Thursday, August 13, 2009

Strohlehen Alm

Our last stop on the trip through the alps was Dorfgastein. We  first came here in 2005 and have loved it so much that we have visited again in 2006 and 2008. It is a tiny, tiny town and there is nothing to do here (perhaps that is why we love it so much!). The kids walk down to the drugstore in  town and buy candy by themselves and then walk over to the giant chess set and play in the town square. We go hiking around the green green hills or swim in the pool. This time we were only coming for three days and rain was forecast for all of them.
So at a break in the weather, we were thrilled to catch a ride with the Bukovics up to the Strohlehen alm. An alm is a mountain farm, and at least nowadays they also function as rest stops or destinations for hikers or agritourism. I had wanted to come to this alm because here they make their own cheese and hold demonstrations every Friday. Unfortunately we weren't there for a demonstration, but that will be a good reason to return.
They have a few animals and make and serve their own farm lunches. Here the boys are playing in the water trough that cools the beers, milk, etc. You can see the tables with people eating, playing Settlers of Catan and admiring the stellar scenery in the background.
Inside, Maria is showing me the colossal copper pot they use to make cheese. Thanks to Saydi, I've made cheese now a few times -- I find it daunting with one gallon of milk; I cannot imagine making it in huge batches like the Mairs do. Note the cool oven here with  ceramic tiles, and generally the interiors. These farms are as old as the hills, pretty literally. Through the generations, the names of the families have sometimes changed, and Rob noted that in the town cemetery, people actually had both their family name and the name of the alm or establishment on their headstones as if it were a title.
The alm had something for everyone. It had quite a few things for  Joss.
Maddie made friends with Shira, the alm's  doorbell and crumb snitcher. She was a love.
Here is Herr Mair, who must have thought we were such kooky tourists, taking pictures of everything, but truly, you ask for it if you wear lederhosen and a hat in these  environs. Actually, if you wear lederhosen anywhere you're asking for pictures!
This was our plate of bauern essen. There is sausage and bacon, local,  their homemade butter and cheese,  veggies and their own spreads. One of the spreads was called potato cheese in translation, but I think it is akin to a pureed potato salad.  Maria told me it used sour cream and it was awfully good.
Here Harald is chopping up his bacon with his own scary mountain man knife. Harald and Maria have been our hosts in the past and it was Harald who showed Rob how to play the lethal Austrian version of horseshoes. This time I got them to tell me how they met. Maria grew up in the house and pension that she now runs, Haus Tirol. She met Harald when she and some friends went to the bar, literally next door. She also had two cats in tow, who used to follow her everywhere. She's like Mary Had a Little Lamb in the flesh and it just fits her so well. Simply hearing her voice and those droll little Austrian words makes everything that she says sound like it has windowboxes with geraniums on it.
Later Harald was giving her a hard time about their tiny dorf. Rob said later "yeah, you would let that last about four seconds" and I reminded him that it isn't for nothing that cats follow Maria wherever she would go.
The kids played and had a party, and except for eating, we didn't see much of them.
Will in the tire swing. The tractor tire swing.
Joss meets Schneeweisschen, Knuftle, and Kleine Onkel.
We also got to visit the cheese room downstairs in the cold storage. What you see is about half the room and half the cheese that they make in a week. A week! In addition to everything they need to serve, they also sell cheese and butter to visitors. We took a wedge back and it was good stuff. Stinky, though. Frau Mair says it is an acquired taste -- even local kids last week made their parents sit at a different table because they were having the cheese!
While we were up at the alm eating, we watched the hikers come in. When two old geezers huffed up the mountain, one of them on  crutches, with their two geezerette wives about five minutes behind them, we were shamed into hiking at least down the hill. So we  walked back down admiring the scenery. The videos are just of Joss babbling in another trough and Joss walking down the path.

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