Posted by: Nazausgraben | September 23, 2009

AUSFLUG


“Let’s get away abit…someplace new!”

 My request is more of a plea, as a steady bout of Fall rains has kept Susi and me house-bound to the point of cabin fever. Today, however, the sun has appeared…the skies are a crystalline azure with nary a white tuft within sight. It’s time to get out…get away…to drive somewhere…an Ausflug!

 Susis Volvo has just arrived from overseas and we are eager to introduce it to the challenges of Alpine driving; the thin winding mountain passes, the steep climbs and brake-wrenching descents, the non-Austrian workers packed into old Mercedes drafting your bumper at a distance of 0.5 microns and at speeds that would permit the passing air pressure to clean one’s teeth.

 Still, it is a glorious day, our spirits aflight, and we are on our way. The goal is to explore a beautiful road that makes its circuitous way from nearby Reutte (a town that is the capital of the Ausserfern region) to a high-range pass known as the Hahntennjoch.

 Heading west out of Pinswang, all five Volvo cylinders surprised at breathing and igniting clean Tirolean air, we climb over the Kniepass; an ancient road guarded by a now-ruined fortress. Most of the remains of this structure are hidden behind a large stand of forest. I note that a handful of trees have been cut down for winter fuel, thus exposing a large piece of fortress battlements. I write “must visit soon” on my mental yellow sticky note.

 We wind our way slowly through Pflach and enter Reutte. There is little traffic as we pass through this very old town. The streets are lined with buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some have facades adorned with ‘Luftlmalerei’ an art form whereby a flat surface can be painted to appear as if something has been built in three-dimensions. Boring windows can be painted to appear surrounded by marble or wooden frames and half-closed shutters. Plain doorways can sport elegant painted medieval arches and walls may lead to dark showed inner courtyards, where none exist. It is an art form that is also seen in many local churches, where wooden beams appear to be made of elegant marble.

 A ride through town brings us to a road headed toward Elmen and Steeg. However, we turn left and start heading aloft into the alpine range. Climbing and watching the valley below miniaturize. The roads are surrounded by the swells of the grassy mountainsides. They are soft, as yet green and thick, inviting the traveler to stop, turn off the ignition and lie down if only for just a moment or two.

 We avoid this Siren song and continue our ascent into the rugged upper alpine region. The tree line appears and the road becomes less steep. Finally, we arrive at our destination, the Hahntennjoch; a stretch of road at abit more than 1900 meters high. The mountains surrounding us are magnificent, their rocky faces parallel to the road showing us the way from the Lech Valley toward Imst and the Fernpass.

 We do not feel up to braving the ponderous eighteen-wheel transports and bulky motorhomes behind which all must invariably crawl up, over and down the Fernpass road, so we elect to reverse course and head back to see Boden, one of the prettiest mountain villages in the Tirol.

Boden is located near two villages with delightfully odd names, Pfafflar and Bschlabs. Both are tourist areas where one can rent a rustic log hut and luxuriate in the high altitude mountain summer sun. We descend slightly through rolling green hills into Boden.

 

The lush rolling vista surrounding Boden

The lush rolling vista surrounding Boden

 Boden is too tiny to be even called a village; it is a ‘Weide’.  There are approximately 140 souls living in Boden’s magnificent old farmhouses, some dating from the 13th century.  Luxurious flowers that beg to be touched surround them all. The exterior walls of the houses are mixtures of deep rich aged woods and off-white painted cement. The wood is crafted and molded into elegant swirls, heart-shapes and slats that suggest the builder was more an artist than pure craftsman.

 

Boden

Boden

The residents are older folk, farmers, retired, taking care of their families. One woman in her 50s is taking care of her husband, who has been in a coma for many years. Along with her daughter, this kind soul spends her every moment tending to her beloveds needs. He cannot respond to her ministrations, nor can she ever be certain that he hears and understands her loving verbal caresses. Yet he will spend his days and nights (however many or few they would be) in his home in warm comfort with a loving family praying for and awaiting his return. It is a very old home within which there is constantly renewed hope rather than despair.

Slowly walking through Boden, we come upon the Church; a tiny jewel of Baroque art and sculpture. In its interior ambience there was transcendence and in its facade, sadness. For Boden is situated in the heart of avalanche territory. Embedded into its outer wall near the entrance are painted plaques listing the names of those who had perished in furious cascades of freezing death, plummeting down from the precipitous heights above Boden. The wall plaque is simple, the hand-painted snowbound chalet suggesting a picture of peace rather than death. There were three names in 1847 – Martin, Rochus and George – and five further names in 1856. Two Johanns, Josef, Peter, and Alois. One family alone lost three male members during those two major avalanches….another, two.

 Moving further up the one road through Boden, we come upon a very ancient farmhouse so old it is that the outer walls are buckling under the weight forcing down on the dry supports. The outer front facade appears as a surreal sculpture without parallels and skewed irregular angles where even straights should be. The house will eventually collapse under the irregular uncontrolled strains, and with it, another piece of Boden’s past will likewise disappear, relegated to the collective memory of its citizens and perhaps a rustic painting on the wall of the Church.

Collapsing farmhouse

Collapsing farmhouse

 There is sadness in this thought, for as the homes die, so do the inhabitants of this tiny piece of living history.  I have seen very few young people here. Without them, as with so many tiny rural communities that bejewel the Tirol, there may be a day when Boden will be a name on a map and little else. Still, I pray that this day shall not come to pass, for in Boden there is such beauty, such respite from travail, that it should be protected, maintained not as a museum, but as a living thriving part of this beautiful land.

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Responses

  1. Andy, thank you for including the pictures. As a good of a writer as you are, and you are very good, a picture still communicates were words can not. Mary Ann and I enjoy reading about your and Susi’s adventures.

  2. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

    • Many thanks for your very kind words, Jim!!

  3. Andy,
    I agree with Bill Sherrill! You are an extraordinary writer, gifted in a way that does not come from merely taking a creative writing course. You have a talent that you must nurture and expand into, if nothing more, a travel guide to the Tirol! I see the next Frommer in the making!

    Also appreciate the photos. I had tried to picture in my mind the world in which you now reside. I have been to Switxerland and Austria and Germany, but in a different life, one forty years ago.

    Glad to learn the Volvo is handling the mountain driving, but that Mercedes E-Class AMG…or a nice Lamborghini…now we are talking fun!

    Warmest regards,
    Bert


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