National Geographic : 1938 Apr
AUSTRIAN AUGUST-AND SEPTEMBER BY W. ROBERT MOORE AUGUST in Vienna was hot. Those who could afford the' time and money had gone to the mountains or to the lakes of the Salzkammergut and Carinthia. Week-enders shouldered ruck sacks and hiked up toward the Semmering. Families on picnic strolled out into the Wiener Wald, that sylvan forest, reaching within a 30-minute tramcar ride from the city, where Strauss got the inspiration for his "Tales From the Vienna Woods." Still others resorted to the baths in the city and along the Danube. All Vienna seemed to be frying or frolicking in the sun, while perspiring visitors marched through museums or sought out the room in the old Hofburg where rests the empty crown that the Imperial Hapsburgs once wore. In the country men and women were cut ting grain and turning freshly mown hay on their hill and valley farmlands. The me lodious sound of cowbells echoed on the high mountain pastures. Often, on Sun days, there were village festivals. In August and September I traveled more than 3,000 miles with a candid color camera, picturing Austria (see accompany ing Color Plates). A MOUNTAINEER AT THE WHEEL Save for a narrow band bordering her eastern and northern frontiers, treaty cropped Austria is almost entirely moun tainous. The spurs of the Eastern Alps reach to the very outskirts of Vienna. It happened that the chauffeur I engaged was an expert mountaineer, but most of our mountain climbing was done on wheels. For Austria, despite the handicap of a slen der purse since the collapse of the Austro Hungarian Empire twenty years ago, has built and maintained an excellent system of roads, lacing her hills and valleys. Herr Henne knew all of the highways and virtually every lake, mountain, and glacier in the country. He had climbed most of the difficult peaks. When not mountaineering he ran a taxi, and, in odd moments between both, carved beautifully fashioned wooden figures of deer and chamois with his pocket knife. For a while we trailed history up the Danube, past Klosterneuburg Abbey to Krems and the Wachau. There, amid the bold hills that wall in the river, stand the ruins of old Diirnstein Castle where Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned, in 1193, after his return from the Crusades (p. 496). At the siege of Acre, two years before, he had openly scorned Leopold of Austria. When he attempted to come back through Vienna in disguise, he was detected and promptly thrown into prison. Leopold im posed a tidy ransom-estimated at $5,000, 000-for his release. The occupants of the castles of Spitz and Aggstein, a few miles upstream, were less subtle in their activities. They did not wait to be insulted to collect their fortunes. In stead, they used to stretch heavy chains across the river to stop merchant vessels and loot them of their cargoes. Taking ways indeed had those robber barons, who relied on the protection of these fortress castles standing high on the cliffs above the water and backed by inaccessible hills. From Melk, whose monastic tower rears like a beacon above the Danube, we turned southward into the forested mountains. Beside many of the streams workmen were rolling logs down the slopes and tying them into rafts, preparatory to floating them down to the mills. Farmers moved in sweeping rhythm with their scythes through fields of ripening grain. Women trailed behind, gathering up the loose straw from the swaths and bind ing it into bundles. On numerous grassy slopes stood regiments of shaggy haystacks, piled high on poles and racks in protection against the wet ground. "Griiss Gott," called children waving pudgy hands as we passed flower-studded farmhouses. "THE ARCHDUKE" SWINGS A SCYTHE "We're sorry that the Archduke isn't here," apologized the schoolmaster one morning at tiny Oeblarn, "but he's out in the fields haying." Unexpectedly, we had come upon the re hearsal of a royal romance in this village deep in the Enns Valley. The "archduke," like those of the cast who had gathered in hunting togs, gold-tinseled court uniforms, and old silks, was a working man on week days. On the following Sunday, however, they would relive a scintillant bit of ro mantic neighborhood history (Plate XI).