Posted by: Nazausgraben | January 19, 2011


Living as we do on along the Via Claudia, we note that during these quiet gray months, the flow of visitors exploring the ancient Roman way trickles to but a few each day. Now, there are but a few of the recognized who pass punctually by each day; mostly the Einheimisch (locals) walking their small pets who tend to be half-submerged in the slippery deep white that covers our valley. Whatever the season, it is the natural beauty and almost mythic history of the Via that visitors seek here in Pinswang with each ever-changing season.

This ancient well-trodden path is preserved in as natural a state as possible. Still, it must be maintained and at all times kept passable. It is therefore the responsibility of the Agrargemeinschaft (the local agricultural committee) to maintain the Via as it courses its way through Pinswang and up into the mountains forming the border with Bavaria. Overgrown bushes and trees must be cut, the natural path kept clean, snow plowed…all of this falls under the purview of Pinswang’s team of naturalists.

Thus, in the few thaw days of Spring-like temperatures between the last snowstorm and that we have just today experienced…when the garden sprouted the season’s first spinach and bees mistakenly took to wing…far too early and dangerously so, the Agarargemeinschaft dispatched their expert tree and bush cutters to the Via.

The treaded cutting machine made its way onto the soft gatsch earth, sinking some inches into the sodden snow-soaked soil that had, just a day before, been coated in an icy glaze. The young pilot in his small control cabin, went from one overgrown bush or tree to the next, expertly guiding a rather nasty looking claw-like pincer that grasped the botanical detritus and crushed it within tons of pulverizing steel foot-pounds. The offending tree would creak and snap as the claw thing raised it skyward, swung it over nearby suspended electrical lines and deposited it with remarkable care into a large trailer attached to the tractor.

This panzer tree eater made its way along the Via, passing the Kratzer (the path across the mountain to the former border checkpoint near Fuessen, Germany), the ancient Celtic burial mound, the medieval Schloss im Loch mountainside fortress and the large Earschbach pond where, during heady warm Summer evenings, one can be serenaded to sleep by the choir of tiny green frogs that make the marshy weeds of the Earschbach their home.  Now, as it trundled its way to the portion of the Via directly in front of our home, here came Huber, one of our neighbors, curious about the mechanical commotion.

It is the way here in Pinswang, that when a friend comes by, just passing the gate from one point to another, that friend will stop, toss a loud ‘Servus!’ in the direction of the house, and wait to see who appears.  Whomever does respond, it is often with a flourish and a return shout of ‘Servus, Gruess Ench!’

An offer is then made for a quick Schnapps or beer. In most cases, the Besucher (visitor) will reply with a, “No, I am just on my way to see Oma” or “I can’t this time…must get back to the house” or something to that effect.

The standard retort follows, “O’, c’mon…yes…just for a moment”.

The besucher politely smiles and surrenders…which he or she had planned to do anyway.

On the day that the tree eater came, the Schapps flowed, for not only did Huber appear, but shortly thereafter came George, Peter, Anni, Edith, and others, all curious.

The tree eater stopped, the pilot left his control-filled cockpit and joined what quickly became a celebration of friendship and fine Schlehen, a light blackberry elixir that is soothing upon entry and produces a warmth as it makes its way from throat to the deeper recesses of ones digestive tract. 

Sadly, as the master of the tree eater was on duty, he could not partake. However, he quickly became engaged in the ‘bush telephone’ banter whereby the latest news, scandals, rumors and other such critical village reportage was exchanged in the finest of northern Tirolean dialects.

This spontaneous fest continued for well into the next hour, as the first signs of evening encroached on an otherwise splendid afternoon. With the first chill, our friends began to make their way from our gate….each resuming the trek to an originally intended destination. The tree eater pilot secured his machine, for it was too late for its maw to masticate stumps and dry dead tree trunks any further.

Susi and I zipped up our coats against the reminder that Winter was still with us. We took our now half-empty bottle of Schlehen and retreated back to the waiting warmth of our Stueben. Susi jotted a quick note on our shopping blackboard in the kitchen: “More Schlehen”.

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