National Geographic : 1932 Oct
STYRIA, A FAVORED VACATION LAND OF CENTRAL EUROPE BY MELVILLE BELL GROSVENOR S TYRIA is both the Shenandoah Val ley and the Birmingham of Austria. In an Alpine country whose bor ders touch no salt water, Austria's city dwellers take to the grassy slopes of her tall mountains, or to rural villages tucked away in smiling valleys, when their annual playtime rolls around. Hiking along winding mountain paths; wearing deerskin or chamois shorts, hob nailed boots, green-trimmed jackets, and hats plumed with a trophy of some other year's outing; hunting the cock of the wood or other game; taking part in the rural festivals of the village, where young and old don the costume of their home town and join in the folk songs and dances (see Color Plates IV and V); and moun tain-climbing to dizzy heights on Austria's Alpine sentinels, are some of the attrac tions which crowd the spotless Styrian hostelries with city families holiday bent. Hunting the chamois is the favorite sport for city-dwelling Austrian and Ger man visitors. Living in mountain fast nesses difficult of approach, the chamois are perhaps the most agile of all Europe's Alpine animals. Their pliant skin fur nished the original leather of that name, and the stiff black hairs tipped with creamy yellow, which grow on the back of the ani mal's neck, are worn in the hat as a badge of hunting prowess (see Color Plate VI). Quail, cock of the wood, pheasant, par tridge, and many other game birds are found in Styria and neighboring Tyrol. Tail feathers from the cock of the wood also are valued as hat plumes to supple ment Austrian costumes (see Color Plate II), and silver pins which hold the feathers in place are huntsmen's heirlooms, often handed down for generations. STYRIA PLAYS A STELLAR ROLE IN AUSTRIA'S INDUSTRIAL LIFE Steiermark, as the Austrians call this little province astride the Niedere Tauern, a straggling eastern outpost of Europe's mighty Alpine range, supplies 99 per cent of the Republic's iron needs; and, by har nessing the latent water power in its moun tain streams, it provides a substitute for the missing link in Austria's chain of raw materials-coal deposits which the latter lost after the reorganization of the Austro Hungarian Empire. From the Vordernberg-Eisenerz Range. in the north of Styria, comes the bulk of the raw material for the iron works of Graz, Leoben, and Donawitz. Since the outcropping ore is of such high iron con tent, it is mined from the surface, not through deep shafts and chambers, as is the general practice in other parts of the world. While the mines have been worked for more than twelve centuries and were once considered as the largest known de posits, their total production for all time is less than a third of the world's annual out put to-day. Among the miners, there is a tradition as to how little Styria fell heir to such rich iron-ore mountains. After the barbarians had driven the Romans south of the Dan ube, the Wizard of the Mountains wished to honor the conquerors. He said to the ancestors of the Styrians, "Which would you rather have-gold mines for one year, silver for twenty, or iron forever ?" The wily Styrians, perhaps mindful of their recent victories with the sword, quickly replied, "Iron mines." Which. legend says, accounts for the source of Styria's ferrous wealth and the relatively smaller deposits of copper, lignite, gold, and silver! STYRIA IS THE HOME OF ARSENIC EATERS In the iron-mountain regions especially, where arsenic is a by-product of iron smelting, some peasants eat this virulent poison. It is taken in small doses, which are gradually increased as the system be comes used to it, until it may be taken daily, without visible ill effect, in a quan tity sufficient to kill an average person. The arsenic is supposed to clear the com plexion, increase the appetite, and improve breathing, especially for mountain climb ers. Horse handlers sometimes put small quantities on a horse's food or in his mouth to make his coat sleek and glossy and improve his wind on mountain slopes.