The villains are the 'professional' bee keepers. Like many Austrians, they've become used over the past twenty years to high incomes for little work. So they keep more hives than they can manage, don't have time for the hour a week hygiene routine that each hive needs, and the Varroa parasite loads on their colonies (or 'bee people' in the local lingo) are through the roof. Their answer to high Varroa mortality is to keep even more bees and factor the loss of up to 20% of hives, like Great War generals throwing whole divisions into the slaughter. Secondly, they're too greedy for the valuable honey, and don't leave the bees enough of their own to get through the harsh -20deg winters, substituting with cheap sucrose the healthy gold they overharvest. Thirdly, they want to introduce the higher yielding Buckfast bee to force out the Carniolan natives. All to help maintain their income. I'm pleased to say they've been seen off for now, but we're all watching like hawks as no-one trusts them an inch.
The fruit growers are the same. They've introduced foreign heavier cropping varieties that bud and flower much earlier in the season than the native plants, which have learnt over several thousand years all about late frosts. The consequence is inevitable; a late frost decimates their foreign fruit crops and they whine for compensation. It's greed. It's just happened again.
This is macho country, where a man needs to be a man and must drive a 4 x 4 resembling a Humvee and weighing two tonnes to prove it. They all lie that of course they've bought them for cash, but most know that they're all purchased under the universal 5 year leases that keep the motor industry afloat. More debt.
This is a protectionist economy where no-one has to work too hard. Estate agent fees are fixed by law at 3%, so they don't even have to pretend to be competitive and the product is dire. Property adverts on the web are often little more than a couple of blurred and wonky cellphone pictures and a couple of lines of text - why should they bother?
The generation at fault is the boomers, roughly my own age cohort. Their parents proudly owned without debt their own homes, many of them small hobby farms, frequently with enough land for the son or daughter to build their own home on when they married, but always fully owned. Then came the pre-2008 financial tsunami with the crooked, now bust, Alpe Adria bank lending absurd huge sums for junk security. And boy did the younger Austrians load up on debt. The end result is most of that previously debt-free real estate is now heavily mortgaged. One generation has squandered the wealth of all its forebears, and now has nothing but debt and liability to pass on. A jerk in interest rates, a shock to the shaky debt structure and the whole lot will come tumbling down.
Austria is a country that's quite good at forgetting. In this case, they want to forget that the country was actually quite poor until the last generation; my cousins here used a horse until the 1980s for farm muscle, and their mother lived her life in a wooden blockhouse with an outside lavvy and the cowshed connected by passage to the kitchen. However, their reluctance to admit the recent past (even more than the more distant past) is mistaken - it's not the past rural poverty that's shameful, but the current debt and greed. They're unwilling to work for competitive rates, and rely on protectionist measures including the Finance Police raiding firms using cheaper Slovenian workers, but such measures are doomed to failure.
There's an article in the Telegraph by Peter Foster that I commend. And yes, I blame the EU for the coming earthquake; they bought the silence of Europe's people with crooked bribes and false wealth. They have destroyed whole countries and communities in their lust for power, and the bill is still to pay. No wonder they're terrified by Brexit into drunken braggadocio.
|The horse was called Lottie. Shamed that I can't readily recall my cousin's name|