Austria – Part Three

12 Aug

From Osttirol and Carinthia, we moved on north-east toward Graz. That wasn’t our final destination (a very nice city but we’ve already been there), we wanted to reach the villages of Bruck or the bigger Leoben, as our next home-base. Rain, and most of all hail, got in the way…..Just after lunch break, on the highway we had to stop for a while because it was too dangerous to drive under that kind of storm and all those lightning….so at some point hubby decided to exit the highway and the first village we saw we decided to call it “home”….One of the first building we met was a “gasthof” (inn) and luckily they had a room and an indoor parking for our bike (as many others around there). Looking at the map we found out we were just a few miles away from Bruck, so the location wasn’t that bad. This was the view from our room balcony…

Very peaceful we thought, maybe just because of the rain….The next morning the sun was shining and our mood was much better too….and the place looked bright and relaxing…

The chef was the owner’s wife and we did justice to her cooking over the next evenings….along with long conversations with them and his father about Italy, Austria and bikers….

The second day, after dinner, we took a stroll to discover the neighborhood…..and we found out there was nothign to discover…..jusy a bakery (with an obsession with dwarfs….)

a peaceful river, the Mur, and a few houses….nothing else, but all the people we met greeted us with a big smile…..what’s better?

The last night we were there there was some noise below, and we had the chance to witness the cut of a maypole….later we asked the inn owner about that….The 1st May is maypole day in many areas of Austria and Germany and a day for the locals dressed in their finest costumes to gather all together to celebrate this important annual occasion. Each and every maypole is uniquely decorated with ribbons, wreaths or signs denoting local craftsmen’s guilds. The hoisting of a maypole is an important part of all spring festivities. Long before the 1st May the lumberjacks of the villages go out to the woods to choose a tall straight pine tree that is then felled and hidden away for safe keeping.

The earliest reports of maypoles, as a symbol of all things that grow and bear fruit, date back to the 13th century. Today the maypole reflects the wealth of the particular community. Part of this whole tradition is that one village tries to steal the maypole from the neighbours. If they succeed the safe return of the maypole is up for negotiation with ransoms involving copious quantities of beer and food. Maypole stealing is governed by a pretty strict code of conduct: sawing or damaging the maypole in any way is absolutely frowned upon as is a non-payment of the ransom.  Hoisting the maypole is a really tough job that makes most men break out in a sweat. It is raised using smaller trees that have been stripped of the bark and slung together at the top by thick rope together with a whole lot of muscle power. Centimetre by centimetre the maypole is slowly hoisted into a pre-prepared hole. Once firmly anchored in place it is decorated with signs indicating local craftsmen’s guilds and topped with a wreath from which sausages, bacon, wine and schnapps bottles are hung. Fixing the wreath in place is the job of the “Maibaumkraxler” who has to scale the maypole, attach the wreath and make it safely back down to the ground again. When all the work is done its time to celebrate with music and dancing long into the night.

Cutting it is no easier, and it happens 2/3 months later, involving the same men who hoisted it (usually the oldest and better ones). It’s a more quiet ceremony but it require handwork (no modern tools are allowed) and the cutting must be made in precise measures…..

using this wooden tool…

then the pieces are stored until removed….leaving the hole in the ground for the next year maypole.

We had dinner with all the villagers that night (average age – with a few exceptions – 70 years old) with some of them playing accordions and singing…..well after we retired for the night!

This is the kind of experience we look for while on vacation abroad, that’s why we love b&b or small inn to stay in, we like to have contacts with people and learn new things….

1 Comment

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


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One response to “Austria – Part Three

  1. Gattina

    August 13, 2015 at 9:08 am

    That all looks very familiar to me !


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