The landscape here in this part what the EU is terming the 'Alpe-Adria' or Alpine Adriatic region is dramatic. Steep-sided valley sides with crystal clear rivers rushing between them, with tractor-activity on the flat valley floors but otherwise 45° farming the old way - livestock - with woodland coming in when this is impractical, up to the tree-line. Just a brief word about the tree-line: if there has been an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, these high trees will benefit. At 2,500m trees grow very slowly due to low CO2 concentrations, and woodland is consequently extremely cheap. More CO2 means quicker growth and, er, more CO2 'locked in'. And an economic benefit in terms of increased timber production.
Environmental quality is really important here. The mountain water is pure enough to drink, and they aim to keep it that way right down to the lakes and reservoirs, so only saily boats or electric-engined craft are generally allowed here. This extends to restricting Nitrate fertilizer use to prevent the run-off that has polluted so much UK water. And if you want instant popularity here, say 'Monsanto' and spit (hygienically, into a container, for safe disposal). They don't like GM, hate the big farming-pharma companies, loathe corporate farmers and love their bees. They could almost be Greens except that you won't find one single bloody windmill anywhere. Not one. Despite all those high mountains and strong winds, the entire skyline remains undespoiled by those useless, absurd, alien objects.
If Hungary is securing 'Home, Work, Family, Health and Order' with the cudgel then Austria uses 'nudge' to promote much the same values. With the memory of Vichy France replacing 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' with 'Work, Family, Fatherland' as a national slogan perhaps in mind, there remains a certain sensitivity here towards anything too prescriptive. It's an odd contrast. As is the almost universal regard for the memory of Jörg Haider I encountered. Five years ago in Lambichl near Klagenfurt he piled and rolled his government-issued car. His death had a sort of JFK impact - of great potential cut short, and like JFK he was swiftly popularly canonised. This video is typical. Quietly, and after half a bottle of Schnapps, even an eminently sensible Ing.Dr. Frau will whisper to you that he was killed.
There is no question about the Roma and the Sinti. They are not wanted here under any circumstances, and all means of keeping them out are regarded as fair. Generally they are picked up on the way in at the borders by the traffic cops, who rarely fail to find fault with their vehicles or documents. Those that get through are watched and caught. Handgun ownership for household protection is common here (each person is allowed one full-calibre pistol or revolver plus another up to .22 calibre) and with the Glock factory nearby, you can pick up a 3rd-generation 9mm Glock G17 for about €300. This may also be a deterrent for any ill-minded Roma.
The attitude to the EU is as ambivalent as everywhere. The strongest 'for' reasons, in order, are Security, Trade and Economy, International influence and the strongest 'anti' reasons in order are Interference in domestic matters, Corruption and pro-Corporatism. The CAP, under which (it is quoted here) France, with 15% of the EU's farmers, gets 70% of the budget, is seen as in need of urgent reform. Small, mixed, traditional farms are the norm here - not by themselves productive enough to sustain a family, but hugely valuable both for cultural and environmental reasons. A secondary income stream from employment, tourism or niche marketing of specialist products is needed to make these small farms sustainable - and if we can do it, they say here, why can't the bloody Kermits?
Oh, and finally smoking. Yes, the Austrians say, it is a bad thing and people should stop. But they must also be free to smoke if they want to. So smoking is banned in public (government) buildings only - but not in bars, hotels or restaurants. If you want a smoke-free coffee, go to the Bahnhof cafe or the Rathauskellar. This is eminently sensible and actually works very well.
It all makes one really wonder why our politicians and civil servants are so bloody stupid.
|"Um, those are what we call clouds, sir"|