Posted by: Nazausgraben | March 23, 2010


Tiroleans are passionate folk, who express themselves directly, loudly and, at times, without diplomatic grace.  Still, they make their views known and clear; there are neither despised political correctness nor relativistic ambiguities  to cloud an argument (better referred to as ‘discussions’).

Heated discussions amongst Tiroleans have about them a unique wave-like quality. There is relative quiet, each member of the table making small talk about the days events. Then, someone happens to bring up a topic of some controversy. Doing so is akin to firing a high-caliber weapon and simultaneously igniting a host of fireworks. Quiescence yields to passion as those listening nearby come alive; passive listening springs into arm-flailing eruptions of loud voices and the banging of fists. Just as suddenly, as if a mighty storm cell has lingered and now moved on, the group reverts to a half-quiet…the sipping of beer and a laugh or two breaking the stillness….until the next volatile topic is introduced.

Take, for example, a discussion about the state of architecture in the Austria.   An article in a local newspaper notes that amongst the beautiful old farmhouses in a village not far from Pinswang, there were recently built some boxy, unappealing structures (including a bank) that were very much out of place with the look and ambience of the area. In one case, a bunker-like minimalist building was constructed next to an ancient and still very beautiful house, clashing terribly and obliterating what had been a very attractive bucolic scene. In other cases, existing historical structures have been ‘modernized’ (mutilated?) in ways that have effectively destroyed the historical integrity of the original structure.

Some would say such wanton disregard for environmental aesthetics changes the approach to architecture away from the focus on beauty designed to appeal to others, to forms that appeal to the designer; the views of others bring irrelevant….an approach that could be interpreted as the zenith of arrogance.

“…..That’s totally unfair!!!” Actually Helmut blurts out a colorful dialect-ridden epithet regarding cow dung that is best left untranslated here. “Just because everybody doesn’t like the way something looks or fits-in doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there. It’s like the European Union!” We ponder this comparison, and not knowing quite what to make of it, remain silent until Helmut carries on.

(Before continuing, it is best that I insert a caveat about language here. As I relate the following conversations, please note that all of what transpires is done so in many dialects and speeds. Words fly between us in a colorful mixture of Allemanisch, Lechtalerisch, Sudtirolisch, Pinswangerisch and a host of other variants of localisms. Not a drop of high German can be found floating in this sea of very colorful discourse, Thus, in the name of clarity, I ask you to permit me to take abit of literary license herein in my relating to you the manner with which the members of the discussion are making their various arguments.)

“You can’t keep building everything to look old and nice to look at. Sometimes you need to introduce innovation. ” Helmut is becoming more animated, waving his thick arms, brows furrowing into straining concern, and a scowl definitely taking shape. He continues, his hard-edged voice getting louder and higher pitched with excitement, “Also, you are not hurting anybody or anything by bringing old buildings here into the 21st century!” Not being able to think of anything more to say, Helmut closes his argument with a piercingly fierce, “No…your traditional attitude is unfair and bloed (silly)!” and slams his fist onto the wooden tabletop about which we are all seated.

“Not at all”. Johann retorts in prime form, “A so-called ‘artist’ destroyed a once lovely Pfarrkirche not far from Graz. I visited this church before it was ‘modernized’ into the surreal monstrosity one sees today. That this mutilation was permitted to take place…I can only shake my head in wonder.” Johann is clearly bewildered and at the same time decidedly disgusted…and I don’t believe it comes from drink…his second bottle gurgled down as we sit outside on this cool lovely almost-Spring afternoon.

Now it is Michaels turn. He hasn’t said much to this point; actually, he normally never says much of anything.  “Ever been to that abbey near Graz? The one on the hilltop?  I remember seeing it not all that many years ago. It was at one time a gorgeous structure, protected by the Denkmalamt (Austrian Office of Historic Preservation). Look at it now!  An entire section of the ancient outer wall was torn away, and a glass box built in its place. I remember reading that the architect even boasted that he purposely did not want to have his work to blend with the existing medieval structure.  But this was not all! Portions of the tile roof were ripped away and replaced by large windows (or are they solar panels?) and the entranceway to the chapel was replaced by a wide amphitheater entrance with silver-like glistening aluminum handrails. Nothing goes together!!! Who is to blame for permitting this…who is accountable??? I just don’t understand why this was allowed to happen.” 

We are astounded at Michael’s exposition; he said more in these few minutes than he has in months. Most gathered stare intently into the froth atop our beers and shake heads in agreement.

Herold is up next, “You only need head over the border to Bavaria and look around! The old villages with their ancient farmhouses….lovingly restored and looking as beautiful as they had when they were built 300 years ago…and not an ugly modern Klotz anywhere in sight! Come back over into Austria and what do you see?? A mish-mash of styles with boxy, unappealing glass and metal funny-colored cheap slant-roofed bunkers sitting in the middle of traditional neighborhoods. You are so right, Michael…they do not go together and the view is ruined!!”  More shaking of heads in agreement.

Edmund, the school teacher from nearby Mindelheim, waxes poetically, ” I suppose that all this comes from the post-modern adoration of sterile incongruity with the rekindling of sentiments like those of the horrid between-war Weimar school of art, architecture and music. Mix ego with public complacency and a move to eschew tradition and aesthetics… and this is what you get! ” No response to this at all….to those assembled, it is as if Edmund had just spoken in Cantonese. Some coughs and furtive glances, noses buried into beer glasses, and the topic is quickly changed.

Helmut has been wagging his head in disgusted disagreement the entire time. He slams his empty mug onto the table, rises with chest jutting out and a with a regal presence akin to the King of Saba, proclaims, “This is quatsch (nonsense)!” He starts to move away, a smile now gracing his wide hard-lined face and, waving at the group, makes a quick departure.

“Servus, Helmut!” most call out, “…see you later!”

Helmuts departure signals the end of the discussion; it is time to get back to work…laying down fertilizer on the vast Pinswang fields, tending the cows and horses, building a new set of rooms in an old house, clearing out some drying tree limbs, practicing an organ work to be played at Easter Sunday Mass in less than two weeks hence.

I depart as well, my ears ringing from the high-decibel commentary. I must get home as quickly as possible and jot down some of these ephemeral thoughts before they are truly lost.

I quickly walk through the late sun-setting afternoon…the Roman Road turning into a river of gatch as the snow quickly melts, squishing under foot with each step.

The discussion still whirring about in  my mind’s ear, I switch on the computer and watch patiently as the soothing blue undulating lights on the external drive indicate that all is functioning.

A couple of keyboard inputs, and the entire system freezes….stopped in its digital tracks. These beasts can at times be so frustrating indeed. There have been many times recently (that is, prior to my learning how to clean up the hard drive), that our computer crawled to a standstill and froze…refusing to do a thing.

My repeated keystrokes only intensify the dilemma as multiple frozen visuals appear on the screen. Pressing Control-Alt-Delete concurrently is supposed to reveal a frame showing what programs are in progress and allow me to selectively shut them down…however this too freezes and does so in multiples (about eight appear). That’s it…I have had enough and resolve to inflict corporal punishment on this wire bundled technological cretin (the computer…not me).

With a downward vertical thrust of about 200-g’s, I land an ‘ohr-feige’ (ear-slap…heppily, a now seldom type of punishment) upon the recalcitrant modum sitting next to the screen. All that rather barbaric response accomplishes is to shake loose into inoperability a single interior bulb telling me that the internet is indeed being accessed. I toss a few rather un-Christian words at the LCD face and storm away to our kitchen…a slice of fresh deer sausage and bread are desperately needed (the schnapps will come later).

Returning to our little office, I note that the computer is purring sweetly, the catatonic images have disappeared from the screen, and now the screen saver photos dance before my computer-illiterate eyes. I wipe the blue screen of death look from my face and once again set to the original task at hand. The assaulted modem innocently blinks at me. I have to remember to complain about this the next time we come together for a ‘discussion’.


  1. What a brilliant picture you have painted of your beer-drinking friends and their thoughts. Actually, Edmund captured all their thoughts, except perhaps those of Helmut–they just didn’t know it! Very funny indeed!

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