Posted by: Nazausgraben | July 7, 2009

WARUM ÖSTERREICH?


Why Austria?

Even long before I completed undergraduate studies, I knew that I would someday find myself living and working in Europe. I could see myself in retirement, living in one of England’s university cities, the owner of a used book and recording shop, listening to Haydn whilst looking out on the chilled ancient stones across the street…perhaps every so often even selling an out-of-print choral disk or travel narrative.

I, of course, had absolutely no idea that 15 years later, I would be attending a conference in Innsbruck, Austria, where I would be thoroughly smitten with that grace so oft sought by and between man and woman – a deeply abiding, treasured love. Indeed, it was a beautiful Austrian woman I chanced to meet at the conference who quite immediately stole my heart and forever happily altered my proposed flight plan to the U.K.

With the blooming of this joy came the realization that S.A. & Co., Booksellers and Purveyors of Fine Music and Exquisite Hand-Painted Porcelain, would be headquartered neither in Cambridge nor Oxford. Rather,  it was going to find digs somewhere in the Austrian countryside, in proximity to a major city, but sufficiently distant enough to be able to embrace the placid beauties and much beloved eccentricities of rural life.

With the dream quickly becoming reality, I sought to learn as much as possible about the land that soon would become so much a part of my being. I began to search libraries and bookshops for everything I could find on Austria – its history, people, culture, language and lifestyles. I sought travel narratives, photo documentaries, autobiographies and biographies; anything that would bring to life in my mind’s eye what I might encounter during my first visits to Austria.

Whilst exploring Travel Narrative shelves, my searches revealed a plethora of volumes, some beautifully illustrated, describing expatriate experiences in Italy (especially lovely ancient Tuscan hill towns), the sacred and profane French countryside (Bless you, Peter Mayle!) and the ‘once and future’ United Kingdom.

However, I was dismayed and saddened to find that even the most complete libraries and eclectic bookshops stocked very little in their stacks that really told the story of Austria as a nation and volk. The shelves devoted to Austria primarily contained mountains of well-worn travel, hiking, lodging and country dining guides, the predictably idée fixe tomes about Austria just prior to and during the Second World War periods, a number of politically-inspired fishwrap diatribes attempting to create scandal and several excursions into the Kaiser und König years. With a few splendid but dated exceptions, I unearthed little in the way of literate contemporary in-depth narratives about life in Austria. 

One unfortunate result of this dearth of information ’til recently has been the transmogrification of the Austrian soul (at least, in the eyes of many non-Austrians) into quaint and sometimes most unflattering stereotypes. The stark limitations of this erroneous, ill-grounded (dare I say, biased?) understanding of Austrians makes one wonder just how many people still  believe that ”Edelweiss” is the Austrian National Anthem and that cloistered novices really do scamper over grassy mountaintops singing distinctly un-Austrian melodies to do-re-miing child stars. 

With today’s vast resources for all via the internet and free access to numerous websites and publications about Austria not otherwise available only a handful of years ago, one can devoutly wish to see such stereotypes and concretized mindsets now cast asunder. Perhaps when one searches the library stacks and bookshop travel sections, a wider range of publications reflecting this enlightenment will be made available. Indeed, perhaps there might even be a book or two about an expatriate who, with his beloved Austrian bride,  built a home and started a new life in a little place at the far end of a verdant Tirolean valley…a lovely old new world called Pinswang.

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Responses

  1. Hello, old friend

    I’m not sure if you received the email I sent to the previous Comcast mailbox on june 30th, so I quote myself below:

    “I am sure that no matter how inspiring is your retirement ceremony tomorrow, no event can truly translate the outstanding service that you have provided to your country during all these years. And yet, I hope the ceremony is inspiring enough to keep you in the pursuit of excellence, wherever you are, whatever are you doing, as you have done until now.

    So, Grandpa Andy and Grandma Susi, enjoy the new life in Austria, and please let us know when the weather gets so cold that both of you feel like showing up in Brazil again.

    Well done, Sailor!!!

    Cheers and congratulations.
    Fernando, Silvana &Rodrigo”

    Wise move to start a weblog, I also manage judo weblog for Master (I mean, Old) athletes (www.riojudomaster.blogspot.com), altough my present work does not allow me much spare time.

    Regarding countries stereotypes, I share your disappointment when I find people thinking that will see monkeys and anacondas in Rio at any other location than in the Zoo. But let’s face it, this is the same mindset of the people who believe that will eat a truly tasty hot-dog in the streets of NY. Mass media oversimplifying stuff, I think. It takes a refined taste to pay due attenton to details and subtleties and, unfortunately those two are exceptions, and not the rule in the modern world.

    Looking forward to read more from your weblog,
    Fernando


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