Innsbruck, Dürer and “Ern Malley”


Liebe Leserinnen und Leser, hier findet ihr Information über diese Geschichte.

This is a postcard that was found in an old book, having been used as a bookmark by a previous reader. It’s Albrecht Dürer’s Hof der Burg zu Innsbruck (Innsbruck Castle Courtyard), and in the mild hopes of finding out exactly where this spot is and what it looks like now, I began by googling the words ‘Dürer’ and ‘Innsbruck’, which led me to this image —


Innsbruck mit dem Blick auf den Patscherkofel (View of Innsbruck with Patscherkofel)

— as well as to a strange poem with an amusing story attached. It was part of a “collection” by one late, great unknown poet named Ern Malley – which was actually all a hoax cooked up by two Modernist poets in Australia serving in war duty in the 1940s, meant to trip up the very young editor and founder of a successful modernist poetry magazine. They threw together a parody of late modernist poems, invented a fictional author who died young and a sister who “found” the works, and submitted them to the magazine. The hoax was a success – the young editor received them excitement, sure that he had made a great discovery. Well.

The first poem, by the way, was called “Dürer: Innsbruck, 1495”:

I had often cowled in the slumbrous heavy air,
Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,
All reversed in the quiet reflecting waters –
Not knowing then that Durer perceived it too.
Now I find that once more I have shrunk
To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
I had read in books that art is not easy
But no one warned that the mind repeats
In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still
The black swan of trespass on alien waters.

Das erste Gedicht wurde übrigens “Dürer: Innsbruck, 1495” genannt.
[Paschberg macht einen Versuch, das Gedicht zu übersetzten. Fast zu gut..!]

Oft umfing mich die schläfrig schwere Luft
Meine leblosen Lider schließend, wirklich zu finden
wie um die Erscheinung der farbigen Türme wusste
und dier bemalten Dächer vor dem Hintergrund das hohen Schnees
alles gestürzt in den stillen spiegelnden Wassern
damals nicht wissend, dass auch Dürer das wahrgenommen
Jetzt erkenne ich mich wieder, geschrumpft
zu einem Eindringling, einem Räuber, eines toten Mannes Traum
In Bücher hab ich gelesen, dass Kunst nicht einfach ist,
doch niemand warnte vor dem Wiederholen der Gedanken
in der Unwissenheit der Visionen . Ich bleibe
der schwarze Schwan des Friedensbruchs in fremden Gewässern

The authors claim they pulled words out of reference dictionaries at random and from what came to mind. This first poem, however, had come from an earlier serious attempt which was then edited to make it somehow more “late modernist”, a style the authors did not like at all. I’m guessing “I had read in books that art is not easy” is one of the “improvements”…Die Autoren behaupten, sie hätten die Wörter zufällig aus Wörterbüchern und in freier Assoziation genommen. Das erste Gedicht ist jedenfalls ein früherer ernsthafter Versuch, bearbeitet um es irgendwie Spätmodern klingen zu lassen, ein Stil, der den Autoren überhaupt nicht gefiel. Ich nehme an das „In Bücher hab ich gelesen, dass Kunst nicht einfach ist“ eine der „Verbesserungen“

Over the years, the fictional poet Ern Malley has taken on a kind of minor cult fame in Australia. He’s got his own website, and the story and poems have become the inspiration for other works over the years. Im Lauf der Jahre wurde der fiktive Dichter Ern Malley in Australien zu einer Art Kultobjekt. Er hat nun seine eigene Website und seine Geschichte und seine Gedichte wurden im Laufe der Zeit Inspiration für andere Arbeiten.

1st image from the author; 2nd image found here

Remembering the Pogrom 1938

Deutschsprachige Leser kann mehr hier lesen.

In light of reports like here and here, one might start to think that Europe is going under any day. Reading beyond the headlines, one learns

[t]he trend in Europe does not signal the return of fascist demons from the 1930s, except in Greece, where the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has promoted openly racist beliefs, and perhaps in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party backs a brand of ethnic nationalism suffused with anti-Semitism.

But the soaring fortunes of groups like the Danish People’s Party, which some popularity polls now rank ahead of the Social Democrats, point to a fundamental political shift toward nativist forces fed by a curious mix of right-wing identity politics and left-wing anxieties about the future of the welfare state.

Yes, the far-right groups are worrisome. No, we are not being taken over or sliding back into the 1930s.

That said, it is still supremely important to remember what happened, and today marks the 75th anniversary of the November pogroms in Germany, known as Kristallnacht. Efforts have been made in the last decades to stop using this latter name and call it what it was, a pogrom, and most formal reference to it uses Novemberpogrome. The old name is still around, though.
Innsbruck has a group of citizens dedicated to keeping the memory of the horrors in the Anschluss years from fading into obscurity. They have toiled for years publishing about many aspects of those years — the schools, the psychiatric system, the ethnic cleansing, the local resistance, and a lot more I can’t even think of right now — if you are looking for literature, this author has been especially prolific (I have read some of his books, and am impressed enough to recommend anything written by him.)
The commemorations this year include a concert featuring the work Concerto funebre by the late Innsbruck composer Bert Breit, dedicated to the Innsbruck victims of Kristallnacht; walking tours of the Altstadt with emphasis on its former Jewish residents; research projects for high school students at the City Archives; commemorative speeches at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, followed by a silent march to the Pogromnacht memorial menorah near the State Govermnent Building (Landhaus), where a Kaddish will be recited.

I assume that other cities across Austria and Germany will be having similar events tonight.

Yesterday evening I attended a small reading and slide-show presentation of letters to one Erna Krieser, a young woman who left Innsbruck in the late 1930s to take a job with a rich family in Tuscany, from her immediate family. Her mother and twin sister write in ever increasing urgency about their situation — being forced to sell the family business, being told they must leave Innsbruck, eventually settling in the Jewish ghetto in Vienna, all the while hoping to find a way out and being too afraid to make any rash decisions — a reunion in South Tyrol becomes out of the question as the family learns they would not be able to return home. This is difficult for many younger listeners to understand, but without proper travel and residency papers, virtually nothing was possible, especially for a middle-aged couple and their daughter. On the other hand, if they had known what was in store for them (the parents perished in Auschwitz, Erna’s sister Käthe in the Lodz ghetto), would they have risked it? (A good novel on the kafkaesque labyrinth of bureaucracy one faced is “Transit”, by Anna Seghers). Their last letters, right up to the outbreak of the war, and the closing of all the borders, were filled with hoping against hope that someone would come through for them, and with enormous gratitude that their daughter Erna had got out (she was able to emigrate to Palestine.)

The readings were interspersed with selections from an old photo album, many “last photos” of Jewish Innsbruck families in their homes, on holiday, on the way out of Europe. The evening was titled Abschiedsbilder, farewell pictures, and presented by local author and filmmaker Niko Hofinger.

A Special Grave in the Jewish Cemetery

IMG_0811While I was at the Westfriedhof, scouting out an appropriate bench to photograph and include with the story below, I visited the grave of Yury Shklyar, which I do every once in a while. (I know, it’s weird. I like cemeteries.) Yury was a colleague in the theater for a few years. He had the most tremendous voice I had ever heard in that space, it was just so incredibly big. He sang beautifully, and he was a consummate actor as well. But he tended to distance himself from the ensemble and all their dramas, having been 1) a little older, 2) a lot more experienced, having sung in big theaters all over the world, 3) not a good German speaker, and 4) suffering from stomach cancer. This last item was surely the reason he was in Innsbruck at all, because he was way too good for us. We assume that our Intendantin knew full well that he was ill, and brought him here for the health care and so that his family would have some security in the West. He and his wife had two sons, Russia was sending troops to Chechnya, and the older one was nearing conscription age. What I mean to say is, he needed a secure, full-time engagement in a western European opera house, for the benefits and for his family’s sake.

Während ich im Westfriedhof war, eine geeignete Bank zum Photographieren suchte und mich mit der folgenden Geschichte befasste, besuchte ich das Grab von Yuri Shklyar, was ich immer wieder tue (Ich weiß es ist komisch. Ich mag Friedhöfe). Yuri war vor wenigen Jahren ein Kollege im Theater. Er hatte die gewaltigste Stimme, die ich je in diesem Raum erlebt habe, sie war einfach so unbeschreiblich groß. Er sang wunderschön und er war ein ebenso vollendeter Schauspieler. Aber er blieb auf Distanz zum Ensemble und seinen Geschichten, da er 1) etwas älter war, 2) wesentlich mehr Erfahrung hatte, da er weltweit in großen Theatern aufgetreten ist, 3) nicht gut deutsch sprach und 4) an Magenkrebs litt. Letzteres war sicher der Grund, warum er überhaupt in Innsbruck war, denn er war wohl etwas zu gut für uns. Wir nehmen an, das unsere Intendantin wohl wusste, dass er krank war und sie ihn hierher wegen der medizinischen Versorgung brachte und um seinen Familie in den sicheren Westen zu bringen. Er hatte seinen Frau und zwei Söhne, Russland entsandte gerade Truppen nach Tschetschenien und sein älterer Sohn war im Einziehungssalter. Was ich damit sagen möchte: Er brauchte ein sicheres Vollzeitengagement in einem westeuropäischen Opernhaus für das Wohl seiner Familie.

In his last months at work, before the illness kept him away, we shared the stage in a few roles. The very last roles I can remember him singing were Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, and Uncle Bonzo in Madama Butterfly, the latter of which I think he may have viewed as a waste of precious little time. He was even more withdrawn than usual that season. He may very well have known his fate. He used to sit backstage and say nothing between scenes. During one performance I approached his chair and told him how much I loved his acting, because to me it really was a treat to watch his face slide through different emotions and reactions, even when he was not singing. He scowled at this, and said “Acting” while practically rolling his eyes, which implied that acting didn’t mean nearly as much to him as singing did. I explained myself (maybe a little too forcefully) that, to me, the opera stage was full of decent singers who did not act, and that I appreciated much more a singer who did. He paused, sighed, and said “Thank you.”  I am sure, in hindsight, that he said that simply to get me to leave him alone.

In den letzten Monaten seiner Arbeit, bevor seine Krankheit ihn daran hinderte, standen wir in einigen wenigen Rollen gemeinsam auf der Bühne. Die letzten Rollen an die ich mich erinnere, waren, als er den Bartolo in „Figaros Hochzeit“ und Onkel Bonzo in Madama Butterfly sang, letztere, denke ich,  dürfte er als Verschwendung seiner wertvollen noch verbleibenden Zeit betrachtet haben. Er hatte sich in jener Saison noch mehr zurückgezogen. Ich glaube, er ahnte wohl sein Schicksal. Üblicherweise saß er zwischen den Szenen schweigsam hinter der Bühne. Während einer Aufführung ging ich zu seinem Stuhl, und sagte ihm, wie sehr ich sein Schauspiel liebte, da es ein Genuss war, seinen Gesichtsausdruck im Wechsel verschiedenster Emotionen und Reaktionen zu beobachten – auch wenn er nicht sang. Er verfinsterte sich, sagte, „Schauspielen“ und rollte dabei verächtlich mit den Augen, was sagte, dass Schauspiel ihm nicht annähernd soviel bedeutete, wie Gesang. Ich erklärte (möglicherweise etwas zu eindringlich), dass aus meiner Sicht die Opernbühne voll anständiger Sänger ist, die allerdings nicht Schauspielen und dass ich Sänger, die das auch können, bevorzuge. Er hielt inne, seufzte und sagte „Dankeschön“. Ich bin mir rückblickend sicher, er hat das nur gesagt, um wieder seine Ruhe zu haben.

But I’m glad I’d told him, because it was the last interaction to speak of that I had with him, and shortly thereafter he went on sick leave. Two or three months later, he was dead. The death announcement was the first time many of us heard that he was Jewish.

Aber ich bin froh, dass ich ihm das gesagt habe,  denn das war unsere letzte Begegnung bei der wir miteinander sprachen. Kurz darauf ging er in Krankenstand. Zwei oder drei Monate später war er tot. Viele von uns erfuhren erst durch die Todesnachricht, dass er Jude war.

Here is a taping of a full live performance of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia in the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, with a white-wigged Yury as Bartolo and a very young Anna Netrebko as Rosina. Skip ahead to 1:40:20, the end of Rosina’s “voice lesson” scene for a little of his comic genius.

Hier ist ein Mitschnitt einer vollständigen Aufführung von Rossinis „Der Barbier von Sevilla“ im Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg mit Yuri als Bartolo und der blutjungen Anna Netrebko als Rosina. Ab 1:40:20, das Ende von Rosinas “Gesangsstunde”, kann man Yuris komisches Talent sehen.

We were lucky to have him. May he rest in peace. Maybe he’s premiering Rossini’s latest opera in the Afterlife.

Wir waren froh, dass wir ihn hatten. Er ruhe in Frieden. Vielleicht singt er Rossinis neueste Oper im Jenseits.

Bergisel Jump (virtually) Revisited

Edited English-language intro: as the course for which I wrote this post is being offered once again, I have begun to remove references to it out of concern that someone will find this post via keywords and then just cut and paste. I would like for that not to happen.

2011 schrieb ich über einen Besuch bei den archäologischen Grabungen  an der Hinterseite des Bergisel. Ich habe diesen Beitrag nun hervorgeholt, um ihn bei meinem Archäologiekurs zu verwenden – um einen Fall über die Bewahrung von Funden zu beschreiben und zu zeigen, ob die Anstrengungen von Erfolg gekrönt waren oder nicht. Die Übung, diesen Beitrag nun in einem anderen Lichte zu schreiben, brachte mich dazu meinen bisherigen Ansichten zum Fundort und den Arbeitsschritten zu überdenken. Der Kulthügel am Bergisel ist eigentlich sowohl eine Rettungsgrabung alsauch ein Vermächtnis. Im Geiste der Teilhabe veröffentliche ich daher diese neue und verbesserte Version des damaligen Beitrags.


(Photo from )

Bergisel is known today as the site of one of the “Four Hills” ski jumps (and a very nice one at that).  You may have seen the ski jumping competitions held here on television. The area is also used for concerts, New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, World Cup soccer match broadcasts on large screens, the annual “Air&Style” Freestyle Snowboard Festival, and is the location of the new Tirol Panorama Museum. There is also a pretty trail along the Sill Gorge, on the back side of the hill. It has, therefor, somewhat heavy human traffic at certain times during the year.
 Bergisel was also known to be a significant archaeological site since the 1840s, when a small military museum was built on a lower slope —the partial collection of a large treasure find is housed in the Tirol State Museum Ferdinandeum, the other part having been “carried off by the wagonful and sold by weight to bellmakers”.

Der Bergisel ist heutzutage bekannt als eine (besonders schöne) Station der Vierschanzentournee. Vielen wird der Bergisel von Fernsehübertragungen der Schisprungveranstaltungen bekannt sein. Das Gelände wird auch für Konzerte, Neujahrsfeuerwerke, Fußballübertragungen auf Großleinwand und dem jährlichen Air&Style Snowboard Festival genutzt. Zudem ist es der Standort des neuen Tirol Panoramas. Es gibt auch einen reizenden Steig durch die Sillschlucht, an der Rückseite des Bergisel. Der Platz ist somit im Jahreslauf zeitweise von Besuchern stark frequentiert.

Der Bergisel ist als herausragendes archäologisches Fundgebiet seit den 1840ér Jahren bekannt, da man damals ein kleines Militärmuseum am unteren Hangteil errichtete. Ein Teil der damaligen funde sind im Tiroler Landesmuseum ausgestellt, während eine anderer Teile als „Wagenladung weggeschafft und  nach Gewicht an Glockengießer verkauft wurde“.

Schanze BingAerialsketch

Top image is a screenshot from Bing Maps. Bottom image is from “Ur- and Frühgeschichte von Innsbruck” (“Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology of Innsbruck”) catalog accompanying the 2007 exhibit at the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck. In German.

When the old jump was built for the 1964 Winter Olympic Games, a large swath of earth had been removed, and a great deal of archaeological evidence unfortunately went with it. This jump was demolished in 2001 to make room for a better, modern one planned by the well-known architect Zaha Hadid, and in between local archaeologists from the University of Innsbruck were able to come in for a limited time and do excavations.
These excavations have uncovered a site for burnt offerings near the highest point of the hill, just a few meters east of the ski jump tower. Animal bones were found which had been burnt at a temperature of over 600°C.  These artifacts have been dates to ranging from 650 BCE to 15 BCE, when the Romans arrived, and would have been taken to the Ferdinandeum.

Als die alte Schisprungschanze  für die olympischen Spiele 1964 gebaute wurde, wurde eine mächtige Erdschicht und zugleich eine große Menge archäologischer Beweisstücke entfernt. Diese Schanze wurde 2001 abgetragen und durch einen besserer und modernere von der bekannte Architektin Zaha Hadid geplante ersetzt. Ein begrenzte Zeit konnten Archäologen der UNI Innsbruck Ausgrabungen durchführen.

Bei diesen Ausgrabungen wurden verbrannte Opfergaben nahe der Spitze des Berges, wenige Meter östliche des Schanzenturms entdeckt. Bei 600°C verbrannte Tierknochen wurden gefunden. Diese Fundstücke wurden Zeitraum zwischen 600 und 15 v.Chr., vor Ankunft der Römer, datiert und ins Ferdinandeum gebracht.

The features, that is, the larger artifacts, were then back-filled with earth and left alone.  There was absolutely NO information found (in 2012) at the site itself, which is on the outside of the fenced-in ski jump area, so one can’t just take the incline to visit it. There are barely trails — animal paths really — up the very steep grades on the back end of the hill. There are no signs forbidding access but it is difficult to get up there. ( I only made it up  —and down — by grabbing onto tree roots and watching very carefully where I stepped. Dead leaves, pine needles and pine cones added a certain hair-raising slipperiness to the adventure. )

Die Bodenmerkmale, also die größeren Fundstücke, wurden dann wieder mit Erde verfüllt und sich selbst überlassen. Es wurde absolut kein Hinweis auf den Fundort außerhalb des umzäunten Geländes der Sprungschanze hinterlassen, sodass man nicht die Möglichkeit hat, den Ort mit der Standseilbahn zu besuchen. Es gibt kaum Pfade den steilen abhängen der Hinterseite des Berges hinauf; die vorhandenen sind tatsächlich Trittspuren von Tieren. Es gibt keine Schilder, die den Zutritt verwehren, aber es ist auch nicht leicht dorthin zu kommen. (Ich selbst kam nur rauf –und runter – in dem ich mich an Baumwurzeln hochhantelte und genau achtete wohin ich trat. Alte Blätter, Nadeln und Tschurtschen (Föhrenzapfen) erweitern das Abenteuer um haarsträubenden Rutschigkeit)


Photograph by the author.

The altar mound as seen today, on the highest point of the hill. The fence around the sport area runs right through the mound, which seems a little unfortunate. I do not know the impact of the fence on the re-buried site but hope that it is minimal.
My take on this site is that despite the great loss of artifacts from earlier landscaping and construction,  archaeologists have done their best to secure it and keep it removed from human disturbance as best they can.  They had been extremely pressed for time before construction on the new tower began. Today nearly all visitors experience the Bergisel at the lower end, where the Panorama Museum is located, or take the incline ride to the cafe  inside the ski jump tower (or walk up on the concrete steps) and have no interest in wandering over to the unidentified excavation site. This makes the conservation efforts  a success. A prognosis is more difficult, as I do not know what plans the property owners have for the area. As long as it remains as it is, the site is secure.[submitted summer 2013]

Der Kulthügel, wie man ihn heute sieht, liegt am höchsten Punkt des Berges. Der Zaun der Sportarena läuft direkt durch den Hügel, was etwas unglücklich erscheint. Ich weiß nicht, welche Auswirkungen das Zaunfundament auf die darunter vergrabene Fundstätte hat, hoffe aber, dass diese gering bleiben. Meinen Meinung über diesen Fundort ist, dass die Archäologen trotz der großen Verluste an Fundstücken durch frühere Geländeveränderungen und Bauarbeiten ihr Bestes getan haben, um das verbleibenden zu sicheren und vor menschlichem Zugriff zu bewahren. Sie handelten während des Baues der Sprungschanze unter großem Zeitdruck .

Heute erleben die Besucher den Bergisel vor allem am unteren Ende, wo das Panorama-Museum steht, oder fahren mit der Standseilbahn zum Cafe im Schanzenturm (oder gehen über die Stufen der Tribünen), haben jedoch kein Interesse über die unbekannte Ausgrabungsstätte zu wandern. Die sicherungsmaßnahmen der Archäologen sind somit erfolgreich. Eine Prognose ist hingegen schwierig, da ich die Pläne der Grundstückseigentümer nicht kenne. Solange es so bleibt ist der Fundort sicher.

Additional source link: (in German)

Forgotten Innsbruck: The Lake on the Hungerburg

There were so many excursions I wanted to take once the snows melted, and almost none of them were possible in the end for a variety of reasons. But before I leave for summer vacation I wanted to do this one last thing: I had heard years ago that there had once been a small lake on the Hungerburg, but it’s location eluded me until a recent issue of “Tip” came out, with a feature on the Seehof.

So viele Ausflüge wollte ich im Frühling machen, und aus vielen Gründen war fast keiner davon möglich. Aber hier ein letzter Eintrag über Tirol vor der Sommerpause. Vor ein paar Jahren erfuhr ich von einem kleinen Badesee auf der Hungerburg, aber genau wo wusste ich nicht, bis zur diesmonatigen Ausgabe von “Tip”.

hungerburgseeIn 1912 a hotel was built up on the Hungerburg (a high plateau above Innsbruck), at the site of an old quarry. The quarry was flooded with water from the mountain spring, an observation tower was erected above the lake, and the whole thing was planned to be used as a little mountain resort, called the Seehof.

After the First World War and the fall of the Monarchy,  the Seehof fell into the hands of the Social Democratic Workers Party, who used it as a summer school for children from working-class families. Hundreds of local children learned to swim here during those years.  In 1934 the Social Democratic Workers Party was outlawed, and the Seehof came to be owned by another party, the Väterländische Front. Later it was used as housing for Hitler Youth and in 1940 it was sold to the NSDAP. But the lake had disappeared by then — its supply was shut off when water became scarce in the 1930s and had to be rerouted to residential areas.

1912 wurde ein Hotel auf der Hungerburg (ein Hochplateau  am Fuß der Nordkette, über Innsbruck) eröffnet, im ehemaligen Steinbruch. Der Steinbruch wurde geflutet, ein Aussichtsturm errichtet, und das ganze Areal wurde als Kurort geplant, Seehof genannt.
Nach dem ersten Weltkrieg kam der Seehof zur Sozialdemokratischen Arbeiterpartei, und kurz danach wurde er als freie Schule für Kinder aus Arbeiterfamilien verwendet. Laut “Tip” haben im Badesee zu dieser Zeit hunderte Innsbrucker Kinder das Schwimmen gelernt.
In 1934 wurde die SDAP verboten, der Seehof wurde der Väterländischen Front zur Verfügung gestellt. Später war er eine Herberge für die Hitlerjugend, 1940 an die NSDAP verkauft. Der See verschwand aber 1937, da Wasserknappheit herrschte und der Zufluss unterbunden wurde.

SeehofIMG_0646Then and now: from almost the same vantage point. Below: the observation tower is still standing, but of course the area is private property and fenced off from random visitors. One can walk right up to the back of the tower, however.

Damals und heute, vom fast selber Aussichtspunkt. Der Turm steht noch, ist aber abgezäunt.

IMG_0639Since 1951 the property has belonged to the Arbeiterkammer (Austrian Chamber of Labour) and after a few renovations the building is now a thoroughly modern training center with conference rooms and the like. But sadly it seems the lake is gone forever.

Seit 1951 befindet sich das Grundstück in der Hand der Arbeiterkammer, und nach einige Renovierungen ist es jetzt eine ganz moderne Schulungsstätte. Leider ist der See für immer verschwunden.

Upper images found here

Lanser Kopf

The Lanser Kopf (“Lans Peak”)

 is  a rocky outcropping atop a wooded hill called the Paschberg, situated between Innsbruck, Austria, and the village of Lans. It sits just under 300 meters above the city, and a hike to the top can be done in about an hour.  It is one of the few lower hilltops which has not, to my knowledge,  been previously excavated.

Übernommen aus einem kürzlich verfassten Beitrag für einen Archäologie Online Kurs an dem ich teilnehme.
Der Lanser Kopf liegt auf dem Paschberg, zwischen Innsbruck und der Dorfgemeinde Lans, knapp 300 Meter über der Stadt, wovon man in ca. eine Stunde eine gemütliche Wanderung machen kann. Er ist eine der wenigen Mittelgebirgsebenen in der Gegend auf der man, so weit ich weiß, keine archäologischen Ausgrabungen durchgeführt wurden.

970259-51b733d484b3e5.86591292Innsbruck, Paschberg/Lanser Kopf, Patscherkofel (2246 m)

One of the most interesting things about the Lanser Kopf is that there are multiple of evidences of use over time. Schalensteine (rocks with cup markings) can be found on the lower slopes. Unfortunately it is impossible to date them. It is suspected that there may also be markings in the rocks at the peak, but these are partially covered with trees, earth and concrete. The concrete, poured in the middle of the last century, holds park benches and a marble table, and also makes up two WW2 Two flak circles. The circles were abandoned at the end of the war, and now have trees growing inside them.

Eine Besonderheit des Lanser Kopfs liegt in seine vielseitige Nutzung im Laufe der Zeit. Auf dem niedrigeren Hang findet man Schalensteine, die leider nicht datierbar sind.  Man vermutet, dass man oben an der Spitze auch Schälchen finden könnte, wenn die Steine nicht mit Erde, Bäumen und Beton verdeckt worden wären.  Der Beton wurde in der Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts am Kopf gebracht, um Parkbänke und eine runden Marmortafel zu befestigen, und wurde auch im zweiten Welzkrieg für die Herstellung von zwei Plattformen für Fliegerabwehrkanonen (FLAK-Kreise) verwendet. Bäume wachsen jetzt in den leer stehenden Kreisen.

970259-51b73492ce0f95.32446165Two WW2- era flak circles at the Lanser Kopf.

The earliest humans artifacts found in this region date back to about 30,000 BCE . Evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been discovered on other nearby hilltops, including stone residential terraces (Hohe Birga, Himmelreich), and sacrificial burning sites (Goldbichl, Bergisel.)

Die älteste prähistorische Artefakte aus dieser Gegend datieren auf 30,000 v. Chr.  Neolithische Siedlungen hat man an naheliegenden Hügeln entdeckt, Steinterrassensiedlungen (Hohe Birga, Himmelrich) und auf Brandopferplätze (Goldbichl, Bergisel).

As far as I know, the Lanser Kopf was not used for anything in the Modern Era — with the exception of the wartime use — other than as a place to rest while hiking. There is no obvious evidence of it having been used for farming or settlement. However, it’s use in the last century as a strategic point for sighting enemy planes and firing missiles at them certainly would have roughed up the area somewhat, since it can been assumed that military jeeps or trucks would have been driven at least to the plateau just below the flak circles, and the construction of the circles themselves would have affected any older formation processes.

So weit ich weiß hatte der Lanser Kopf in der jüngeren Geschichte, außer während der Kriegszeit, nie eine besondere Funktion. Es gibt dort keine offensichtlichen Anzeichen von Siedlung oder Landwirtschaft. Er diente als Rastplatz für Wanderer.  In den Kriegsjahren war die Gegend mutmaßlich von LKWs und Jeeps überrollt, und die Herstellung der FLAK -Kreise hätte ältere Spuren zerstört.

This, however, brings forward another question — which kinds of artifacts does one wish to find? There may well be modern(ish) war artifacts in the vicinity, from either the Second World War or from the battles against Napoleon’s troops in 1809. There may be man-made objects just below the surfaces. 
But could be there also be older signs of human settlement below the flak circles? One would unfortunately have to destroy them in order to see what lies below. And while the concrete flak circles may not be of much interest to people today, I find it important that they remain, as an historical testament to Innsbruck’s war involvement in the 1940s. I find that it would not be worth it to remove them in the search for earlier artifacts. The earth-covered level area just below them, however, would be a worthy site for excavation, indeed if such work hasn’t been done already.

Das alles wirft eine Frage auf:  Welche Artefakte erwartet man zu finden? Es gibt wahrscheinlich schon genug Kriegsartefakte aus dem zweiten Weltkrieg oder, weiter zurück, vom Tiroler Volksaufstand in 1809.  Könnten prähistorische Funde direkt unter den FLAK-Fundamenten liegen? Man müsste diese aber zerstören, wenn man dort richtig graben will. Obwohl sie heutzutage wenige Leute interessieren,  würde ich lieber sehen, dass sie intakt bleiben, als historische Zeitzeugnisse der Kriegsjahre Innsbrucks. Hingegen läge auf der kleinen Ebene etwas unterhalb der kreisförmigen Fundamente eine angemessen Stelle für eine Ausgrabung, wenn nicht solche schon durchgeführt wurden.

From evidence gathered by archaeologists, pre-Roman-era settlers in Tirol greatly preferred the high plateaus and hilltops between the Inn (swampy floodplain) and the mountains (rocky, barren). This middle ground was probably ideal for hunting as well as providing safety. Since the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the Middle Ages, many of those hilltops have been adorned with chapels. It has been speculated  that these  chapels might be sitting atop the remains of pre-christian structures, and often successful excavation work has been done in their immediate vicinity.  If such an excavation were done on the Lanser Kopf, one might look for pre-historic arrowheads, ceramics, stone objects, weapon depots and offerings (of which there are many in the Alps) or sacrificial burning sites, all of which have been found elsewhere in the region.

Aus archäologischen Befunden in der Region wissen wir, dass viele vorrömische Siedlungen in den Mittelgebirgen eingerichtet wurden, wo die Ureinwohner mehr Sicherheit und bessere Lebensqualität vorfanden. Seit der Ankunft christlicher Missionare im Frühmittelalter, sind viele dieser einigermaßen höheren Stelle mit Kapellen geschmückt.  Man könnte vermuten, dass manche dieser Kapellen möglicherweise auf Resten von früheren, vorchristlichen Bauwerke stehen, und tatsächlich hat man neben solchen Kapellen erfolgreiche Ausgrabungen durchgeführt. Wenn man so eine Ausgrabung auf dem Lanser Kopf unternähme, fände man möglicherweise Artefakten wie Pfeilspitze, Keramik, Steinfiguren, Waffendepots oder Brandopferstätte, welche anderswo in der Region, auf höheren Stellen, bereits gefunden wurden.


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”.

“It’ll Be A Hot Day Today”


This plaque, found on the stone wall underneath the Golden Roof in Innsbruck’s old town, says: Here, on 25 February 1536, Jakob Hutter, head of the Anabaptists in Tirol, was burned at the stake.

Jakob Hutter was born in what is now South Tirol, in northern Italy. After he joined the Anabaptists, he began to preach and form small congregations in the region. Tirol was persecuting Anabaptists, so Hutter eventually followed many of his fellow believers to Moravia (part of what is now Czech Republic), where conditions were a little better for them. (The Moravian Church, not related not directly related but a possible antecedent to Hutter’s Anabaptists, got their name for this same reason — they had left Saxony for Moravia to escape religious persecution, and the name stuck when they moved elsewhere. Their founder, Jan Hus, was also burned at the stake.)

Good times in Moravia only lasted so long, however, and in 1535 the Hutterites were expelled. Jakob Hutter returned to Tirol, was soon afterward arrested, tortured, pressured to recant and inform on his fellow church members. He resisted, and was sentenced to burn. His wife was able to flee, was however later caught and executed at Schöneck Fortress in South Tirol. Online sources in German indicate that men were burned or beheaded, women drowned, and that 360 Anabaptists were executed in Tirol.

Yet another Tirolean burned at the stake was Mathias Perger, known as der Lauterfresser (g), which translates roughly to the Soup Eater. Perger was what one might call today a free spirit, occasionally working, learned in reading, writing, and astrology. In other words, someone the church considered dangerous. He was arrested on charges of witchcraft and “weather-making”, confessed under torture to such medieval horrors as “desecrating the Host”, and executed in 1645 in Mühlbach (near Brixen/Bressanone).

While Hutter was clearly pious (just the “wrong” religion), the Lauterfresser was odd enough (and perhaps heathen enough) for legends about him to crop up over time. He plays tricks on fellow inn patrons. He makes chickens fly over to the next field and lay their eggs for their owner’s neighbor. He changes at will into a bear and, for sport, chats with the hunting party trying to track it down. The legends make him a sympathetic, clever figure, a sort of alpine combination of Till Eulenspiegel and Fred and George Weasley, if you will. The quote in this title are his alleged words — “Das wird ein heißer Tag heute” — as he was fetched to be taken to the pyre.

BONUS LINK: And speaking of legends, a 1,200-year-old Coptic Egyptian text, recently translated, is found to tell the story of a shape-shifting Jesus who dined with a well-intentioned Pilate before his death. I suppose that it shows, like the stories of the Lauterfresser, that we humans want to hear these stories and be amazed.