So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog


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The Farmhouse

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I’ve been really trying to get myself back into the swing of things here,despite my doubt over our future here. I must be wholehearted or it will of course fail. So, having missed all the outings of the Trachtenfrauen, I got in contact and joined them for a meeting about the coming up inaugration of our new Mayor. The ceremony is indivivual to Ramingstein, although it echoes the Tamsweg Verein(Club) inauagration, in that there will be a parade and little plays about the life of the Mayor. It will start from his house in Kendlbruck and go on foot to the Gemeinde building in Ramingstein. Apparently, something else unique is a chest which is placed in there for people to post ideas -good and bad.  The theme the group has chosen remains top secret as I write, there will be ten groups and none know what the other is doing!!!

I took off on a wet and windy night with three other ladies right up into an alm farm house in a remote part of the area. The meeting was great, I got my cossy sorted, learnt the song and enjoyed some really good zirben schapps.

This is all a long winded way into what I want to talk about!  The farm was really old, with its own Troad kasten and we were led into a hall full of boots and coats and a farmy atmosphere. We went into what must be the guest Stuberl, a large room with a Kachelofen and a table with fixed seats around it- I was itching for my camera. On the walls were photos of the family, sewn tablecloths, and the Crucifix, along with solid wooden furniture. A musical, shooting family, I could see from the shields and instruments in the room, And so much clutter, one whole cabinet filled with gifts, and knickknacks just tumbled in on each other. The room had a frieze around the edge and white walls.

It was a mix of old and new, traditional and modern and a living family, just what I would expect from a modern farming family. Having only ever been in the farm museums, it was a real insight. Outside was a bit too tidy for an old farm -the yard outside was grassed rather than mud and the buildings all mended and looked after. I was also a bit jealous. But here am I after seven years here, still being amazed at my experiences, as an outside and it always being a bit new -hope it lasts. What also strong me was the longevetity, the family living there all their lives, the constancy, and to me I feel that so restrictive- all that time in one place, not for me!

And it was a bizarre time, here was I in an old farmhouse half way up a mountain in the pouring rain, sipping schnapps and singing songs and dancing with twenty odd women dressed in various stages of costumes as…..tell you later!

 


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Out with the girls…….

I’d made one outing with the Trachtenfrauen as I’ve detailed but really wasn’t too happy with my Dirndl and the ceremony.  So I waited until the Swapmeet in September where second-hand outfits are for sale.  I was there for nearly three hours struggling into different dirndls. I found one genuine Lungau but it was 250 euros, not quite my budget!  In the end I settled for one with a red bodice for 60 Euros, not the real Lungau one with black decoration but one that is a fairly common design. I even lashed out on a jacket, which was a wise move as the next outing was cold and windy.

This was the 20th party for the Ramingstein Samson, there wasn’t a lot of marching but all the Lungau Samsons were there and had a dance. There was the usual men of the village fighting for the microphone and blithering on, then we went to the local pub, where the schnapps and beer began to flow. I tried to buy a round, honestly, but never got a chance! It was a great time to chat and get a bit wobbly. I also found out that our group is only two years old – hey a new tradition!

The next outing was Harvest festival, and they had the cannon out again, shredding my nerves.  We had a service in the church, with gifts taken to the altar, and another march around the village and back to the church.  The Priest again carrying the Monstrance right in front of his nose.  Then back to the Pub garden and more microphone snatching.  It was nice that as part of the festival, all those who had round Wedding anniversaries were remembered. Trouble is, Austria has been hit by the Data protection idiocy and may not be allowed to reveal these highly personal details in the future.

Julie Andrews eat your heart out!

We then had the David and Goliath fight played for us.  As far as I can see, this is to encourage people that the little man can win.  They must have had the same lad for several years but he had grown and was as big as Goliath.  We all fell about laughing when he completely missed Goliath with his  Bommyknocker and shouted ‘Scheiss’ forgetting his microphone!

Then the Volkstanzgruppe had a dance, similar to our Maypole dance.  Another great event, Dave took loads of photos which I sent to the secretary who was thrilled as it’s not often there’s a shot of everyone together as she takes the piccies. Our next outing will be Icestockshiessen in January.  Maybe Dave will join the group as photographer, but he’ll have to wear a dirndl!


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Frohnleichnam or the Feast Corpus Christi – Part two

The morning started out a bit cold so I wore my Trachten jacket over the Dirndl, but when I arrived at the council place, most of the women had either the Festival Tract on which is black, or a dark shawl, I felt I stood out like a sore thumb, even though they said I looked ‘Fesch’ (smart).  I chatted to a friend who’d studied English with me, which helped my nerves.  I couldn’t lose the jacket having come in someone else’s car.  We then got ordered to line up, three abreast, starting on the left foot.  It was easy to follow the band up the hill to the church and we piled in.

The service wasa typical Mass, with lots of bobbing up and down – the Priest even caught the congregation out once and we did a quick down then up!  Loads of incense and clanging bells.  Sadducees I cried inside.  I just couldn’t do the dabbing of the Holy water, the bobbing at the pew end,the genuflection and crossing myself.  I was reminded of how Paul says not to offend those weaker than you in the faith and should observe their customs. Should I make myself as not part of something when I was actually taking part?  Or should I stand up for the long gone persecuted Protestants in the region who suffered for their faith by taking part in this thing but adhering to my beliefs? I don’t know.  When Communion took place I stood aside.  Its seems more effecient than our service  with no wine and a conveyor belt of hosts, quickly over to save time.  Deeply spiritual?  Hmmmmm. Once I calmed down about my bright jacket I managed to relax a bit.

Service over, we lined up outside the church and marched off behind the band and did three stops around the village.  Being on the left, I ended up being on the front as we turned to the left to make a line.  I could hear a couple of women going ‘left, right, no, right left’ behind me and wanted to giggle.  By the third stop, I stopped jumping at the cannon but still couldn’t do the crossing myself.  Maybe they would just put it down to my foreigness! I could agree with the prayers and did so, they were all based on the gospels and simply said Jesus s the bread of life and no more. We marched back to the church through the village where the Priest went back in the church and the Firebrigade, us, the brother hood all marched to the Pub!  I had my photo taken as the new mad foreign member and we all had a free drink.  The band was sitting with us and suddenly took up their instruments and played a polka – turned out you could request a tune.  My neighbour asked for one for me, and I was  sooooo relieved I didnt have to get up and dance! I chatted to others at the table, and then was quiet at others pretty much as I’d be in the UK.  Soon it was time to go and I felt like giggling as I said I can’t come next time as its our Protestant church service!

So I left feeling it was ok.  There was an assumption in all the readings that Jesus is the bread of life, and there was no dogmatic saying you must believe the host actually turns into his body.  I was accepted by the gang.  As tradition as compared to belief it was quite ok.  I think I’ll go again, Harvest festival I have no problems with and when I get the kit I can go with the gang to the more cultural festivals rather than religious. I think for most there, it was custom not faith here. Maybe its a way to make links between the two churches. Another Austrian experience under the belt!


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Frohnleichnam or the Feast of Corpus Christi

Sometimes, I just don’t think things through properly. I’ve been so wanting to get to know people and mix in and thought the Trachtenfrauen was a good group to join.  They were great, even finding me a Dirndl that I can wear until September when there’s a big swop meet and I can get a traditional one.  All the week before the first outing, I guess I was freaking out a bit about wearing this thing in public – I am surgically attached to trousers, having fat legs and am life-long tom boy!   I even kept it secret from Dave so I didn’t have to put it on for him to see it beforehand, what a twit I am!!!!!

The day before, I thought, lets see what this festival is all about.  As I read, my heart sank.  It’s only about one of the main theological differences between Catholics and Protestants, what the dickens am I doing associating  myself with all this?  I’m on the local church PCC,  and I just cannot agree with this festival. It’s not even biblical, some saint wanted to celebrate the event of the first communion being made, and with all the fuss of Easter and Pentecost, asked the local Bishop who agreed to a Mass and Procession. When this Saint died, another asked for it to be extended to all the Catholic church and so it was.  It involves the Priest under a canopy trotting around the village to set points, holding a Monstrance with a host in front of his face.  I don’t think he can see where he’s going at all.  Being Austria, they also shoot the cannon as the priest prays.  Each station has a set reading from the gospels.  They also cart a statue of the Virgin Mary along, which is completely silly -she wasnt even there!  Linda told me earlier it had to be carried by Virgins who had to wear a special outfit…………

I was in a right state by the evening before, and went to Linda for advice.  Quite sanely, she said the group has helped you get the kit, you’ve said you’ll go and you must try it.  Test how you feel and what God is saying to you.  She is right, my neighbour in the group knows I’m Protestant. It was the right decision, so the next morning at 7.30, I was ready to go……….


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Icestockshiessen again!

My stock, for a short while in winning position!

We recently had another go at the skittles, this time down at the local pub. We took with us the old stock belonging to the family who lived here before us, I felt it was in a way continuing a tradition.  It chucked it down with snow, but no one took any notice.  This time we had the usual tournament as well as a pole across the alley where you had to knock down numbers and your total was added up for your team.  Great fun.  Then we had a traditional lunch in the pub with Semmenknoedel, ham and sauerkraut, and schnaps to end. 

This time though, it was our local village organising the bash and they are reinstating this after about 20 years to try to encourage the community spirit.  Lots of people said hello to us, but they mostly knew exactly who we were as soon as we opened our mouths!  All seemed  almost surprised we were there but pleased.  When we sat to eat, as usual (for us) we got the drunk next to us who spoke broad dialect.  There was a certain amount of laughter  and joke making when we didn’t understand something, but the spirit was so friendly and it was just so nice to feel part of our community, we had a ball.  I chatted with the Trachtenfrauen lady and they’re going to have a rummage for something for me to wear at the first parade in June.   When  the awards were given, they said at first we were guests, then corrected it to Ramingsteiners, maybe we’re at last beginning to be accepted!