St. Jodok - Schmirn- and Valsertal
Proud mountains - gentle valleys
St. Jodok, the Schmirntal and the Valsertal – proud and beautiful locations on the tranquil side of the Zillertal Alps
From a travel journal dated 10 September 1990:
“During a bus ride from Steinach, still preoccupied by a newspaper article castigating mass livestock farming as a bane of modern farming practices, I happened to look out of the window. The time machine was in action: on tiny fields of grain spread among the pastures, there were women at work with sickles, cutting the corn; men bundling the windrows together and tying them. A handful of stooped figures, a strange similarity between the workers and the upright sheaves: the rye as tall as a man; the corn resembling the shape and size of children's faces.
Why all this effort? In this age of too much food, what causes the people here to grow grain on this steep piece of land the size of an allotment?
A mystery made all the more thought-provoking given that I have watched the scene through a bus window and am therefore unable to ask the workers why. Overhead, lines of cloud segment the pale sky; the leaves of the alder trees by the stream gleam white as a mountain breeze rustles through them …”
Little has changed: the harmony of the agricultural landscape that was much apparent then still enchants the onlooker. And, almost miraculously, the grain fields have defied the structural changes that European farming has endured – they are still there. I now know that farmers here prefer to grow Tyrolean Black Oats, which in the past were used to “dope” the carthorses as they crossed the Alps via the Brenner Pass. Today the grain finds its way into the speciality breads and organic muesli made by a long-established bakery in Innsbruck.
The majestic peaks framing the scene are timeless: here we are definitely on the wild side of the Tuxer Hauptkamm: the Fußstein, Schrammacher and Sagwandspitze enclose the head of the Innerval valley, rising up like black walls. The magnificently situated Geraer Hut can be accessed from here without too much effort. It crouches below the smooth north face of the Fußstein, which is traversed by a renowned high-alpine climbing tour.
The Kaserer Winkel at the head of the Schmirntal also catches the eye. This landscape could have been painted by an artist from the Romantic period: a dignified group of buildings clusters around an ancient Swiss pine that appears to guard the entrance to the high mountains like a dishevelled giant. Forested slopes rise steeply on both sides, drawing the gaze to the majestic sight of the Olperer, an imposing mountain 3,000 metres high that is difficult to ascend from this side.
There are no signs here of the hustle and bustle that characterises the other side of these mountains. The ridges conceal the hubbub of the Hintertux skiing region: no noisy, teeming crowds find their way down into our valley. The only sounds are those of the stream as it rushes by, modulated by the wind. Listening to its mantra, our thoughts turn back in time to the early history of the valley. “Vallis smurne” and “Valle” were the names given to the area in old documents. As in many remote Alpine valleys, the first settlers in pre-Roman times came from “behind”, over the ridges, because the craggy ravines at the valley entrances were not negotiated until modern times. The valleys themselves were long cut off from the rest of the world. Maybe this is the secret to the natural harmony and unique ambience that are apparent at every turn in these parts?