Lost In The Mountains

I was always a bit disappointed my Dad never passed on this skill. At least to just one of his grand kids. I’m surrounded by mountains in this small rural community in Austria. It looks more like a small village with its loose collection of houses rather than a farming region. The houses are large. They need to be. I first learnt this some years ago when skiing in neighbouring Switzerland. We were making our way through the snow back to our chalet. I’d never heard a baa sound coming from a house before. Here near the village of Egg, its not so much sheep that farmers share their house, but mainly cows. Most of the house area is the barn. A necessity for storing the cows, hay and farm equipment during the snow filled winter. A practice that goes back as old as some of the homes, some, as the one of my host, up to 400 years old.

The weather is now just starting to turn. You can see the wood piles in each house are completely stacked up in preparation for the snow season ahead. Traffic along the regional roads are disrupted as farmers walk their cattle along the roads, down from the mountains. Obviously a long held tradition that surpasses any modern day rights of vehicles.

It’s an amazing transformation. From rich green fields to what in a couple months will be blanketed with snow. It’s hard to imagine. Meanwhile, while enjoying balmy days in mid 20’s (C), an evening walk brings a mix of the sound of children playing against a symphony of chiming cowbells.

It’s a picture perfect setting. By day, the valley dotted with clusters of houses, flowers draping over their balconies, the fresh green fields and the mountainous background, provides a scene fitting of a movie. By night the lights from the scattering of houses dimly sparkle across the valley up around the towering mountain ranges.

Apart from the seasonally dormant ski lifts, the only sign of tourism here are the hiking guide signs. The occasional hikers that are seen are mostly from neighboring Germany. You get a sense it’s a sibling like love hate relationship. Much the same as our Kiwi friends. When the chips are down we’re there for each other, but in the mean time they’re the butt of local’s jokes.

I asked my host if yodeling was still a part of the culture. Coming from a German heritage, it was a talent my father on rare occasions would display. It was the very likes of these mountains, as my host explained, where yodeling from mountain to mountain was used as way of communicating. You get the feeling a lot of tradition remains very much part of the local culture. However, as with my father, yodeling it seems is a part of a past culture that’s as good as been lost in the mountains.

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