Lifted gently and efficiently by Lufthansa’s local jets from Birmingham to Linz via Frankfurt. “Ja zu Fra”: the busy hub where I just have enough time to make the twisting up and down journey between gates; hoping my luggage made it too (it actually didn’t last time and caught up with me later).
To a place where the sky and heaven are called the same thing, so that every time I think or talk about the sky I am also reminded of Heaven. It’s not a bad thing, when I think about it. Maybe we have too many words in English. Or not enough.
This is a return trip for me. I have seen this region in different seasons – and every one suits it. The dark skies (Heavens), clearly visible constellations and amounts of snow in one overnight fall that would (and does) bring my country to a chaotic standstill are routine here and decorate the rolling countryside magnificently.
This is spring. Frost overnight and sharp, sweet taste air in the morning giving way to warm breezes and horizon to horizon sun. It is at least warm, but in the valleys – and streets – sheltered from wind, summer promise heats up the skin. There are big buds on trees, white blossom, cherry and almond, but the winter-frames of the trees remain; giving good views of the steep gorge-granite sides and the wildflowers (Ramsons, stitchwort, primroses, speedwell,) that punctuate so perfectly the sward and woodland floor.
The patchwork, hedge less spaces with a mixture of woodland, meadow and pasture are manicured, well managed. Rural roads that are not edged with footpaths and the blacktop falls away, usually down into grass, where every now and then – though not often – long eared deer graze. Are they aware, I wonder of the hunter-towers that are planted in forest edges?
Everyone is friendly, welcoming; big smiles, polite and more. Doors are opened and they practice perfect murder with big portions of coffee, delicious cake, local beer and fruit schnapps on willing victims. Resistance is futile and will and common sense are overwhelmed. Hospitality rolls along and around me, carries me like the rivers would. Deep, apparently calm but with a force that has carved countryside and still carries the big-water barges that make our own narrow boats seem insignificant. Long-run waters. From the air, between wisps of cloud, these boats take wide corners and look like wingless aircraft fuselages, their wakes perfectly symmetrical, reaching big banks of silvered waters. Some kind of science fiction transport system.
Mischievously I think to myself that there are two lies: the main river is not blue … and it is not the Danube. (Why do we call it so in England?)
Robber barons were here, their haunts remain; high and less threatening perhaps… but doubt not their potential. History is still quarried from the ground, ground down, laid out and lined.
The plant we call cowslips peeps happily up from the spaces between the granite and swarms across grass that carpets orchards. Here it is known as Heaven’s keys.
How apt is that?