The German word Frühjahr is, according to the online dictionaries, a synonym for Frühling, or “spring” (the season). However I sometimes have taken the word to mean “beginning of the year”, and so, with the proximity of the advent of spring for the ancient Irish Celts (February 1) and for ancient Rome (February 5), Frühjahr seems like just the right word for now.  Das deutsche Wort Frühjahr ist nach einen online Wörterbuch ein Synomym für die Jahreszeit Frühling. Allerdings habe ich gelegentlich den Begriff als „Beginn des Jahres“ verstanden, und so, kurz vor Ankunft des Frühlings (für die altertümlichen irischen Kelten der 1.Februar, für die Römer der 5. Februar), scheint mir Frühjahr  das richtige Worte für gerade diesen Zeit, jetzt,  zu sein.

IMG_1075Flower bulbs are sprouting from the soil already. It still seems  a little early for this. Blumentriebe sprießen schon aus dem Boden. Es scheint noch immer etwas zu früh dafür.

IMG_1076As an experiment, we took two small wild hollies or Ilex (Stechpalme) and transplanted them to pots on the terrace. One looked not to have survived the transplanting but we decided to wait and see if it rallies after the winter. (They are both from private ground with permission from the owner.)  Wir haben versuchweise zwei wilde Stechplamen in Töpfe auf der Terrasse umgesetzt. Einer sah so aus als hätte er das nicht überlebt, aber wir entschieden uns dafür den Winter abzuwarten um zu sehen, was sich noch zeigt. (die Pflanzen wurden mit Erlaubnis des Besitzers von einem  privaten Grundstück geholt).

IMG_1077Another transplant was this butterfly bush, Buddleia (Schmetterlingsflieder). Bought at a garden center, it survived the trip and took to its new home right away. I learned later that Buddleia will grow almost anywhere, including vacant lots and abandoned railways. There are clusters of the plant growing in an old lot on Amraser Strasse behind the train station here in Innsbruck, and later I noticed more along my train ride to Bavaria, especially around the station at Murnau, where an abandoned track area is now a field of high grass and wildflowers. I shall cut it back in March to stimulate growth.      Außerdem haben wir einen Schmetterlingsflieder gesetzt. Gekauft in einem Gartencenter, hat er die Umsiedlung überlebt und fühlt sich schon wie zuhause. Später habe ich erfahren, dass der Schmetterlingsflieder praktisch überall wächst, unter anderem auf Brachen und aufgelassenen Eisenbahnen. Ansammlungen der Pflanze wachsen auf einem alten Grundstück an der Amraserstraße hinter dem Bahnhof Innsbruck, später habe ich ihn auch auf der Zugfahrt nach Bayern gesehen – besonders in der Umgebung des Bahnhofs Murnau  auf verlassenen Gleisanlagen die von hohem Gras und Wildblumen überwuchert sind. Ich werde ihn im Frühjahr zurückschneiden, um sein Wachstum anzuregen.

Kulturblogging: Die Hofkirche


One of Innsbruck’s main attractions for the historically-minded is the Hofkirche, or Imperial Church (but no one calls it that, it’s just always the Hofkirche). As a tourist sight, the plain white exterior is deceiving (I heard it once remarked that the front facade resembles the face of a polar bear, and this pretty much pops into my mind every time I see it.) The interior, however, is impressive.

The Hofkirche was part of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian’s last will and testament — and a beautiful sarcophagus was made for him there, although actually his remains ended up in the castle that was his childhood home, in Wiener Neustadt.


Keeping watch over this empty sarcophagus (which makes it a cenotaph) are two lines of life-size bronze statues commonly referred to locally as die schwarzen Mander (“the black men”), although they are neither all males nor even black, but more of a beautiful, deep dark chocolate brown.


The English Wikipedia entry for the Hofkirche describes these figures as being of “ancestors, relatives and heroes”, which is the best way of putting it. They are all titled, some go way back into the early Middle Ages (Clovis I, Theodoric), and the existence of one is now questionable (King Arthur, although he was surely assumed to have been an genuine person in Maximilian’s time.)

IMG_0583King Arthur’s statue in the Hofkirche



I always found the large old clock high above the altar in Innsbruck’s St. James Cathedral a nice touch if a little unusual (do you really want your flock to be checking the time during the mass?) but the Hofkirche goes one better with a charming little clock which chimes the hour, as well as each fifteen-minute interval. This morning I had the honor of participating in a special Sacred Heart Sunday mass, which has special meaning in Tirol — in the time of the battles with Napoleon’s troops (see Andreas Hofer), promises were made that, in return for divine intervention on the battlefield, official masses would be celebrated in the province each year. During today’s service, the little clocked chimed throughout, even making the priests stop mid-prayer to wait until the hour was rung.


And speaking of Andreas Hofer, he’s here too. Thirteen years after his execution in Mantua in 1810, his body was brought to Innsbruck and laid to rest in the Hofkirche, where his statue guards the entrance.

A Belated Memorial Day Posting

I realized too late that I had this photograph in my computer, and that it would fit nicely for Memorial Day.


This plaque is recessed into the wall between Franziskanerplatz and the courtyard behind the Hofkirche. In my 13 years’ residence in Innsbruck, I had never noticed it, until one day I did. If you’re having trouble reading the text, it says:

Zum Gedenken an die in den letzten Tagen des 2. Weltkrieges bei der Befreiung Tirols gefallenen Soldaten der U.S.-Armee.

In memory of the soldiers of the U.S. Army killed in action for the liberation of the Tyrol during the last days of World War II.

(I don’t know what the symbols represent, I assume the service organizations who sponsored the plaque. The cactus is particularly charming.)

UPDATE: I found them! The symbols are division insignia of the US Army. Top left, 44th Infantry (a mirrored “four”). Bottom left, 36th Infantry “Arrowhead”. Bottom right, 42nd Infantry, “Rainbow”. Top right, 103rd Infantry, “Cactus”.

>Es Lebe Der 1. Mai


 Every May 1st at around noon, the Leftists get out their banners and march through the center of town. They’re peaceful enough, lots of families; the police presence assures no violence (I have never witnessed any myself, not even animosity from onlookers. Mostly a bland curiosity, maybe. It’s a different story in larger cities, but then it always is.)

 This banner (which appears to be a new model, the old one had a yellow background)) still leaves me shaking my head. How can you march for socialism, democracy, peace, and against violence, racism and discrimination, alongside a banner with a portrait of Lenin, Stalin and Mao?


>The 6th of December is St. Nicholas’ Day, and that means Krampus is out and about. The Krampus is actually a devil who accompanies the good saint on his rounds — good children get a nice present from Nicholas, and naughty children just might get a switching from the devil (which is the Alpine equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking, and probably occurs just as often, meaning never.) On the evening of the 5th, some regions have a Krampuslauf, a sort of “running of the devils”, where at least a dozen of them show up with their giant cowbells, drums and smoke, and do a sort of pagan dance for the kids.
It is traditional that the Krampus figure wear some sort of animal pelts or straw, and carved wooden masks with real animal horns. Many of these masks have been passed down through generations, although these days one occasionally sees rubber store-bought masks, especially on the teenage devils who roam the streets looking for juvenile victims and pretty girls to bother. Although, in those suits with those oversized cowbells on their butts, it’s impossible to sneak up on anyone.

>May Day

>In villages across Austria, May Day is the day when the Maibaum (a tall smoothed tree trunk with the branches left on only at the very top) is, um, erected (think big phallic symbol being planted into Mother Earth), marking the unofficial beginning of summer and cause for traditional folk music and grillparties with beer.

But that’s in the villages.

In Innsbruck, however, it’s THE RED SCARE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!! No, not really, but the assorted left-leaning parties celebrate International Workers’ Day with small parades and outdoor events.
This is the Democratic Ecology Party (Ökologisch-Demokratische Partei), which was founded, I recently learned, by a former member of Germany’s CDU (Christian Democrats, the party of Helmut Kohl et al) who had broken away to help found the Greens, and then broke away from them as well.
Marching with them are members of the Federation of Democratic Workers (DIDF), which is made up mainly of workers with Turkish and Kurdish backgrounds.
Above: a brigade of young marchers about to join up with the Kommunisten, who had gathered in front of the museum before their own parade.
And yes, they had The Banner, which never ceases to amaze me.(I’ll give them a pass for Marx and Engels. Lenin, not so much, and Stalin and Mao, jeesh, what can one say? There’s really no excuse for it.) But everyone was friendly, no one objected to my photographing them, and even the police, lounging nearby around their van, were laid-back and cool with the whole thing — no alpha-cop tension or aggression anywhere.
I can’t imagine anything like this in the States. Even if the marchers were Grandmothers For Peace, the mere presence of police would, I feel, add a level of unneeded tension to the event. Not that Austrian police are angels, far from it (as we learned from the Marcus Omafuma case) but perhaps the lack of rampant violent crime keeps their stress levels lower. Aggression and fear, which seem to reflect and feed on each other, were not visibly present today.