A visit to the Horse World Expo

About two years ago my freelance translation work brought me in contact with the owner of a boutique agency specializing in translations for the equine sector, i.e. all things horses. She was looking for an English-speaking translator who had some experience with horses or at least interest in learning more, and I was looking for a new challenge. Our collaboration has continued and last summer I became a full member of the team. I’ve learned more about the equestrian world that I ever believed possible, and there still so much to learn. I’m still a crappy novice rider, however, and that won’t change any time soon!

Anyway, we’re adding a blog to the agency’s website and I’m permitted to cross-post my own contributions here if I wish. The following post is my first blog post for Anima Translation.

I was home visiting my parents in eastern Pennsylvania just before the United States government began to take the coronavirus seriously, and on 29 February drove to nearby Harrisburg to visit the Horse World Expo 2020.

The Horse World Expo attracts exhibitors from all over the country, however its flavor is distinctly regional. Many of the companies are local, as are the visitors. This isn’t a trade fair for horse snobs. The halls and arenas were filled with regular folks, including Mennonites (in their distinctive garb and the men with beards without mustaches) and lots of teenage girls.

My original mission had been to visit with the people running the stands and ask if they would be interested in expanding their market with translation services, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not the right crowd for foreign expansion, and after getting a few bemused looks I decided to just enjoy the event and learn from it.

Trailers for all sizes, even the mini-est of minis.

The Farm Show building is divided into two general areas. On one side there is the trade fair hall:  large enough for hundreds of stands, with an area dedicated to the latest innovations in supersized horse trailers, a couple of seminar areas, and a (small) roundpen for presentations with horses. On the other side are two large arenas with stadium seating, and here is where the larger events took place. These included the Trail Champions Challenge, a timed competition for horse and rider to accomplish some country-themed tasks (mending a fence or shooting a cap gun in the saddle, backing up one’s horse through a U-shaped alley without stepping over the poles). The most entertaining for the audience was the last task, where the rider had to dismount her horse at a free-standing wall with a window, walk over to the other side of the wall, pick up a camera and take a flash photo of her horse, and then return and get back in the saddle. (Many horses felt that enough was enough at this point and headed for the exit, with their riders trotting after them.)

Here the contestant has to take a cap gun from the post and “shoot” at a prop deer without her horse panicking, and then back him out of the alley.

What could I take away from the Expo in general? English style riding was certainly well represented, but most people there seemed to be primarily interested in Western riding. Many of the arena presentations, such as the Trail Champions Challenge and the session on gaited horses – Tennessee Walking Horses and others – came with a heavily Western flair. The “regional” country atmosphere was mainly enjoyable (I was able to buy my parents some good old Pennsylvania Dutch Whoopie Pies), but sometimes extended a little too far into the camo crowd for my comfort, for example the stand selling T-shirts bearing Confederate flags. But that, too, was a lesson learned – horse lovers come in all kinds of packaging.

“A visit to the Horse World Expo” is cross-posted at http://anima-translation.com

The Voices of Our 1960s-70s Childhoods

Are you the kind the person who has songs running through your head at all times? I am. Not every single second of the day, but most seconds of most days there’s something playing in the background (or foreground) of my consciousness. When I was involved in opera productions there would be a whole minutes-long passage that would loop back to the beginning at some convenient harmonic convergence, so that it might not end until some other music took its place. Since I left the business most of my “ear worms” have ended up being fragments of songs from recently-played CDs (yes, we are dinosaurs and still buy CDs).

Sometimes they go way back in time, however. (For several months, “You Never Give Me Your Money” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album switched on in my head pretty much every time I entered the kitchen. No idea why.) This past Christmas Eve, I pulled out my old DVD (like I said, dinosaurs) of the 1966 animated cartoon special “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, which we never missed when it was broadcast on American television during my childhood. That was nearly 2 weeks ago, and I thought nothing more of it, but then something very strange happened this morning.

I had woken up around 6:30; it was still dark so I was just letting my thoughts roam where they would, when for some reason I recalled the theme song to the early 1970s TV series “Love, American Style”. And then…wait, I thought, those back-up voices. Don’t they sound just like the same voices on the Partridge Family Album? Now, I haven’t heard that album since I was maybe 10 years old, but I remember listening to those songs and thinking that the singers sure didn’t sound like a group of kids. They sounded like adults. OK, but who were they?

Well, here we are in 2020 and Wikipedia is indeed a wonderful thing (and I need to make a donation to them!) Get this: it’s the same constellation of singers, concentrated around the brothers Tom and John Bahler, here in a group called The Love Generation but more often generally part of the Ron Hicklin Singers, a group of studio singers who were hired to record pretty much everything we late Baby Boomers – the generation portrayed in the old TV series “The Wonder Years”, actually – heard on television during the sixties and seventies. Commercials, theme songs, you name it. Along with the Beatles and the pop artists on WFIL and American Bandstand, these singers more or less sang my entire childhood.

Here are some examples of where you can hear the voices, collectively or individually, of the Ron Hicklin Singers (courtesy of their Wikipedia entry): the theme songs for the TV shows Love, American Style, Batman, Flipper, That Girl (Season 5 opening), Happy Days. There they are backing up lead vocalist Cyndi Greco in the theme song to Laverne & Shirley . They recorded songs for the show The Partridge Family and the cartoon spin-off The Brady Kids, songs for the Monkees, including “I’m a Believer” (!!), for Paul Revere & the Raiders, and probably about a thousand other songs and jingles that flowed out of TVs and into American ears during the 60s and 70s. Of special note: Thurl Ravenscroft, the brilliant and unmistakable bass voice of “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch” from the above-mentioned DVD and Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger (“They’re grrrrrrreat!”) was a Ron Hicklin Singer. And Jackie Ward, the group’s alto, was by her own accounts “the voice of Rice-a-Roni” for 20 years.

The Bahler brothers allegedly can be heard in the song “MacArthur Park” (there were male back-up singers on that? I pulled it up for a listen on YouTube. I didn’t notice any. Unless they sing those super high notes at the end?) and “Suicide is Painless” from the 1970 film M*A*S*H*.
And especially Burt Bacharach’s swinging “South American Getaway” from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Listen to this song on YouTube. Listen with headphones or earbuds if you can. They’re terrific. And there’s Thurl Ravenscroft, of Grinch and Tony the Tiger fame, singing bass, PLAIN AS DAY. [Wait, stop the presses: the soprano on this song, Sally Stevens, recently commented on YouTube that it’s herself, John Bahler, Jackie Ward, Sue Allen, Ron Hicklin and Bob Tebow.]

It only took me literally 50 years to realize this. Sure, it all sounded similar. As a kid, they all sounded like a bunch of grown-ups to me. I never realized they were the same singers, doing it all.

In Via: Milestone, Via Claudia Augusta

IMG_3996It’s not an original, of course, but a replica, with historical information written in German. This milestone is placed next to the route of the Via Claudia Augusta, here an unassuming gravel road, where it crosses Bahnhofstrasse near Leeder, west of the Lech (The Bahn in question is the old rail line between Landsberg and Schongau, which is only used for special tourist trains a few times in the summer.)

Via Claudia Augusta
The Roman state road was built in 46/47 A.D. by Emperor Claudius and ran from Northern Italy through the provincial capital of Augsburg and [to] the Danube
To Augsburg: 34 miles

 

In Via: The Keltenschanze near Utting

Having read Zeitspringer’s recent post (in German) about the earthworks in Holzhausen near Fürstenfeldbruck, I felt inspired to tell him (and you) about a patch of farm country that has become one of our regular walking routes. It’s got beautiful scenery, crosses through fields and woods, often has lots of horses (from the stables at Achselschwang) and – to my enduring delight – features two  ancient landmarks: a section of the Roman road to Augsburg and a pre-Roman earthwork, known as a Keltenschanze or Viereckschanze (the red line and the red square in the image shown below, in a screenshot from the always interesting Bayerische Denkmal-Atlas).

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I won’t suggest a specific circuit because the route we usually take starts at the parking area off of Landsberger Strasse, and may not be the best for visitors coming on foot or by bicycle. Those unfamiliar with the area using a combination of public transportation and their own two wheels might consider alighting at Geltendorf and riding through St. Ottilien, continuing south to Utting. One can also catch the Ammerseebahn at Geltendorf and take that train directly to Utting (but be aware that it’s a long uphill climb to the main road. Alighting in Schondorf and taking the cycle path along the main road will be easier on the legs, and probably no longer.) If you really want an adventure you could take the S8 regional rail line from Munich to Herrsching, cross the lake by padde steamer to Holzhausen or Utting, and then pedal from there.

There is a sign with information about the Roman road posted just south of Achselschwang, and one in front of the Keltenschanze.

Afterwards, pedal down to the water’s edge in Utting, where you’ll find a nice restaurant (visitors) near the boot landing as well as a lakeside beer garden (locals). From there it’s only about 100 meters uphill to the Utting rail station (or a boat ride back to Herrsching).

The PDF found here (in German) contains a good introductory description of the Roman road as it passes west of Utting.

Older posts on the Via Raetia and the Keltenschanze:

https://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/in-via-raisting/

https://klavierzimmer.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/two-roads-in-utting/

The Antiquarian Life: Frau K

It is time to write about Frau König. (Kindly note that all names and places have been changed)

Several years ago my husband, a bookseller, got a telephone call from an elderly woman who lived in a nearby town. She was looking for someone to buy her small private library of books, and he had been recommended to her. This, in itself, is fairly normal in his line of work. In fact, the people who call him with such requests are 90% elderly women from the area. They are moving — often their husbands recently passed away, and they are downsizing to an apartment in the city or a senior residence, and it’s finally time to get rid of all those old books, but of course no one can bear the thought of throwing them out. This is where my husband comes in — in a profession that calls for him to be part antiques dealer, part funeral home director, he has an assuring and knowledgeable manner from which they infer that their old books will be respected and will “go to a good home”. Most everybody understands that it’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, because no one wants to hear explicitly that their beloved, worn-out 1980s bestseller paperback with the parts underlined in red pen is going straight into the Altpapier container.

But back to our story. Frau König was planning to sell her apartment and move into a posh senior home on the other side of the lake. On the phone, she emphasized to my husband that she had some rather valuable books, and invited him to come to her house so that he could make an appraisal. When he got there, she sat him down in a chair and presented him with… three somewhat underwhelming and altogether worthless old books from the 1950s. He didn’t lie to her, but neither did he jump up and leave, and maybe she was just testing his reaction. She hinted at more treasures in her office downstairs. Frau König didn’t have a date set for the move, nor a buyer for the apartment, but she must have felt that she had someone lined up to take her books. And so began a somewhat weird business relationship, where she would make lists of the books she was ready to part with, and my husband would drive over and pick them up, sometimes in little paper gift bags she’d had lying around. Virtually none of them had any worth to speak of, but somehow we felt that it wouldn’t be right to wave her off now. At some point, after a couple of years of this, I began to tag along, and she would make us mediocre coffee and chat about politics.

Unlike the other widows who were unloading their deceased husbands’ collections, Frau König had never married. She’d had what sounded like a pretty interesting career working for German embassies, though, which had her traveling to places like Russia and Ethiopia. She’d had connections with Africa and some mildly interesting art on the walls, and a lovely old grandfather clock (probably inherited). Her taste in books ran to travel literature and romance novels. She seemed lonely, although we couldn’t say for sure, as we weren’t that close. Our visits to Frau König were often preceded by a good measure of reluctance and eye-rolling, but often we’d both agree, in the car afterward, that we felt happy to have done a good deed, and that maybe we’d done ourselves a good deed in turn as well. It’s hard to explain.

When she finally had a moving date and the sale of her apartment taken care of, Frau König summoned us over to settle accounts regarding the price of the books. My husband had struggled for several months with a bad feeling about this, because he didn’t think she was going to be happy with his price, especially after that first “presentation” of her treasures. It turned out surprisingly well. She was taking a heavy old bookcase with her to the senior home, and the books that she wanted to keep with her were placed “just so” inside it. But she didn’t have anyone who could note their current order and put them back that way after the move. “That’s no problem” said my husband, while I whipped out my smartphone to photograph each shelf. In the end, she offered to settle our accounts that way – instead of payment of the books we had taken off her hands, we’d come to her new place and put her bookcases back in order. Thinking back on this, I am fairly sure she could have done this by herself. But we were happy to oblige (and relieved not to have to break the news to her about the low market value of her library).

I left for a visit to America just after that, and thought it would be nice to send a postcard congratulating Frau König on her new home. I include this just to show that we had started to become a bit fond of her, like an elderly neighbor who doesn’t get out that much any more. Plus she had moved to our side of the lake, so visiting was an actual option now and then.

My husband had arranged to see Frau König a few days after the big move (which happened while I was away). He found her in the lobby, asleep in an upholstered chair, so he quietly took a seat and waited for her to wake up. When she did, she didn’t recognize him. “And who are you?” she asked. But then her senses returned and she suggested a coffee in the residence’s cafe. She was distraught at the chaos in her apartment, she said; “everything is a mess!” He offered to help, but when they went to her apartment he was surprised to see everything in perfect order. She had even had her pictures hung on the walls. After chatting a little while longer, they agreed that we could come back when I returned from America, so that we would get her bookcase in order and maybe invite her out for a coffee. A week later my husband was at her old apartment, picking up a small sofa bed she had offered us. For some reason we had agreed, thinking it could serve as a day bed in the office. Honestly, I don’t know what we were thinking. Anyway, when he got there the new owners were already fully underway with renovation, and just wanted that pile of her stuff gone.

Three weeks later, after my return, there was no answer when he called her new telephone number. But we were busy, and just thought we’d try again later. You already know where this is heading.

The news arrived through an email from her nephew, Herr König, from up north in Bremen. Frau König had passed away in her sleep at the senior residence, just three days after my husband’s visit. She’d been in her new home for a mere nine days.

Our initial shock and genuine sadness were cut short by our encounter with the nephew, who had contacted us because he thought we might like to take those remaining books and the bookcase as well, as the apartment had to be cleared out in two weeks. Herr König, the executor to her estate, turned out to be a decent model for a Sackville-Baggins. We met him in his aunt’s nearly empty apartment, where he immediately starting complaining about the trouble and the timing of both her move and her demise, and then he complained pointedly about his aunt, despite our having just having shared warm and friendly stories of having gotten to know her. He suggested we could pick out what books we like, because “the recycling container is right at the end of the hall” and the rest could be carted there. My husband set aside a small pile of books, which seemed to irritate the nephew. In short, he expected money, and the fewer books we were taking, the less money he could expect. He also requested an offer for the bookcase, and when I gave him one (quite low, as we had not understood his intentions earlier, and had thought we were doing him a favor by helping to empty the apartment), he suppressed a laugh and replied that he’d just as soon have it taken to the dump. “Then you should do that”, my husband tersely interjected, and then he took the high road (and I love him for doing this) and explained to Herr König the value the various items he had set aside (“this may be something, in any event, don’t throw it out”) after which we wished him luck and departed – empty handed but utterly relieved. Back outside, we looked at each other and exhaled. “No wonder she seldom mentioned her relatives.”

Rest in peace, Frau K. I am sorry you couldn’t enjoy more of your new life, but I’m glad we had a small part in it.

Discovering Curt Bois

We happened to be surfing around TV stations this evening and stumbled over a 1980s comedy series called Kir Royale, which had been filmed in Munich. Tonight’s episode was “Adieu Claire”, about a fictitious famous composer named Friedrich Danziger, very old and near death. Something about him looked familiar, and it wasn’t until about three-quarters of the way through that it dawned on me.

Curt Bois, a successful German Jewish character actor, left Germany in the 1930s, eventually came to the USA, and appeared in supporting roles in many Hollywood films through the 40s. He returned to Germany in 1950 and resumed regular work there in film and on the stage. Perhaps you remember the old man in “Wings of Desire” (1987), looking for Potsdamer Platz, reading in the library. Bois lived to see reunification, but he would probably not recognize Potsdamer Platz today, (nor would he probably like it, but who am I to say).

You’ve probably seen him in at least a dozen films, if you like the old stuff. His most famous film, however, might be Casablanca. Who did he play? The charming pickpocket.

From the Translation Desk*: Sütterlin

Version 2

There are many subjects I avoid if I can. Most technical texts, for example, or medical ones. There are also certain types of formats I avoid, like excel files (they just don’t come up right on my little Mac screen). But one thing I can do, with some help from the Beau**, is old handwriting like the sample image above. This is called Sütterlin script and it’s indecipherable to most people today. When I first look at a text written with Sütterlin, it makes about much sense as Georgian, or Tolkien runes. Nothing but squiggly lines. But as one sits and studies the characters, their meanings begin to emerge.
Es gibt viele Themen, die ich wenn möglich meide. Zum Beispiel die meisten technischen oder medizinischen Texte. Es gibt auch bestimmte Arten von Formaten, denen ich aus dem Weg gehe, wie Excel-Dateien (sie werden auf meinem kleinen Mac-Bildschirm nicht richtig dargestellt). Aber eine Sache, mit der ich, mit etwas Hilfe vom Beau **, umgehen kann, ist alte Handschrift, wie im Beispielbild oben. Diese nennt sich Sütterlin-Schrift und ist für die meisten Menschen heute nicht mehr zu entziffern. Wenn ich einen Text in Sütterlin betrachte, erscheint er mir zuerst, wie Georgisch oder wie die Runen Tolkiens. Lediglich verschnörkelten Linien. Aber wenn man sich damit länger auseinandersetzt und die Zeichen analysiert, erkennt man ihre Bedeutungen.

*I actually work from the couch, as my desk and surroundings have been subsumed into service for the Antiquariat. Ich arbeite eigentlich auf der der Couch, da mein Schreibtisch das Drumherum für die Arbeit des Antiquariats verwendet wurden.
** He and a friend taught themselves this writing in school, in order to pass notes in class. Er und ein Freund haben sich diese Schrift in der Schule beigebracht, um Nachrichten in während des Unterrichts in der Klasse zu übermitteln.

Götzens, Pfarrkirche Hl. Peter und Paul

IMG_1639
A few years ago I came across a booklet with brief biographies of four local priests who had resisted the Nazis and were killed for it. While planning my recent visit to Axams, I realized that I would be very close to the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, in Götzens, where the ashes of Father Otto Neururer are kept. He had come there as parish priest in 1932, got on the wrong side of the Gauleiter after the annexation of Austria in 1938, was arrested and eventually sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. He continued to spread the word of Christianity and minister to other inmates, for which he was hanged naked by the feet until he died, a painful 34 hours later. A fellow inmate who witnessed Neururer’s hanging said that he never cried out, but only prayed softly until he lost consciousness. // Vor ein paar Jahren stieß ich auf ein Büchlein mit Kurzbiografien von vier lokalen Priestern, die in Opposition zu den Nazis standen und dafür ermordet wurden. Während der Planung meines Besuchs neulich in Axams merkte ich, dass ich sehr nahe an der Kirche von St. Peter und Paul in Götzens, wo die Asche von Pater Otto Neururer vorbeikommen werde.
Er hatte dorthin als Pfarrer im Jahr 1932 gekommen, fiel nach der Annexion von Österreich im Jahre 1938 beim Gauleiter in Ungnade, wurde verhaftet und schließlich nach Buchenwald ins Konzentrationslager geschickt. Er fuhr dort fort, das Wort des Christentums unter den anderen Häftlingen zu predigen, wurde dafür an den Füßen nackt auf gehängt bis er starb, schmerzhafte 34 Stunden später. Ein Mithäftling , der Neururer hängen sah, bezeugte, dass er nie geweint hat, sondern nur leise betete, bis er das Bewusstsein verlor.

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Father Neururer’s ashes were returned to Götzens, and the church has them in a golden urn, ringed with Dornenkronen, displayed prominently underneath the altar. // Pater Neururers Asche wurde nach Götzens gebracht, und die Kirche hat sie in einer goldenen Urne mit Dornenkronen herum, prominent unter dem Altar präsentiert.
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The church’s interior bears a very strong resemblance to that of the Innsbruck Cathedral, with that cake-icing-and-beeswax style and color scheme; although they are both 18th century works, as far as I can tell they are by completely different artists. // Der Innenraum der Kirche hat große Ähnlichkeit mit der Innsbrucker Dom, mit diesem Zuckerbäcker-und Bienenwachs-Stil entsprechende Farbgebung; obwohl sie beide Werke aus dem 18. Jahrhundert sind, gehe ich davon aus, dass sie von ganz verschiedenen Künstler gestaltet wurden.
IMG_1638
In front of the church but discreetly outside the churchyard wall, the village war memorial to its fallen soldiers. Just as discreetly, the most visible side honors the fallen from 1914-1918. The centenary of the Great War years must come as somewhat of a relief to many communities in Austria, accustomed to (but by now weary) of the relentless Third Reich anniversaries. // Vor der Kirche, aber unauffällig außerhalb der Friedhofsmauer, hat das Dorf ein Kriegerdenkmal für seine gefallenen Soldaten. Ebenso diskret, daß die am besten sichtbare Seite die 1914-1918 Gefallenen ehrt. Die Hundertjahrfeier des 1. Weltkrieges muss als etwas von einer Erleichterung für viele Gemeinden in Österreich sein, daran gewöhnt, (aber jetzt müde) unerbittlich mit Jubiläen zum Dritten Reich konfrontiert zu werden..

Forgotten Innsbruck: The Irrwurzel

Fellow-blogger Paschberg has posted the following 1966 article from Innsbruck’s local newspaper, about a mysterious root found in certain places  which, should you step on it, will send you wandering through the mountains, completely disoriented. Here is an English translation by me, because I find weird legends like this kind of cool.

MYSTERIOUS “IRRWURZEL” OF MARIA LARCH

from the Tiroler Tageszeitung, Innsbruck, 25 October, 1966, Nr. 247, S.6

“Was terrestrial radiation to blame for the mental state of Johann König from Gnadenwald?

In response to Dr. Dietmar Assmann’s article “300 Years of Pilgrimages to Maria Larch near Terfens” in the October 8 issue of “TT”, I would like to tell a story which is interesting on ethnological, scientific, psychiatric and mountaineering levels.

The history of Maria Larch the legend is exhaustively discussed in the article. In conclusion the author writes, “like many other cultural sites of this kind, we see close ties of nature with the desire for protection from its violence.”

The saga tells of such violence. According to it, a mythical root grows in the Larch valley. The Tyrolean ethnologist Johann N. from Alpenburg wrote over 100 years ago, “in the forests and meadows, on mountain and valley grows a root which possesses such powers, that whoever steps upon it will meander aimlessly for days, just as the witches and masters of the dark arts understand how to distract a person and lead him astray.” Such persons would wander the entire night and came to only by the morning call to prayers. Such instances are said to have been frequent in the Larch Valley, although no one knew anything for certain.

Dr. Guido Hradil, Adjunct Professor at the University of Innsbruck, described such occurrences as terrestrial radiation which, like that which has been measured in the Gastein Valley, may also be observed in Gnadenwald.

On January 4th, 1912, innkeeper Josef Heiss, whose inn stood at the edge of the Larch valley and who also owned a timber business, was busy with his men and horses pulling logs on sleds from the forest near Maria Larch to Gnadenwald on sleds. They had been delayed by the shying of the horses and it was getting dark.  Hansel, a boy from a nearby farm, rode by on his sled as they were bustling about to go. The woodsmen called out, “Hey, where are you off to, so late?”, but he gave no answer. The company left the unfriendly boy alone and hurried home, as night was already upon them.

The next day word got out that the boy hadn’t come home. His family, the workers, the neighbors and soon the whole village was searching for him, along with the police. Soon enough they found tracks of the boy’s sled. The tracks led from Maria Larch, through the so-called Sau Valley through the woods, crossed the Umlberg road, went straight up nearly vertically on the steep and icy slope of the Walder Pass, cut through the meadow there to the summit and descended the north side into a gap, where with a sleepwalking instinct he had made his way between the cliffs down to the stream. Here his sled broke. His body was found frozen by the stream. He had pulled off his shoes and stockings.

The discovery caused an uproar in the region. Why did the boy leave the marked road in the Larch valley and sled through the fields? Even if he’d become snow-blind, how did he cross the road without noticing it? Why had he not noticed the village lights, clearly visible on the way up the mountain? How did he find his way through the pathless gorge in the dark? There were no answers, and no one wished to mention the Irrwurzel out loud.

In the Gnadenwald church’s chronicle the priest had written: “Johann König, single, farmer’s son, in the night of January 4th-5th, 1912, strayed in confusion, found frozen in the Vomp Gap and brought home.” In the city one spoke of an epileptic fit or schizophrenia, perhaps brought on by an unknown force of nature. — I.M. Metzler”

Also included in the post is an article written by the blog author’s father and found among his papers, and in English at that. Here with permission:

THE “IRRWURZEL”

TRADITIONAL FOLKLORISTIC INTERPRETATION OF A POSSIBLE

UNKNOWN GEOPHYSICAL PHENOMENON?

By Alois Schönherr

In the Tyrolean, Austrian and German folklore, there is the tradition of the so called “Irrwurzel”, a mythical root, which, if stepped on, allegedly distorts the orientation of the wanderer to such an extent that he or she will become unable to find one’s way even in a perfectly familiar environment. 1)

Alpenburg writing in 1857 relates that according to tradition the Irrwurzel is very frequent in the pastures below the Tratzberg castle, between Schwaz and Jenbach (30 kms east of Innsbruck), “where everybody is careful, not to walk through with bare feet” , but just how it looks – nobody knows. He also writes that “today the Irrwurzel is no longer known” (i.e. the term is not associated with a certain botanically known plant or root) because in 1803 a dying oil-trader from the Ziller-valley burnt the last specimen by order of a priest. 2) It seems that similar to the personifactions of natural forces like wind or ligthtning as gods, the Irrwurzel constitutes a sort of botanic rationalization for certain mysterious effects.

At least in the Tyrol, stories about the Irrwurzel aren’t always located in a vague, hazy, undated past or associated only with unknown persons and places. The following tale, also related by Alpenburg, can be considered as typical:

One day in 1832 at three o’clock in the morning the porter Jakob Tunner from Alpbach departed from the Kupal alp in the Hinterriss with a load of 100 pounds of butter for Jenbach. After a quarter of an hour, fog fell in but the porter proceeded as he knew the way very well, having used it a “thousand times” in both directions before. He walked for hours, but he never reached the pass leading to the Inn-valley. At noon he rested and prayed, then he went on again. Finally, late in the night, he perceived a hut in the distance. It was the Kupal alp, from where he had started twenty hours before. He was so confused that he asked after the name of the alp. The herdsmen there said he must have stepped upon an Irrwurzel. 3)

NOTES AND REFERENCES

1) In Germany the term “Irrfleck” is more popular, which means a definite spot, a sort of haunted place so to say, where orientation is distorted.

2) Alpenburg, Johann Nepomuk Ritter von, Mythen und Sagen Tirols, Verlag von Meyer und Zeller, Zürich 1857, p. 409.

3) Ibid. p. 410

below the Tratzberg castle, between Schwaz and Jenbach (30 kms east of Innsbruck)”