Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Alpine Adventures Online

Michael and I just read the ninteenth-century novella Bergkristall by Adalbert Stifter. We read it in an English translation (as Rock Crystal) by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore. The story takes place in (mostly) the area between two small Austrian towns that sit at the foot of a snow-capped mountain. The physical description of the area, and the cultural matters between the two towns reminded me of the culture of Schladming, the small town where I worked from September of 1980 through August of 1981. It was still a small town then. Everyone knew everyone.

I was curious to see the location of the two towns in the story, so I looked for them in Google Maps. The town called Millsdorf (literally Mill-town) is purely fictional, and the other, called Gshaid, has a name similar to a town in the region around Schladming. From that, I imagined that the mountain might have been the Dachstein, the mountain the loomed large over Schladming, because it is the only glacier in that part of Austria.

I wondered if there might be any connection between Adalbert Stifter and Schladming.

And then I found a street named after him there!

I did a search for Stifter and Ramsau, the plateau above Schladming that leads to the Dachstein, and I found this:

The plot thickens. This fantastic writer was also a painter.

In a search for Stifter and Dachstein, I learned that Stifter was very close friends with Friedrich Simony, the first person to cross the Dachstein glacier (in 1842). It was through Stifter's writing and artwork that Simony, the Dachstein, and its environs became widely known.

This excerpt from Adalbert Stifter: A Critical Study by Eric Blackall does have a few spoilers, but it clearly identifies the Dachstein-specific inspiration for the story.

Here are some posts about Schladming, and here's a link to a post about a piece of music I wrote for wind ensemble called "The Dachstein."

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