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By Bob Berwyn
Not as much content as usual on Summit Voice this week, but that’s because we were busy reporting elsewhere, with a few noteworthy stories. For example, Austria is holding a presidential election tomorrow (Sunday, Dec. 4) and the election of Donald Trump became an issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. I co-reported a story on the election with the European bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor, including an interview with an American expat involved in the campaign.
Most of my photography focuses on natural landscapes, and I often try to set up and compose images to avoid human intrusion. That’s because I figure the human species has pretty much become a destructive parasite on the Earth, for the most part only taking, without giving anything back. But there are places where people live in harmony with their surroundings; where structures are built on a scale that doesn’t suggest dominance. I found a few places like that this summer while touring around Austria doing research for the Global Warming in the Alps project, for example the roadside farmhouse nestled into the hillside in the first image, or the Almtalerhaus, a mountain refuge and restaurant in the Salzkammergut lakes region of Upper Austria. As well, the Dachstein Lodge am Krippenstein is a rebuilt shelter that fits well on its mountaintop perch, rather than looming ostentatiously over the slopes like so many other new mountain lodges. We’re all going to have to try and live on a more human scale if we’re going to get serious about creating a sustainable future for our kids.
Summer swimming hole along a side arm of the Danube River, near Vienna.
Sunshine at the Langbathsee.
Sundown, you better take care …
Long exposure moonrise.
Heading into the short days of mid-winter, it’s always nice to take a look back at the summer that was. It’s a little easier, with distance, to appreciate the blessings of being able to swim in clean rivers, lakes and oceans, to hike in clean, fresh mountain air, or to take golden grasses ripening under a summer sun. The world has changed immensely in the last few months, and not in a good way, which makes me cherish the memories even more because it’s not at all certain that the world will continue to be as open and friendly as it has been the past few decades. Dark, cold winds are blowing, and a rotten brown political slime is oozing back out of the cracks of history. Tra-la-laaing around the world isn’t going to cut it anymore. We all need to take personal responsibility now to try and shape the world of tomorrow. Please read last week’s Sunday Set for more information.
Most days, the street in front of the Austrian parliament is filled with tourists taking pictures of the archittecture, but on this blustery early spring evening, thousands demonstrated against a proposed government crackdown on refugees.
Kids know no borders — and that’s the way it should be.
Police maintain a buffer zone between left- and right-wing demonstraters in Vienna.
Refugees seek entry into the West at the border of Austria and Slovenia in November 2015.
Don’t take freedom to travel for granted.
By Bob Berwyn
The Summit Voice Sunday Set is set aside for scenic landscape shots or nature photo essays, which is usually a nice break from the previous week’s news. But today we have a public service announcement instead. Travel as we know it is threatened by a rising tide of right-wing, nationalistic populism around the world.
Living in the new political post-factual, post-truth era is going to require journalists to take their game to a much higher level if they want to regain credibility with readers who have come to distrust any source outside their immediate cybernews bubble. Travel writers could be a big part of the much-needed journalism revival. Nobody is in a better position to help show how interconnected the world has become in the past few decades. It’s an illusion to think that what happens in one country won’t affect many others. Continue reading “Sunday set: Eyes wide open”→
All mountain ranges have to end somewhere, and for the Alps, the eastern terminus is the Wienerwald, a chain of rolling, low-slung hills on the outskirts of Vienna that drop down to the Danube Basin along a tectonic escarpment marked by a series of hot- and cold-water springs. It’s a geological and biological transition zone, where the rather moist and cool climate of northwestern Europe gives way to the drier regime of the Pannonian Basin to the southeast, including the Hungarian Puszta. Continue reading “Sunday set: Wienerwald”→
A beech forest in Thayatal National Park, along the border of Austria and Czechia.
Mountain view in Gesäuse National Park, in the central Austrian Alps.
Along the Grossglocknerstrasse, in the Hohe Tauern National Park.
The Neusiedler Lake, in eastern Austria.
Donau-Auen National Park, along the Danube River near Vienna.
During the past few months I’ve been able to visit several of Austria’s national parks, including the Donau Auen, a spectacular bosque river landscape that starts practically in downtown Vienna and extends all the way to the border with Slovakia. The Donau Auen is one of the biggest remaining natural river landscapes in central Europe and stands as testament to the power of grassroots activism. When plans for a giant hydropower plant were revealed in the early 1980s, students, teachers, artists and others banded together to occupy the area, eventually winning the public relations battle and leading to preservation of the area.
While Austria is best known for its mountain landscapes, the Neusiedler See is located on the eastern border of Austria, where the mountains tilt away to the great steppes of the northernmost Balkan region. The other two parks in shown in this set are in the heart of Austria’s Alps, featuring classic mountain landscapes. Most Austrian parks are just a few decades old and were inspired by national parks in the U.S. Indeed, the concept of public places as showcases of ecological diversity and preservation is probably one of America’s best exports.
Danube Pano from Aggstein Castle looking across at Willendorf.
Most travelers have heard of the Wachau region. The fertile hillsides along the Danube River have long been designated as a World Heritage region for its cultural and natural landscapes. But just across the river is another slice of forest, the Dunkelsteinerwald, that’s not quite as famous but just as beautiful. On a mid-October weekend, we hiked from the pilgrimage town of Maria Langegg up the restored Aggstein Castle, which was built in the 12th century. Like many others along the Danube, the castle was an outpost for charging toll to passing ships, a payment made in exchange for maintaining the paths along the shore that were used to tow ships upstream. But the area was inhabited long before that, with signs of civilization dating back to the Celtic era — and long before. Just across the river, construction workers in 1908 unearthed the famed Venus of Willendorf, a prehistoric fertility figurine dating back to about 25,000 BC.