Summiteers: What does Europe need the Alps for?

by | 27. August 2018

Henar Mountain Pasture | From 13 to 16 August, the European Public Sphere-Dome stood on the Henar mountain pasture between the peaks of the so-called Dead Mountains. This stop in the border region of Styria and Upper Austria is part of our tour on the occasion of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. One of our initiative’s aim is also to visit such special places and to sound out the questions that arise for Europe there. Edda Dietrich reports on her impressions.
Actually, the idea is crazy: The European Public Sphere on the Henar mountain pasture in the Alps at 1638 meters. Between cows and goats in the so called Dead Mountains in Austria, it will advocate for an undestroyed nature that must be preserved. A task for us people in Europe.

That fits.

But: 1000 meters of altitude lie ahead of me. I start the ascent with the dome builder Christian at Grundlsee, which lies at 600 metres. The info sign to the Henar pasture shows 3.5 hours. As I am untrained and coming from my desk, I expect five to six hours,  Let’s go!

After half an hour of ascending, the first doubts come to me. Pretty steep here. I am out of breath. Continue. Step by step I fight my way up. Christian waits patiently, affectionately he encourages me every 50 meters: “You can do it.” Then we’re really done with the first ascent through the forest.

My companion points upwards. “That’s where we have to go.” I see only steep rock faces. “Absolutely not, I can’t do that. I’ll descend again.”

But we climb on. The sun is burning. Good-natured clouds provide shade from time to time.

Video from the Dome Talk on 14 August 2018
“The Alps have divided Europe for a long time. As a result, different cultures and traditions have developed. Today we benefit from this diversity. It is this diversity that makes Europe special, the different characteristics, the linguistic diversity that is also being cultivated. Tradition and openness to otherness are what it’s all about.”

Albert Appelhaus

Then Josef, the hut warden of the Henar pasture hut and also a dome builder, jumps towards us: “Only a few more turns and that steep part, then you have the hardest part behind you”.

Psychologically adept but factually not quite right.

It doesn’t matter. Finally we reach the longed-for plateau and Josef smiles: “Here begins our wonderland: Now we still have to go through 16 kare. Kare means cavities on mountain slopes below peak and ridge levels that have been excavated by short glaciers,” he explains.
I ask him: “Sixteen? – After 8 hours I see a small wooden hut with a waving flag. Finally.

Sebastian hands me a lemonade, while Pavel and Peko reach for the guitar. They sing the song of the Henar alp. What a welcome. A violent mountain thunderstorm comes up.

Great timing, I think – and: I sit.

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The next day  we walk up together to the Albert-Appel-Haus in light rain, a comfortable shelter for the many mountain hikers. It’s about 15 minutes by foot – even for my tired feet no great effort anymore.

I look up and there it is: the dome. Like a polished diamond, it is enthroned on the rock prominence. I pause.

In the afternoon we find ourselves under the dome. We hope the weather will hold up. A moment ago it rained and for the first time in weeks in this hot summer I am cold.
Joseph welcomes us. Above all it is his friends, but also Kara from the Appel-house has come. Ari’s dog causes a bit of anxiety, but then we find ourselves in the middle of the conversation.

That is how after my first mountain ascent I sit in a strange place and only now find the strength to enjoy the landscape around me. A slight feeling of pride creeps in about having managed this. But I am even more touched by the conversation that is now developing. Simple and straightforward.

I feel how nature takes effect and how we are less concerned with ourselves than with what the Alps give us: the power of the heights, the hard work and freedom of the alpine farmers, the diversity of their languages and traditions. – What does Europe need the Alps for?

Then Darko breaks this intimacy with a few sentences: “I’ve lived in Europe for 11 months during the Bosnian war.” His insertion contains no complaint, but the idea of child benefit for all children in Europe. He knows what matters.

The next day I am woken up by the loud rotor blades of the helicopters. They fly the elderly up to the Albert-Appel-Haus, where today a Holy Mass is celebrated on the occasion of  Virgin Mary’s Assumption. On this day the dome does not stand around alone. About 80 people align themselves on the small slope towards the dome, in which a small altar has been built.

The next day – Assumption Day – the Dome becomes the host of an alps service. 
I don’t know whether I like it or not. To me, the dome rather symbolizes the overcoming of religions and now there is this Catholic altar.
But the young chaplain with his smartish sunglasses reconciles me when starts speaking: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them”.

To me, that is the idea of the dome. The creating power working around us, but the Holy Spirit in every person, that is, the divine in every one of us. To me, that is is what needs to be done, to recognize the Christ, the Mary, the Buddha or Allah, the Holy Spirit in every human being and to let it effectuate. I think that is how we could gradually overcome religion and approach the true nature of democracy.

Yes, perhaps the height of the Alps was needed to know that again this certainly.

Some impressions from our visit to the alp: