Correspondence

Life as a Picture Postcard

Letter From Austria

The girls are in dirndls. Usually pink, with a darker apron and neckerchief and a waist-cinching bodice of black velveteen, buttoned up under old-fashioned chests. Puff-sleeves of white starched blouses. They wear this folkloric costume quite unselfconsciously, about their everyday jobs, in bank or supermarket alike. This is a feminist's nightmare.

The apple-cheeked men are in lederhosen or some dark green Knickerbocker equivalent of the same, laced at the knee and stoutly supported by colorful galluses (Brit braces), with a sort of crossover martingale strap striving to join them in front and keep that beer in order. Under the chestnut trees of the park a brass band brays out oompah-pah Styrian marches while well-behaved, self-possessed blonde children play beside a river, its panes of white water happy to have escaped the gorges above whose snowy peaks and glacial streaks look severely down on mere man.

But it's no good: one can't write about the picture-perfect Salzkammergut any more than one can photograph it, during one of its mountain villages' religious festivals, such as that of Corpus Christi. At some point in such festivities everyone takes to the benches of the Kurpark to scoff bratwurst and beer, the ladies included. Truck drivers and construction workers alike wear some tribute to local costume, generally the so-called Tyrolean hat, showing its variety of shaving brushes in the band. Hansel-and-Gretel...

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