European Wilderness Volunteer DiaryThe Diary of the European Wilderness Society Volunteers

A dose of time travel

Rebecca Hollely

Medieval festival, an unconventional workout and an electric fence.

Saturday was a case in point of why I love my team, and their wild spontaneity. I woke up to a text from Max asking if I wanted to join them on a trip to Mauterndorf Medieval Festival.

I didn’t have to think twice, my answer was a solid yes. Mauterndorf is perhaps the prettiest village in the Lungau, with a castle in the centreof the village. I had been there briefly a few weeks ago when the team all went out for pizza (second reason to love my team, we go out for pizza!) The opportunity to go back was not something I wanted to miss, even without ‘Medieval Festival’ tagged on the end of the question.

We were running late, and as I jumped in the car Anni said that we would arrive with one minute to spare. I was confused, we had to be there at a certain time? Well. Turns out we were travelling to the festival on a STEAM TRAIN. I was giddy… if you’d compared me to a kid in a sweetshop, I’d have been more excited. It was a beautiful train, with bright green carriages and we stood up in the front carriage with the wind in our hair. The train chugged along the countryside – it’s a 10km journey to Mauterndorf which took us around 40 minutes. The train took us along the river, and you could really feel the train chugging and rattling, particularly up the hills. It made you appreciate the art of travelling back in the old days, where every journey would take an age and all you could do was admire the scenery. I loved it; I had a huge, uncontrollable smile that stretched ear to ear.

It was like time travel. Whisked 100 years into the past on the steam train and then dropped off in the Medieval era. The festival itself was more excitement. I didn’t know where to look first… we arrived and there so many people were wearing medieval garb. Lots of townspeople had stalls, we walked in and immediately I was being asked to visit the medieval wash house and foot spa, by a sprightly man who looked (to my eyes) straight off a Shakespearean stage. I denied, knowing I was too ticklish to sit and have someone rub my feet.

Everywhere there wafted delicious smells – lots of traditional Austrian Medieval foods such as meat, bread and cheeses, but there was also soup, served inside a bread roll, homemade donuts, strawberry lemonade, and alcohol. I tried schnapps made with the sap of larch trees (delicious) and wandered around soaking it all in.

I lingered over crafty stalls, and we visited the camp where travelers had pitched their (medieval-style) tents and made themselves at home. The town is small, but every time we returned to a street there was something new – an acrobat troop reenacting Romeo and Juliet, knight fights with armour, a marching band, a flag dancing troop. This involved juggling flags, and generally being very co-ordinated and impressive.

The whole day was a lot of excitement, it wiped me out completely but I had that happy glow that comes from good days.. a glow I’m beginning to associate with Austria.

Days are flying by

Monday we were sat in the office, happily beavering away and then all of a sudden we get a delivery. I thought I had misheard, when he said 700kg. That’s right. 700kg. The deliveryman very kindly left it in front of the building, on a pallet that had broken under the weight, and we all stood and stared at it with a mixture of shock and horror. It was unexpected, but more worryingly, we had to get it up the stairs and somehow fit it in the office. This was our emergency fencing kits, which I mentioned in Week 3. We were staring at six of the kits, which meant six aluminium boxes filled with blue fences and all the tranklements necessary to electrify it.

There was a lot of head scratching and debate and some panicked phoning to Max who conveniently was in a meeting with no phone signal. Verena joked about calling the local gym, getting the bodybuilders over for a change in their gym routines. Tempting.

But there was nothing for it, we pulled the packaging off, and started to pull out the gear. They were too heavy to carry with all the fencing in, so we removed the battery (a hefty 15kg) and the fences (6 in a box, each 8kg) and started carrying the boxes upstairs. Workout for the day, check. Very full office, check.

And so amidst the fencing boxes, we carried on with the weeks work. It was a quiet week for me personally, although I was aware that Max and Anni were working crazy long hours trying to keep on top of everything. Unfortunately they were working in German, and again my string of impractical German words was like a bit of plankton in comparison to their whale of language. Coincidentally, the words ‘plankton’ and ‘whale’ are the same in English and German.

Wednesday was quite literally field trip day. We spent a few hours in a field in the rain with a local farmer, learning how to put the fences up. There were a few curious sheep gawking at us, and we practiced putting the fences up straight, and then electrifying them. It took me back to GCSE physics, where we learnt about circuits. The farmer was speaking German and I tried to follow, watching which cables connected together, connected to the battery, the earthing poles, the fence… Circuits, mechanics, how things work is not my strong point. It wasn’t until we started to pack it all up that I began to grasp how it all connected to make a current. Now the trick is to keep the knowledge in my brain until it’s needed.

The rest of the week was back in the office, and I spent it editing and faffing with websites (very enjoyable), and beginning to think about the Wilderness Academy Days we’ll organise for 2019. Exciting developments!

I realise I’ve written the word exciting several times in this post, but reading back over, it really is the most appropriate word, and the only one that really describes the combination of giddy smile and fluttery hope I feel about the future. I focus on the positives, both in my writing and in real life, and it’s this attitude that keeps me going. So whilst I do still feel sad, lonely, anxious etc. I choose to write about the happier parts of my week. And for now, the good feelings are outweighing the bad feelings, and I’m grateful for this. There will be mountains and valleys to climb this year, literally and metaphorically, but I look forward to them.