I suppose some of your memories and experiences are connected with certain smells. Especially those from your childhood, because a child can feel different smells more intensively than an adult. When I visited the region Mostviertel in Lower Austria, I did not expect at all that this trip would be some kind of a return to my childhood just because of the smells.
The region is bordered by the Danube and the foothills of the Alps. The southern part has an Alpine character with steep green valleys and crystal clear lakes. The north is characterized by modest hillocks, colourful small fields and endless fruit gardens. Here my memories of my childhood began to unfold, especially those of summer holidays which I used to spend with my grandparents in a small village Zastavka in South Moravia. The landscape, which I am still keeping in my mind, is very similar to that one that spread in front of me in the Mostviertel.
The smell of the apple cider
My grandparents lived in a house with a garden. There were several apple trees in the garden. When the time came, we picked apples, my grandpa fumigated a big demijohn with sulphur, prepared the press and we began to tap the apple cider (mosht – as they say in Moravia). I was waiting impatiently for the first drops of the fresh juice with amber colour flowing from the press, it was delicious – which wasps knew as well, they were always impudently flying around. The whole procedure of the juice pressing came back to my memories when we were having a taste of the famous „Most“ (cider or perry) on several places in the Mostviertel. The name of the region actually comes from this heavy juice made there. Fruit trees were blooming here even in the stone age. In the first half of the 20. C there were 838 must trees growing here on 1 km²! After the Second World War lots of trees were cut down, must lose its attractiveness. But in the last two decades, the tradition was restored and now it is the largest unbroken region of pear trees in the whole of Europe. The number is estimated: 300 000 trees! They are growing on steep slopes as well, have typical gnarled trunks and create romantic, picturesque sceneries in every season. The perry is most common, which is rather unique, because everywhere in Europe mostly apples are pressed for juice. After the pressing they store the juice in fermentation tuns for 2-8 weeks, then they filter and clean it. The result is a light yellow beverage, its flavour is mild, not too sour. In the past, it was a popular drink for quenching thirst, but ambitious producers called „Mostbaronen“ (must barons) made a well-liked local speciality out of it. They produce apple, pear and also mixed ciders. This drink has not only a low alcohol content (4-8%), but also fewer calories than other alcoholic drinks. Also, it has a lot of minerals and vitamins.
©: Franz Weingartner
The smell of the mown grass
My grandpa kept rabbits. We often took a small cart, a scythe and a sickle and went to mow the grass. When we came back, I ran to the rabbit hutch and immediately started to pass the best pieces (dandelion leaves) through the wire netting of the hutch, watching the rabbits how they moved their tiny muzzles by chewing a longleaf. The smell of the freshly mown grass blew up on me in the small village Oponitz, right in the first Austrian school of mowing! I am not joking! Such a kind of school really exists! In the Mostviertel. Mr Johann Lueger organizes one day courses of mowing, which are visited mostly by businessmen and managers who bought cottages with land in some rural areas. They have to mow their yards. They want to do it by themselves as a kind of relaxation, but if they really do not know how to mow properly, they are afraid to disgrace themselves in the eyes of local people. So they have a possibility to learn it in this school – and not only how to hold the scythe, but also how to hammer and sharpen it. We tried to mow as well. I have to praise myself, I did it very well – no wonder, I picked it up by watching my grandpa doing it so many times, although he only allowed me to use the sickle and only from time to time… But I knew that after swishing, the scythe must not fly up in the air – as some people from our group did.