National Geographic : 1951 Jun
Occupied Austria, Outpost of Democracy The Golden Dachl, the ornate gilt-roofed balcony from which his court watched stroll ing street players, still stands. The near-by Hofburg Church shelters his grandiose tomb, which he helped design, with its royal bronze figures that include King Arthur and Theo doric the Ostrogoth. The tomb itself is empty; quarreling with city fathers, Maxi milian left Innsbruck, never to return, and was buried where he was born, in Wiener Neustadt. Ageless inns, their guest books reading like a Who's Who of the Middle Ages, offer the same hospitality and strong Tyrolese wine as in the Archduke's day. Pointed arcades cover the same cramped streets lined with narrow Gothic houses. Old fountains bubble where they've quenched the thirst of generations. Theological students walking these streets speak medieval Latin. French Armed Might Parades There was nothing medieval, however, about the parade of French armed might I saw on July 14. Past the storied Hofburg rumbled every type of modern war machine. Old Andreas Hofer, I reflected, must be turning in his grave. Three times this heroic innkeeper gathered sturdy Tyrol men and drove out Napoleon's troops. Tyrolese still call 1809, the year of Hofer's exploits, simply "the year nine." That evening, in a flower-strewn square outside the Hofburg, French, Austrians, and transient visitors danced till dawn to the modern music of two orchestras. Using Innsbruck as our base, we explored the idyllic valleys that branch from the Inn River like the veins in a leaf (page 773). They took us into backwoods Tyrol, a remote world of changeless ways-of pagan legends, old customs, folk art, elaborate wayside shrines, yodeling, and country dances. In this "land in the mountains" glacier capped Alps dwarf hamlets of rustic half timbered houses. Tipsy farms cling to high, steep slopes; cattle graze in highland pastures. Costumes, architecture, and even speech vary from one valley to another. In some places Johann had a hard time understanding people when we asked direc tions, their speech was so different from his own Viennese dialect. "These farmers," he'd say, "don't even speak good German. Some of their words I never heard before." Flags of 11 nations flew in Mayrhofen, rural home of Innsbruck University's Inter national Summer School. Strolling college students conversed in almost as many tongues (page 789). Staying over, we attended an evening discussion group that sounded like the UN in action as student interpreters trans lated speakers' remarks into half a dozen lan guages. In Matrei, near Brenner Pass, we helped the town celebrate its 1,700th birthday (pages 753, 775, 782). For hours traffic on this his toric route was halted while Roman legion aries, barbarian invaders, knights, and cos tumed rifle clubs paraded. Up the Oetz Valley we drove to Ober gurgl, Austria's highest town. At road's end, this remote cluster of dwellings nestles among snow-crowned mountain giants. Trav elers reaching it feel they've left the world behind. Hikers, climbers, and those who like solitude seek it out in summer; under winter's deep white blanket it becomes, like most Tyrolese towns, a skier's heaven. Car-high snow had flanked the recently plowed road over Arlberg Pass when we drove it in May en route to Vienna; our automobile was among the first to cross. Two months later, as I lunched in the famous ski resort of St. Anton, steady streams of summer traffic flowed in both directions over the divide. We joined the flow down into Vorarlberg, Aus tria's westernmost province. A setting sun turned Lake of Constance (Boden See) into gold as we reached Bregenz, the provincial capital. Townspeople prome naded the water-front esplanade, small boys fished, and a paddle-wheel steamer disgorged visitors from Swiss and German lake ports. A lighted cable car, scaling the city's moun tain backdrop, looked like a giant firefly. In its limited area Vorarlberg encompasses flat Rhine valleyland, Bregenz Forest's roll ing hills, and majestic alpine ranges. Vorarl berg life resembles Switzerland's. Like their Appenzell counterparts across the frontier, village herdsmen drive cattle to the hills in springtime and later to solitary pastures above tree line.* When high-altitude forage grows sparse in autumn, men and flower-decked beasts return amid gay scenes of rejoicing. "Have you seen our industry?" asked the president of a big textile school in Dornbirn. "What industry?" I countered. "Vorarlberg is one of Europe's most impor tant textile centers," he replied. "It has 10 large and 344 small textile factories that make all of the country's fine manufactured lace and a big share of its cotton, worsted, and silk goods. Vorarlberg and its neighbor Switzerland lead the world in the production of machine-made embroidery." Under his guidance I found out why I hadn't noticed Vorarlberg industry. Factories * See "Switzerland Guards the Roof of Europe," by William H. Nicholas, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, August, 1950.