lot of happy tourist attractions, and you could probably get through an entire visit here without seeing traces of the Second World War if you wanted to. But there were signs, and it was not very nice. These plaques are for people who were rounded up and transported, telling the world where they were sent and what ultimately happened to them. Deportiert means deported. Ermordet means murdered. Suddenly the tragedy of Salzburg is vividly real and tragic. The plaques are to show where these people lived before they were labeled as undesirable. On the plaques above, you will see this family was separated after they were taken; Irma and Arthur Bondy were both killed at Minsk, the capital of Belarus, by the Third Reich, which leads to a completely different picture of wartime Belarus than we are used to thinking about. Otto Bondy was taken to Theresienstadt, the ghetto camp in the Czech republic, before being moved to Treblinka, the other extermination camp in Poland. Rachel Rosenmann was taken to Lodz, the work camp also in Poland. It is impossible to know when they died, only when they were taken, so whether their suffering was quick or slow, we will never be able to tell. Just looking at that photo makes me profoundly sad. Just as Mozart and Doppler are famed citizens of Salzburg who should be remembered for their work, the world should also know the names of all of these people who lived in Salzburg all their lives, then were rounded up and killed. The people in these plaques were all aged in their mid-fifties. There were so many of these plaques and I feel very guilty that I didn’t photograph them all, didn’t record every name and every fate. Then I realized that the plaques do that. They remember the people who were lost. Salzburg found them and brought them home again, even if only in name. When people say the situation with the refugees in North Africa is different to this, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s hard for some people to remember that our side wasn’t actually aware that the Nazis were doing this to millions of people until some allied soldiers walked into Auschwitz when we liberated Poland. The same thing could quite easily be happening elsewhere.
This was a big castle. I think it’s what most people go to Salzburg for. We clomped up the hill, got to the top, enjoyed the view, balked at the entry fee and came back down again. The view was nice though and the exercise was probably good for us after the two-day drive to get from the North of England to Salzburg. There was also some sort of mechanical railway lift type thing (similar to the one at Snowdon).
On a millenial-aged bridge, this vast collection of padlocks evokes a different emotion – love. In spite of all the horror of Austria’s 20th Century past, people in Salzburg have filled this bridge with padlocks, to show their love for another human being. People in Salzburg understand suffering and loss, but the city itself endures, the people endure, and in the face of crimes against humanity of such magnitude, the city still loves, is still loved, and the pain begins to fade. Perhaps if you’re less emotional than I, you could get through a visit to Salzburg without feeling the same way.
When we had run out of time in Salzburg, we reluctantly hit the road again (there were so many things we didn’t get to see) and headed onwards, towards Rome. We never did find out what the big gold ball was.
Buying Petrol In Europe and European-language countries
When we were approaching the ferry at Dover, England, I pulled into the petrol station and filled the tank. My OH’s mum had told us confidently that petrol was much cheaper in France. This should have meant waiting until France to fill up, surely? Why, then, was I getting petrol now?
Actually, I was deeply worried by particular practicalities of our trip, not least of which, where to actually buy petrol. I didn’t know any of the brand names and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find these petrol stations. I’d looked online for a list of company names to look out for (Esso, Shell and even BP have stations abroad), but since no list existed I was limited by searching for the overseas locations of petrol stations I already knew the names of. I’d also searched online to find the names of fuels abroad.
I was still deeply worried about running very low on fuel and not being able to find a petrol station. This only happened in Italy, where there were so many different flavours of fuel and colours of hoses that it was rare to find somewhere that carried all of them. The only constant everywhere was diesel, which left me wishing many times that our vehicle was a diesel one. But you got what you got, all you can do is work with what you got.
I’m going to tell you what I learned about filling up abroad, and I’ve included a list of names of petrol types (and which engines they go in) for the countries I’ve been to so far.
Here’s my top hacks for buying petrol in Europe:
1. Service stations generally sell fuel at an almost-reasonable price, but it varies wildly. In Northern Italy on the Autostrade (plural of Autostrada, or freeway), they give you the next 3 prices for diesel and “benzina” from which you can work out the relative prices for your chosen fuel if it’s not either of those.
2. Always fill at two bars or quarter of a tank, and always round down when making the decision; every time we looked at the two bars (1/4 tank) and thought “it’s ok, we can shop around for a better price” something always happened that stopped us getting to a petrol station in good time, and we cut it far too close, far too often. We actually skipped quite a few stations on the way down because we didn’t understand which fuel to put into the car (because the Italians have so many) and they all had black, yellow or red pump handles, no green ones. There was the time we suddenly ended up in a 4 hour gridlocked traffic jam around Firenze, in 45 degree heat, watching our petrol dwindle. There was the time we took an A-road (I think they’re “routes” or “interstates” in America – the one that’s the next size down from a freeway??) and our 50 mile route suddenly became 100 miles in the dark on continuous hairpin bends every 30 metres or less, so we constantly were doubling back on ourselves, and that hadn’t been marked on our map as such, cutting across from just below Ravenna to the E1. The scenery around there is apparently stunning, but at 1am, it was dark and we didn’t have enough fuel. Luckily the second half was 50 miles of the same, but downhill, so we just rolled it until we got to the E1, and there was a petrol station within 500m of getting onto the Autostrada. The engine never stopped from lack of fuel, but it came very close a couple of times (making that dreadful hiccuping sound as it gasped for gas).
3. SP95-E10 is the name of a semi-synthetic fuel that is an EU-approved version of petrol. In some countries it’s cheaper than normal 95 octane petrol, in others, it’s more expensive. It’s good stuff though, at least, it was really good in our Citroen Picasso, and I was a little sad when we got back to the UK and couldn’t buy it anywhere. SP95-E10 gave us a vastly improved mileage and the car engine sounded healthier whilst it was using it. I would highly recommend it if you have a Picasso – it’s like they’re made for each other, which could be true, since it’s a French car and since SP95-E10 is prevalent in France. It’s often also called “Super E10.”
4. In Rome, most petrol stations are self-service, but there are men who will insist on filling your car for you (they will be on a mobile phone the entire time, and usually smoking as well, we saw many of these) and then harass you for a tip. Unless you’re sure of yourself physically or speak Italian louder than whoever is on the other end of the phone, you just have to give them some money. I consistently gave 2 Euros on a 20 Euro fill, and it did work out cheaper than the manned petrol stations on the ring road. I don’t think these men actually work for any petrol station company, but Rome is a city whose primary workforce are street hawkers, so you just get used to it.
5. In Austria and Germany, many stations have full service pumps and self-serve pumps, and these mean different things to elsewhere. With the full service pumps, you stop your car and tell the attendant how much fuel you want (like in the olden days of good service) and they’ll fill it for you. At the self-serve pumps, you put your own fuel into the car – but with either option, you still have to go inside to pay. They don’t have a pay at the pump option at these stations so either way you’ve got to waste the same amount of time. The full service pumps are usually about 15-20 cents more expensive per litre than the self-serve, which can seriously add up (that’s 1 euro extra every five litres of fuel. Your fuel tank is usually 25 to 30 litres, so service costs 5-6 Euros per complete tank fill).
6. Make sure you have a credit card as well as your money, some pay-at-the-pump self service machines only take cards, and they’re the ones you’ll get stuck with late at night.
7. To use the European pay-at-the-pump petrol stations, you actually don’t pay at the pump you’re using. In the centre of all the pumps, there will be a machine that you have to select options from and prepay for the amount of fuel you’re going to put in your tank. There are usually language options for at least French, German, Spanish, Italian and English, but once you’ve used 3 or 4 of these machines you’ll know the menu options well enough that you won’t need English (unless you really aren’t paying attention). Just follow the menu through to select fuel type and amount to buy, select payment method if it’s an option and give the machine the money. Eventually it’ll let you go back to your pump and fill up.
Some of them tell you the price in litres and get you to confirm you are happy with this price before letting you continue. Others just take your money. Once you’re filling up, it will automatically cut off at the amount specified. There isn’t an option with these machines to “fill ‘er up” so you need to guess how much fuel you want to put in. I usually went for 20 Euros because the price per litre was often quite high and I thought that if anything went wrong with the machine I’d only lost 20 Euros. If something does go wrong there isn’t really anything you can do about it because these stations are totally unmanned, so just write it off to experience.
8. Knowing your numbers 1-15 in foreign languages really helps with identifying which pump you’re trying to pay for petrol. In England, you walk into the shop and say “pump number 5” and you do the same thing in foreign countries. Just have the number ready before you go in and they can process your request faster. If you don’t know the numbers of the country you’re in, Europeans often can also do English although it might take them a minute to work out what language you’re speaking in, just like if someone started speaking to you in French at your place of work you’d need to think before responding.
9. Despite my worries, it’s actually really easy to spot petrol stations abroad – because they look like petrol stations. Big roof, booth for paying (usually), sign with prices, petrol pumps. Unless, y’know, you’re really unlucky and end up at a car wash or diner that used to be a petrol station and still has all the trimmings. I think my main worry was needing to look for them on my smartphone which always needed a brand name to search, but since it didn’t have any network at all from Dover onwards, that really wasn’t an issue for me because there were so many roadside petrol stations.
10. As a final hack, none of the petrol we bought in France was anything remotely resembling the prices OH’s mum had found before we left. I hadn’t been holding my breath, but it’s worth bearing in mind that those price comparison tools are not always very up-to-date and it’s probably going to save you time to not bother looking them up, especially if you’re going to be gone drivin’ for more than a day or two.
Here’s the names of fuel in various countries, and what engines they go in:
Super E10 – unleaded engines
Super Carburant – leaded engines (old 4 star cars) don’t put in unleaded engines.
Gazole – Diesel engines
LPG – LPG/autogas engines
Sans Plomb 95 / Sans plomb 98 – Unleaded engines
You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel but not aboard ferries.
Super – unleaded engines (95 octane)
Super Plus – unleaded engines (98 octane)
Super E10 – unleaded engines (synthetic SP95-E10)
Diesel – diesel engines
No lead replacement available.
You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.
Benzina – generic term, sometimes used for “fuel,” still unsure if this would go in my car.
Benzina verde – unleaded engines.
Benzina super – unleaded engines (higher octane)
Gasolio – diesel engines (don’t ask for gasoline if you have a petrol engine, they’ll think it’s this)
GPL (gas di petrolio liquefatto) – LPG engines.
No lead replacement available, but you can buy a fuel additive to use with unleaded petrol.
Sometimes unleaded is called “senza plombo” but it’s not an official grade of petrol.
You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.
Over 800 miles of driving in Italy, I only saw SP95-E10 once, and it was far more expensive than anything else they were selling.
Bencina – petrol, again nowhere was able to tell me if this was ok to put in an unleaded engine or whether it was a common term for something else.
Gasoleo “A” – Diesel engines
Gas-oil – Diesel engines
Gasoleo “B” – HEATING OIL ONLY DON’T PUT IN CAR!
gasolina super – Leaded 4-star engines
gasolina sin plomo – Unleaded engines.
biogasol – another one that no-one could agree on the meaning of. Most likely biodiesel but might instead be something to fuel houses. Probably best to avoid.
SP95-E10 may or may not be available in Spain – it’s likely because it’s a European initiative, but then we don’t have it in the UK, so I will report back when I return from driving to Moroccco.
You can carry up to 10 litres of fuel with you, but not aboard ferries.
Does anyone have any further experience on the names of unleaded/diesel in other countries? I’d love this to become a reference. Don’t just post website translations because I’m specifically collecting the words printed on the sides of petrol pumps. For example, some Italian dictionaries say “petrolio” means “petrol” but it’s actually never used in the sense that we would mean, because it means “petroleum” like “petroleum jelly” (Vaseline). If you asked for it at a petrol station you would get mocked. So, only contribute what you’ve seen at petrol stations please!
Mirabell Gardens and Palace: Breaking all the rules.
It’s bad form to start at the beginning when you write a travel piece. This is the special exception: The fountain, facing away from us as we entered Mirabell Gardens, was a half naked woman who appeared to have two streams of water pointing in opposite directions around her chest area. It looked like her tits were leaking. I got two or three photos because I thought it was so bizarre. I walked around the fountain and when I reached the front, I saw there were actually her hands, directly in front of her chest, and she was holding two bluebirds, who were facing away from each other. The water was actually coming from their mouths. It does raise some questions about why anyone would just loll around half naked in a pond with birds in their hands at chest height, but we’re taught not to really question it if it’s Art, and this had at some point been Art. I could imagine the Georgian upper classes viewing this fountain with the same disdain with which recent audiences have treated work by Damien Hirst. Having said that, there’s a lot of stuff like this dotted around Western Europe.
The mystery thus solved, we moved on, into the gardens. Needless to say there were flowers everywhere; flowerbeds formed geometric patterns. Sitting on a bench to eat lunch, we were treated to being harassed for money by a beggar.
“Haben sie zwei Euro?” A man asked with a Turkish accent. He didn’t look particularly poor, but clothing obviously isn’t the best indicator. He waved a paper at us.
“No thank you.” I replied. The beggar glared at me, then did the one thing that guaranteed he wasn’t getting a sale from either of us. In a Western country, with (almost) equal rights, he ignored me and looked to my husband, waiting for an answer, still proffering the paper. We both stared at him in disbelief.
“NO THANK-YOU!” My OH said loudly and slowly.
“You want to buy a paper? Two Euro?” He asked, in English this time.
“NO…THANK…YOU.” He repeated, even more loudly and slowly. My other half has no compunction about talking at people in English until they’re imbued with the gift of speaking his language. It’s usually incredibly humiliating for me, as I’ll try to speak someone else’s language and fall silent before submitting to requesting if they speak English. This time, however, I just let him get on with it. After all, the paper that the guy was flogging was still in German, no matter what language he tried his sales pitch.
“You got a Euro for the bus?” He asked, still not taking the hint.
“No. Go away.” My OH replied loudly. He’s usually very polite but I think the man’s sexism had rankled him.
“Fifty cents? Fifty cents for bus?” He shook his coffee cup in my OH’s face, at which point my beloved just turned towards his sandwich and resumed eating.
The man started shouting a tirade of abuse at us, then walked off and started the exact same routine at the very next bench. I wondered, with his amazing command of colloquial English expletives, why he was wasting his effort trying to sell German-language papers to English tourists instead of making a mint teaching at an English Language School. I felt a little dirty inside, having broken my personal rule of letting my OH act like a tourist.
After lunch we decided to check out the famous Mirabell Palace, mentioned in guide books and internet must-see lists as “Mirabell Palace and Gardens.” Disappointingly, it turned out to be a council offices, which wasn’t open to the public. Not even a toilet to be had.
There was a thoroughfare which was quite pretty, and which led us across a car park and ultimately caused us to end up at the Austrian Hair Supermarket, which was as it sounds – a shop the size of a supermarket that only sold hair products. A self-inflicted platinum blonde, I just love hair products. I love finding new ones that do good things to my hair. I had bravely left home without so much as a hairdryer, let alone straighteners or a curling wand, so anything that would improve my hair’s appearance was very welcome. Thank-you, inaccurate travel guides everywhere; the hair supermarket was one of the shopping highlights of the entire trip. Across the road, there was a toilet.
I’m breaking another travel writing rule here, but I have to tell you about this toilet. As I was approaching the toilet, an older woman barged right past and into the toilet. The door swung closed and I wasn’t sure whether it was a single toilet inside or many. I decided to wait for her to finish, even though I didn’t see any lock on the outside of the outside door.
A good ten minutes later, I was still waiting. I decided to check inside. There were two cubicles, as I suspected. The older woman was sitting on one of the toilets, trousers down, cubicle door wide open, bags, rucksack and hiking poles spread about in front of the sink. I decided to step over the bags and I went into the other cubicle, as she kept speaking an unidentifiable, possibly Eastern European, language at me, getting louder. I locked the door and started cleaning the toilet seat, as she kept banging on the cubicle wall and shouting at me from the next toilet. I came back out again to see what she wanted. She just kept shouting in a foreign language.
Eventually, she declared, “Pissing!” at the top of her voice and I just gave up and left. I waited for her to be finished as she clearly wanted the entire toilet block to herself for some bizarre reason that I couldn’t fathom. Some people just can’t share toilets apparently. When she was finally done, I burst into the cubicle I’d prepared earlier and locked the door firmly. I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m sure you know the kind I mean.
Later, when I was washing my hands, I thoroughly checked the cubicle containing the toilet she’d used. The lock worked perfectly, there was plenty of toilet roll. The outside door also happened to have a bolt on the inside that she could have used for privacy, presumably in case women wanted to use the baby change station on the opposite wall to the sink. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would have done at a pay-per-cubicle toilet, where people would have been more reluctant to leave, as it would have meant forfeiting the toll paid for use of the toilet. I still can’t work out what her problem was. Tourists.