A visit to the Alpine writer Sepp Kahn
A hike which leaves impressions for life
There are days that leave impressions for the rest of your life. Departing early in the day from Kirchberg, I drive with my friend, Reini, to Westendorf and onwards into the Windau valley. At the "Steinberghaus" memories of the good Wiener Schnitzel return to me from my days when I was at my school ski camp. Unfortunately it is too early to stop off here, where the "Brixentaler KochArt" chef, Michael, very consciously cooks with regional produce. At the signpost for the "Adlerweg" the tour continues uphill on foot. In the forest, the track is very narrow which awakens a little feeling of adventure in us. Soon enough there's a golden-yellow shimmer in the moss - wild chanterelle mushrooms!! And with a swift movement the specialities are already in a paper bag! Halfway up we sit on a bench and make ourselves comfortable while enjoying the view of the magnificent westerly Kitzbüheler Alpen - and according to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn's worldly wisdom: "Don't stay on a level field! Don't climb too high! The most beautiful view is to look at the world from somewhere in between!"
Sepp combines zeitgeist and yearnings
Apparently even something more beautiful awaits us! Further up we take photos of small wonders of nature - flora and fauna. And there! The huge bird! An Eagle! Too late with the camera, but by the way the bird of prey floated so majestically through the air, we are sure that that is the king of the Alps! After another stretch through the woodlands we arrive at a large light area. That must be the "Untere Lärchenbergalm", and the three roofs of the mountain hut and barns must be Sepp Kahn's mountain abode.
I became aware of the "Almliteraten" (Alpine writer) a long time ago and chose him as a scriptwriter in 2001 as a guest for a TV show in which he gave Hansi Hinterseer a literary treat. After the broadcast, the ZDF editor inquired about Sepp's contact details, because unusually many German viewers wanted to know more about the bearded mountain man. Clear indications that the Osl farmer from the town of Itter meets the zeitgeist and yearnings of the people. He also recognized these yearnings for himself and fulfilled them.
The magic of this annual Summer residence, occupied by this "master of words", immediately captivates us. Anyone would like to stay here for a longer period of time. The two old wooden fountains with refreshing mountain water are like a friendly welcoming committee. Then the man himself appears at the door, in a green shirt and grey jeans. The man for whom we scrambled up the mountain to visit. "Griaß ench!" - he greets us with the friendly Tyrolean greeting - a reserved and gentle voice coming from his bearded face. Sepp isn't a man of many words. I introduce him to Reini. They get along just fine, because my friend is a joiner / cabinet maker and Sepp loves wood and carving. "Would you like a little schnapps?" Of course! I'd love one! That's the way you're greeted here. And already the homemade schnapps is lining our throats!
The inside of the hut is fascinating and immediately I reach for my camera. Our freshly-picked chanterelles have already filled Sepp's self-carved wooden bowl on the table beside the empty shot glasses - still-life alarm and SNAP! The pick in the chopping block in front of the logs and SNAP! Colourful pots and pans hanging on the walls beside the crafted wooden pieces of art, and SNAP! "I often deliberately look for something useless in the forest," says the Alminger (mountain farmer), "and then I'll make something valuable out of it!" For example, former regular branches and roots now decorate his hut as a special piece of art. They hang between smoked cured sausages and smoked bacon, as well as a collection of bizarre, wooden cooking instruments. "Not everything always conforms to the norm in life and yet it can be valuable," says the philosopher. He escapes the norm too, here in the solitude of the mountain pastures. Sepp finds it interesting that older farmers advised him to enlarge the farm pasture, while his visitors again increasingly appreciate such simplicity! So there's something going on! "I live here deliberately behind the times," he says. "One has to take a step back if he wants to move forward!" All such thoughts came to him here, where he also wrote his iconic book "Almtagebuch" (Diary of life on a mountain farm). Featuring in his book is also a mention of the EU "When an important person in Brussels speaks, then our representatives all say - Yes! Perhaps they will discover at a later stage what was actually said".
There are people who have money, but don't have any cheese
Regardless of how low the milk price drops, our "Alminger" continues with the next stage of his cheese production! On with the cap and he scoops the whey out of the large copper vat with the ladle, covers the white-yellowish coloured treasure, cleans the vat and opens the door to the fridge. Sepp doesn't need a specific cooling system as the natural old stoned-walls provide the perfect temperature to enable the 80 or so wheels of cheese to mature.
Does he sell his cheese to hikers up here as well? " Yes," jokes Sepp. "There are people who have money, but they don't have any cheese. And I have cheese!" In the middle of our laughter, the rumble of my stomach combines with the smell of the cheese. "Ah, you're hungry then. Would you like a miasl?" Sepp gets a fire going in the old stove and makes a Rahm-Miasl for all of us - a typical farmer's meal made of flour and cream. The Maitre de la Cuisine mixes everything together in a pan and places it and a bowl of cranberry jam in the middle of the table. Each with a spoon, we help ourselves to the food, and drink freshly tapped milk - not from a barrel, but directly from the cows' udders. Sepp's animals are next on his list to be cared for. The cows and goats expect, and get, a few personal words and lovable pats from him. The piglets too look forward to a visit from the boss, and greet him with encouraging grunts.
Reini enquires about the surrounding mountains as four mountain bikers fight their way uphill in their combat suits and suppress the panting that would actually relieve them. They too, it seems, want to be acknowledged by Sepp. "Griaß Ench!" Sepp is also a mind-reader or at least can read what the beads of sweat on their foreheads mean. "Are you thirsty?" and straight away they too are sitting with their sleek sunglasses and well-trained calf muscles with a glass of milk in their hand in the beautiful shade of the hut. At my request, the poet recites his poem "Radlfahrn" (Cycling) at his best and when he describes the Tour de farce from the perspective of a mountain biker, Sepp himself gets a fit of laughter!
„… Dern Moment, du heiliger Hümmi, fahscht neben dir so a Trümmi a Radl vi, und wer huckt drof? S’Leiwei vorn oichi aweach off, a Weiwaleit, tuat an Deiter, und fahscht gneatig weiter. Ma, de Figur, die Formen - ma gwascht an Schub, an ganz enormen, Kraft schiasst wieda a die Wadln, direkt an Hupf tuats Radl, ma weascht der Feschn gneatig iatza nachipreschn. Die Mattheit is total verschwunden, weicht einer Euphorie sehr bunten, tuat die Phantasie beflügeln, man muass die Gedanken eisern zügeln, sich aufs Radl konzentriern, die letzten Kräfte mobilisiern ...“.
Talking about cows, grass, God and the world
The easy-going, lightness of this beautiful Alpine mountain farm has settled in on us, our stomachs full of miasl weighing us down as we lie on our backs in the meadow, the cat purring like a motor enjoying our tickles. We've moved out of the shade to the sunny side of the hut and then someone suggests a round of cards. And then as Sepp describes in his "Almtagebuch": "Despite fierce opposition from our opponents, we eventually succeed in winning one Euro. Incidentally, of course, we talked about cows, grass, God and the world". Sepp confides in us: "I've always remained uncomplicated. That way I always have enough. Satisfaction is the most important thing in life".
Enriched with such valuable insights, it will finally be time to say "Pfiati, Sepp!" (the Tyrolean farewell). And we must leave the Alpine writer in his paradise. While our farewell brings a sense of regret, perhaps Sepp makes the entry in his diary "Reini, the cabinet maker and Edi, the writer were here. Enjoyed the peace. Still have a lot to learn. Otherwise they would stay here for the whole Summer".
Recommended reading: „Almtagebuch“ by Sepp Kahn, Berenkamp Verlag 2003
Current: „Ein Bauer auf Kur“, Berenkamp Verlag 2014
TEXT: EDUARD EHRLICH
PHOTOS: EDUARD EHRLICH
DATE OF PUBLICATION: MAY 2014
Storyteller, scriptwriter, co-publisher and author of the print magazine 'Bei ins dahoam'. more details