National Geographic : 1951 Sep
j/9 National geographic 'Photographer Volknlar Wentzel Skin-clad Barbarian Hordes Once Marched Like This Through Historic Brenner Pass A pageant re-enacts the flow of 1,700 years of history past the village of Matrei, Austria, on the road from Innsbruck to the Brenner. Traffic between northern Europe and Italy has passed this way for centuries. The author followed the route on foot (pages 378, 388). "By good luck, I had it painted just the year before," said the owner of the little fruit shop on which it was depicted. "It will be rebuilt," I suggested; but the woman shook her head sadly. "Not as it was," she replied. "Too costly." Matrei was heavily bombed during war years, for it hugs the railroad. Today, how ever, it is a scene of amazingly cheerful activity.* New houses as picturesque as the old are rising from the ashes; new frescoes decorate their walls. St. Florian, patron of firemen, figures on one bombed-out hotel and watches over the trough in the street where the women bring their washing. Above the hat shop a gnome in a large bonnet gambols. I looked in to inspect the merchandise. A Tyrolese hat of the finest beaver is now an expensive luxury for Austri ans, costing upwards of 120 Austrian schillings (nearly $5), for the best beaver came from Czechoslovakia and is no longer available. I slept that night in a pleasant inn with wide hall and paneled dining room. I was the only guest. Arriving early, I found the village on holiday and the town band playing gay dance music. At a table in the garden I * See "Occupied Austria, Outpost of Democracy," by George W. Long, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1951.