Sunday, June 22, 2008


Last night I was invited to experience the Solstice Fires in the Ennstal. This is one of those unbelievably ancient and inspirational traditions in which I’ve been privileged to take part the past few months. I walked to my friends’ house in Raumberg and had a light dinner of salad of fresh garden vegetables, meats, and cheeses with pumpkin seed oil (available at Calandros South, $13). Then we went for a walk to gather the 11 flowers, leaves and grasses for a solstice nosegay (only Zittergras eluded us). The fireflies (called glow worms here) were just coming out as we returned to town. In the distance, an oompah band played Austrian Volksmusik.

At sundown bonfires are lit on the mountain peaks in a scene reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but we could see a good 10 fires from the terrace at Raumberg school. Imagine, people have to climb the mountains with all the wood for the bonfire on their backs, then they have to walk back down the mountain in the dark. With binoculars we could see a long line of people with head lamps walking down the mountain trail. We even caught a glimpse of a fire on the Grimming but it was so windy up there that it couldn’t be kept going.

We went back to the house and had drinks and cake on the balcony, then at midnight my friends walked me halfway home.

My most authentic Austrian experiences (hiking, sledding, etc.) have been with Franz and Eva, who also happen to be one of the happiest married couples in the Ennstal. Their secret? “Little compromises every day...” Unfortunately, they were unable to produce a nice Austrian man for me to jump over a fire with at midnight so that we could enjoy the same bliss F & E share!

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