I boarded a train south from the German state of Bavaria and crossed the border into the state of Tirol in Austria. My destination was the tiny village of Alpbach located in a secluded valley in the Alps.
Normally, crossing from Germany into Austria would hardly raise an eyebrow. Both countries are part of the European Union which eliminated passport checks between its members’ borders. Plus, both countries share the same language and have more in common with each other than with any other country. Of course, the refugee crisis has strained European unity and both Germany and Austria are controlling their borders more tightly now.
I didn’t have any issues with my American passport and ticket showing I was heading home later in October. But I noticed more police presence and railings directing incoming passengers through specific receiving areas.
I arrived via rail with no issues. Alpbach was voted Austria’s prettiest town and you can see why. For decades, the building code has been enforced to only allow the architecture that is unique to this area. It’s more similar to the old farm homes in the Black Forest than Bavaria. Also, the locals go crazy with the flowers (I’d imagine you celebrate warm weather considering how much winter you probably deal with here).
The woodworking is consistently impressive. Alpbach is traditionally a farming community (before tourism and skiing took off). The cows still lounge around in their valley pastures with bells ringing.
Another thing ringing is the church which is right across the street from the Gasthaus where I’m staying. The style inside is heavy baroque similar to the onion-domed churches in Bavaria. I thought the religious statues on parade stands were interesting — I’ve seen that from the Godfather movies.
Outside the church, the graves are much different than in Germany. Here in Austria, the memorials are ornate metal and wire crosses. Lest you think we were out of German influence, there was a huge war memorial with the Iron Cross prominently displayed.
Austria voted to join the German Reich in the “Anschluss” of 1938 with large segments of the population welcoming the Nazis. Since the war, that fact has been brushed over and now you sometimes hear Austrians claiming they were Hitler’s first victims. Don’t believe it.
But back to today. I’ve heard that Austria is a cozier, friendlier version of Germany and that might be true. There definitely is a difference in their dialect. Austrians speak German in a sing-song manner to my ear. Their tone goes up and down like they’re climbing through the mountains. I remember the Swiss speaking German in much the same way.
I mentioned that I could hear the bells from my room. You can see in the photos above, my room is in a Gasthaus right across the street from the church. I’ll close my windows tight and hope they simmer down at night. Of course, it might remind me of Mom’s grandfather clock back home (ha).
I had dinner tonight on an outdoor deck with quite a view. It’s in the 40s here in the evening so starting to really cool down. There’s snow on the top of the peaks in the distance. The valley itself however is still lush and green.
I thought Dad would enjoy seeing some Austrian cows:
Another detail that I find interesting is how the European Union standardized license plates to some degree. Below, you can see an Austrian plate compare to a German plate. The blue field on the left has the EU symbol with the letter designating the country (not sure why Austria got an “A” when it’s Österreich here — Germany gets its “D” for Deutschland). The first few letters represent the town or district (like a county). Germany has two circular tax stickers between the remainder of the characters. The top represents the month and the bottom represents the state.
It’s been cloudy the past few days and I’m ready for a little sun. The weather forecast calls for partly sunny skies tomorrow — or at least that’s what I could tell from the German weather segment during the news last night back in Ramsau. I know I’m from Oklahoma and our meteorologists are minor celebrities with the crazy weather we get but still, the German version seemed pretty bland and simplistic to me (even in celsius):
That’s all for this evening. I’m planning to wake up in the middle of the night here and check college football scores. If Auburn doesn’t win, at least I’ll feel a little better knowing 95% of the world just goes about its business without any idea. War Eagle anyway.