I have been in Austria for the past week. Here are my observations:
- Landscape: The Germanic aesthetic insists that landscape should be beautiful. Trees seem to grow as if by permission only. It is, by and large, a man-made landscape, and it is beautiful. It can only be kept that way by industrious care, and probably more rural subsidies than the Scottish economists who run Canada would allow. But the subsidies to rural farmers appear to buy relentless energy in land improvement. Example: a pasture will tend over time to have thistles and other plant life inedible to cows, unless they are removed by the farmer. In Austria they are removed, and cow pastures are large lawns. In Canada they are not, not because our farmers are lazy, but because they have not thought to do so.
- Machines: They love machines. It is tractor-heaven. Every little farm has at least three of them. Plus numerous hay tedders, tossers, wagons, rear cutters, side cutters, manure spreaders, wagons with small crane log-grabbers and things whose function I could not figure out. My host’s neighbour has an upland farm. I went into the machine shed. Six chain saws. Immense amounts of tools, mostly powered by gasoline or electricity, all neatly arranged on shelves. This farmer’s arrangements and tool array were typical.
- Meat: It is okay in German lands to eat meat and to enjoy it guiltlessly. Pork especially: hams, prosciuttos, salamis, sausages. Entire restaurants serve nothing but cold cuts, fat spreads, boiled eggs and a few token vegetables, served with potatoes and dark breads. I love it.
- Beer: Need I say anything more?
- Smoking: They smoke a lot. Guiltlessly. I don’t smoke but I enjoy the attitude.
- Greetings: They seem to greet one another a lot, and nicely too. In southern German lands it is “Gruss Gott” [greet God – meaning, I think, “I greet you in the name of God”] or “grusti” [Ich grusse dich – I greet thee] is more religious than the “good day” of English, north German and Scandinavian habits.
- Horses: They breed and ride them at all social levels able to own a field.
- Industriousness: They get the job done. They till and mow their fields, cull their forests, and build more and better machines to get the job done faster and better so they can have time to drink, smoke, and eat meat. It is no accident that Canada’s Frank Stronach, the car parts billionaire, is Austrian. He has a nation of tool builders and tool users behind him.
- Nature: See landscape. They go out into it and hike, climb, ski, walk, ride. They have national hiking societies more on the scale of the Red Cross or the Rotarians than our pokey little Alpine Clubs.
What’s not to like?