Tales of the Tyrolean Alps
Travel Odds & Ends, Wk of 22-09-13
This week, for our Travel Odds & Ends, with winter and ski season approaching, we’ve started to recall some of our favorite stories, both curious and illustrative, from deep in the legendary Alpine forests of western Austria.
For the purists in the room, we confess to taking liberties with the descriptor “Tyrolean,” ranging all the way in our snippets from Salzburg over the Arlberg to Liechtenstein. Partly, we love the sound of the name and the way it conjures up so many romantic stories from remote, snow-swept mountains. But partly, thanks to that remoteness and the intrinsic chaos of the Hapsburg Empire, this section of the world has always been a mishmash of cultures, claims, and names.
Every spoken language here is a nearly unintelligible dialect. Four of the six official languages (Romansch, Ladin, Cimbrian, and Mócheno) you probably didn’t even know existed. But you’ll hear them all in these valleys.
In our travels, this area has the distinction of being the only place where we were ever genuinely stranded—if you can call four days snowbound in an Alpine spa and ski resort in the upper Arlberg “stranded”. The Tyrol remains one of our all-time favorite destinations for travel, especially in the off-season. But don't forget the tire chains!
And now, our weekly round-up of daily bits and pieces from our much-too-cluttered travel bin. Click on any title for a deeper dive.
The minute you enter, you hear The Sound of Music, even if it echoes from inside your head. The family wasn't particularly fond of the movie or its light-hearted, American twist on personalities and events. But the soundtrack reverberates silently through every atom of the property.
Margaret disavowed her husband and immediately remarried without benefit of an annulment. This was too much for the Vatican, which excommunicated her and started the nastiest smear campaign in its long and contentious history. Margaret responded the only way a woman of her era could—she handed over her lands and worldly goods to the Hapsburgs.
Nowadays, St. Anton supports hundreds of miles of trails, from bunny slopes to black pistes to helicopter skiing in the high Arlberg. But it's doubtful that many of the young skiers you see today would know why the Schneider name appears on every other business in the village.
In the 19th century, this tiny village on the Austrian-German border gave the world the classic Christmas carol Stille Nacht (Silent Night). But Braunau truly secured its infamy at 6:30PM on a balmy Saturday, April 20, 1889, when a fussy child Adolf was born to the Schicklgruber family in an apartment above the Gasthof zum Pommer at Salzburger Vorstadt 15.
The storm followed, until we took refuge at a friendly spa hotel with decent food that just happened to be the only open establishment in the village. The next morning, the parking lot had disappeared under a snowfall that took three days to clear. Not that we minded. If ever there was an occasion to be thankful and go with the flow, this was it.
Sooner or later, you're going to try one of these, as they spread all over the civilized world. Two skinny brats with onions, fresh parsley, a dusting of curry powder, and enough mild Austrian mustard to fill the toasted bun. Sounds easy? Then why hasn't McDonalds pilfered the formula?
With the Schengen Agreement on intra-European travel, you can cross Liechtenstein from Austria to Switzerland or Germany without even noticing. But if you do, it's your loss. If you want to see what true worldly wealth and satisfaction look like, take a few days to wander through the gorgeous mountains and valleys here.
And lest we forget, there’s this week’s Travel Newsletter:
Dispatches from the Wild Granite Massifs of Corsica