“So, does it warrant the ‘Skyrace’ label?” Thomas Bosnjak, the race director, asked me about the Hochkönigman Skyrace. With a grin.
I had, just having finished, had to complain how hard it had been…
The fortress of Hohensalzburg towers above Salzburg; the museums on and around the adjacent Mönchsberg give it even more cultural cachet and obvious Alpine character…
And yet, when you measure it in your own steps, you really get to know a place, and it turns out differently from how you may have thought it was.
What if you – or actually, modern artists- thought about nature as an actor? The nature found in classical works of art? To perform the thoughts, bring the art into a conversation?
You’d get Ganymed Nature, this year’s edition of the Ganymed art performances, bringing paintings to modern interpretive life.
Feeding people during the Lent fasting season may be strange, showing love as well… but traditions are kept alive even as they change and adapt their original intentions.
One such tradition is the Liebstatt Sunday in Gmunden, a pretty little tradition now all around loving – and often, somewhat cheeky – gingerbread hearts.
Austria, and especially the same area of the Salzkammergut where I have been spending quite some time and showing more and more trails, still holds quite a bit of fascination.
The area around it, the Marchfeld, may be important for Austria’s vegetable growing.
We may have been enjoying the asparagus from there, but I didn’t want to have to go there.
I’m still, aside from current freelance work, pursuing a teaching qualification, though.
This semester, want it or not, this study program finally had me taking the outdoors / field didactics course.
I was just in the middle of a nicely creative – and nicely paying – freelance project (analyzing whether a new technical bureau in a larger city could help a company entice more technical staff to join them, and if so, where the best location for that would be).
So, it was with hesitation that I went out there.
Out, that is, to a former train support staff’s house on the border between Austria and Slovakia.
Again, out with a train to Bratislava… this time, the other line from Vienna, not the one I (finally) took to get to the Bratislava Marathon. But still, a train line to a place within visible distance from the mountain that hides Bratislava from where I live, just to the north of it.Not exactly much of a journey, and not a place likely to be of interest to too many travelers.
Especially when it comes to the biological station that this house was turned into.
It used to be a place where steam trains changed their water, because only here in all of the east of Austria could they get calcium-poor water that wouldn’t settle in their tanks as badly.
Which is to say that the house is a little bit old.
With only wood stoves.
No running water.
Not exactly good while feeling that a well-paying freelance project, which requires online research, needed continuing…
Then again, in the middle of way too much time in front of a computer, increasingly suffering neck pain from it, maybe just the time-out needed?
Well, it was.
The universe won’t care about anything at all that you wish, but there is one way it bends to your will:
When you decide to see something as a worthy adventure rather than a drag, there is a chance you can make it so.
I decided to see this course as a bit of an adventure, and so it became.
We all worked together pretty well, all the students who went there.
We got a bit more experience teaching; carried, cut and chopped wood; cooked for the group over small gas flames; spent time around an open fire; got to know more about this landscape.
It amazes me.
I don’t know why anyone would still be reading this, but imagine:
You have an area here that mainly looks just like fields.
It is mainly just fields; this area of the Marchfeld is a major vegetable, and especially asparagus, growing one.
The Marchfeld is also, at least in part (with dams regulating the river and such), a place where the March river flows and regularly floods quite an area.
Therefore, one finds an alluvial forest here, which are places that are quite interesting to biologists in their species richness and as ecosystems that are quite wild.
Here, something is added:
This is an area where Triops and other crustaceans which have existed since paleontological times still occur.
And to imagine that these fields, those little depressions, contain eggs of ancient species, just waiting for a flooding to let them hatch and reproduce yet again…
That is something.
If you take the time to think about it, at least.
If you don’t have to have the greatest and most extreme of excitement alone to stir your emotions.
If that kind of biological (species) survival isn’t your thing… We also got our thrills learning to handle the snakes that live there.
They aren’t poisonous and hardly bite, but snakes certainly do stir something primal in us human monkeys.
We quickly visited the area around Marchegg Castle, which is interesting to see, too.
There, white storks still breed the way they originally did, with immense woodstick nests built into great dead trees.
(Mainly, the area where I live is known for the storks which build their nests on village chimneys, which is how most of them now breed.)
To keep the meadows there intact as the meadows that the storks need, and that used to be quite common, horses related to the wild Przewalski horses are kept there.
With them, a certain call of the wild is added. Especially as there were some battles over the proper hierarchy between the herd and an upstart stallion… and we had to pass right through that group of horses.
With them, also, the meadows have a certain look which is unlike that of meadows cultivated by machine…
And then, some of us students also spent way too much time socializing into the night, around the fire.
Which is primal, too, if ever there was something primal to us humans… as is the sight of the stars above:
In the end, though I could have done without it, it was a nice little adventuring, a good time-out from just working in front of a computer, indoors.
You don’t have to go all primitive for days, but…
Questions over questions, and themes on which much more could be written. Has been. And still needs to be.
Better yet, not to be written.
To be pursued.
Traditions often seem quaint; the past, a bygone.
All that is all the worse when they are traditions where one grew up, but not traditions one grew up with. After all, often enough, we give up on traditions even – or all the more – when we grew up with them.
In a foreign country and culture, there is a chance that we will find them exotic enough to be interested in them, at least. (See “Chinese Family Affairs“)
When they are just a remnant of “our own” history, however, it takes something more to make us want to experience and feel that we can enjoy them.
Last year, I’d already noticed that there would be a steam train into the Salzkammergut, playing on the motif of the Kaiser’s summer visits there, one day in summer.
Old-fashioned, but at least in an interestingly quaint way.
This year, it was running again.
It was also for a special occasion, as 2016 marks the centennial of Kaiser Franz Joseph’s death – and he was just that Kaiser who used to visit Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut for the summers, on just such a train.
It was also a bit of a gamble, as this year’s journey would take place just the day after our return flight from China, when chances were we might be afflicted by jet lag… but it also seemed just the right time for something like this, to mark our return to Austria with something playing on a return to Austria’s past.
Given we’d come back to Austria on an A380 (and in business class), it all even made for a great contrast of how things had changed in terms of technology, just (just, huh?) within the last 100 years…
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