Saturday, August 2, 2008

The trip - Number 3

A day off

We spent a lot of time on the bus, and the bus driver (for one) needed a break. So from Wednesday lunchtime until Thursday lunchtime we were free to wander the local area.

There wasn't much to see in the village of Lechaschau, so we took a little walk to the next town of


After the mostly red-brick terraced houses of the UK, everything here is much cleaner and brighter. The houses are generally not only painted, but ornately decorated.

Not just here in Reutte, but pretty well everywhere we went. And not just important and special touristy buildings, but almost all of the buildings are decorated, often quite extravagantly.

There are churches everywhere, and frequently with the 'funny-hat' thing on top. The gold ball under the cross at the top traditionally contains the town plans ... the idea being that in the event of an avalanche and the town being buried this part will stick up above the snow and guide rescuers to find survivors.

In fact, preparation for avalanches is paramount in these parts. The roads we travelled along went through innumerable tunnels, most of them 'avalanche tunnels' built over the road up against the mountains to keep the roads open in the case of an avalanche. There were also 'avalanche gates' like leaning-over fences on the steeper mountainsides along the road.

We were also very curious about the little hooks and rails we saw on many roofs. Apparently when it snows they want to keep the snow ON the roof, to a depth of about 18 inches, because it's an excellent insulator.

So there were other interesting things around Reutte, like these four sun-dial type clocks on the wall. Fortunately it was a sunny day.

There were some over sized flowerpots,

and some other interesting statues.

Apparently the Austrians are very religious, more than 80% being Catholic, and in the first few years of their working life they are encouraged to sign a covenant with the church where a portion of their wages will be garnished automatically for the rest of their lives - so the churches are generally not short of funds!

There are crucifixes (and crosses too) everywhere, on street corners with a little roof to protect them in the weather, all sorts of places. So we were a little puzzled by this one on one of the street corners in Reutte.

Locked away in his own little glass window, still bruised and bleeding and sitting on his cross, with a palm tree beside him ... I don't know. Sad? definitely. Bored maybe? Fed up of being portrayed on the cross when everyone knows he is alive?

So then we went to visit


This is one of those incredibly picturesque touristy places. It's famous for the Passion Play that is put on there every ten years, using only local actors. It's a very big deal, and all the local men start growing their hair a year before the play - the next one is in 2010, and tickets are now on sale. In 1633 the people of Oberammergau promised to do this if God would save their town from the ravages of the plague at that time. The following year the stage was erected over the fresh graves of the plague victims, and the tradition lives on today.

Anyway, it's a beautiful place.

The compulsory flower decorations are even gaudier than in other towns,

and the house frescoes are even more elaborate.

Not all of them are religious, like Little Red Riding Hood depicted on this kindergarten.

And, of course there was a church, with an ornate graveyard

and the inevitable amazing decorations inside.

Then there were all the little tourist shops, like the Christmas Shop.

Crosby and Susanne were sorely tempted by the Cuckoo Clocks.

Then there was this shop with an incredible range of wicked ice creams for a remarkably cheap price!

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