Dear Friends and Family,
Written April 18-20
For the first time on our vacation, we had sunny weather. All the
locals complain about how little rain they have had, and we are
sympathetic, but we still would prefer blue skies to the grey we've
been having. But today was different. To capitalize on it,
we left on a journey to Italy
Nearby, the mountains provided all the encouragement we needed.
Not much farther, we decided to go off the main road to see the church
in St. Jakob, a typical village church that dominates its town.
Also typically for Austria, the highlight may be the surrounding
graveyard, each plot carefully tended. Reportedly, if the graves are
not cared for, the poor soul is disinterred and space is made for
someone with more caring survivors. Headstones tend to have
relatively recent dates as a result.
The exception seems to be honor for war dead and St Jakob's church
followed this tradition. There were plaques on the wall honoring
the dead and missing from WWI and WWII. I was particularly taken
the plaque from the war to end all wars. The young face of Mikula
Johan, born in 1898, and killed in war before he was 20, stared from
the ceramic tile.
All memorials should have pictures.
Just downhill from the village church we first spotted a barn,
wall-papered with drying corn, every trio of corn ears neatly
couple of doors away a pair of ladies were plucking chickens.
Their laughter was a hint that this might not be a daily chore and
indeed it turned out to be a once-per-year practice, harvesting
old chickens in a very old tradition. Gabrielle, in the
foreground, was very friendly and even invited us inside the house to
her artist brother's atelier. His paintings, featuring
words written in the old local script, were very, very
good. This was a very worthwhile stop.
As we proceeded down a valley between the Alpine hills, we saw a plane
towing a glider into the sky and decided to track down their origin, finding it at
a grass field in Nötsch. I watched two takeoffs, where a small
plane landed, flipped a u-turn in front of a waiting line of gliders, picked up
a tow rope, and returned to the air. It was a ballet. One
could only imagine the grace of the long-winged birds in the updrafts along the face of the Alps.
Farther yet down the valley we were treated to scenes that make Austria
truly special: green fields, snow capped mountains, and sun. It
was a perfect day.
Finally, at Kötschach-Mauthen, we turned left and headed into northern Italy, over the
Ploecken Pass. This narrow, steep and twisty road has been used
for over 2000 years, since Julius Augustus Caesar himself passed this way,
traveling from Rome to Munich. Given the difficulty our modern car had on
this narrow but well-maintained passage, it was hard to imagine the
difficulty Roman travelers had on the same route.
of the mountains, we continued along the old Roman trail, looking for
our Italian lunch. I think this was our primary goal after
all. Mile after mile we saw only a handful of pizza places, most
no more inviting than something we'd find back home (no matter where
home is!) Finally, we stopped in Tolmezzo and took some time to
look around. The town itself was very quiet, bit we did find a
pleasant restaurant in a local hotel and enjoyed a meal as good as we
had hoped for. I think we were almost the only lunch customers,
but we enjoyed the fresh food nonetheless.
Tolmezza, all we had to do was return home to Austria. We opted
for the old highway, rather than the newer, faster, autostrada.
It just seemed like the right dessert to our Tolmezza meal. It
turned out to be a bit discouraging as we passed many abandoned
roadside shops, put out of business by the relatively modern A23
autostrada. For fast travel, the new road is progress, but it has
left an old tradition behind.
ten-hours after we had left, we returned home to the Rosenthal Valley
and our Wahaha Paradise. The day got good grades: scenery,
history, locals, and an Italian lunch.
John and Marianne
ps: The track: