In the Tyrolean Alps of Austria,
I am on a bike,
pedalling down a path that is surrounded by lush, green fields, rolling hills, picturesque houses, and other, determined cyclists.
To the top of Hohe Salve Mountain
I struggle with anticipation,
and finally reach the highest point where I can throw down my bike, stand on the cliff’s edge, and shout into the valley below.
The village was founded in 1424,
and still holds its original splendour,
which is easily discernable as I walk along ancient stone alleys and take in the traditional villas with cute shutters and thriving window boxes full of flowers.
Afternoon is fishing time, but
it’s a way of life, not a hobby.
The local fishing hole is one of the community’s best-kept secrets, so look for a group of people walking with tackle boxes, and follow them to their secret oasis.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,
because these people fish differently,
and I watched in horror as my brother beat a defenceless trout repeatedly with a stick until it finally stopped moving.
I don’t like to fish,
and I really don’t like to kill things with sticks.
Instead, I drank beer and discussed the finer points of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons with a group of very interested Austrians.
None of them had ever left
this glorious village they call home,
and so they wanted to know everything about me, a traveller from Canada who was wandering through Europe for the first time in her life.
5000 people live in Hopfgarten,
which is a lot for a very small place.
Most of them haven’t ventured more than a day away from home, and they have no desire to leave such a quiet and beautiful village.
It made me start to think,
as I painfully climbed back on my bike,
that I wouldn’t want to leave a gorgeous Austrian village either if that was the place I was fortunate enough to call home.