Travels with Bowser Posts

A very long time ago – way before you and I were born (maybe die Uroma and her cow Linde weren’t even born yet, but no one knows for sure) – there was a dwarf king and his name was Laurin. He lived in the Dolomites – a mountain range in what is now north-eastern Italy – and ruled over a thriving race of dwarfs who lived up in the mountains and mined them for jewels and valuable ores. Anna, Bowser and I spent last weekend in the Italian autonomous province Südtirol and learned more about this fascinating dwarf king. Well, Anna and I did at least. I’m not sure if Bowser was really learning a lot about him, but he seemed to enjoy himself. That should be enough for now. He is a baby, after all.

Last year in May, Anna and I went on a cycling trip through north-western Istria to visit some of its finest wineries. The article I wrote about it was published two months ago in the Dutch National Geographic Traveler. Anna was pregnant during that trip and therefore couldn’t try any of the wines I enjoyed so much. We took some bottles home with us, but they are also finished by now. So what to do then? Since we had to go to Croatia to close Anna’s bank account anyway, we planned two days for wine drinking in Istria earlier this week!

In the summer of 2013 Anna found a job as a German lector at the University of Rijeka and so we moved there. The first thing we noticed upon our arrival in Rijeka – the principal seaport and third-largest city in Croatia – was the absolutely stunning view from the balcony of our apartment. We immediately knew we would enjoy living here. And indeed, life was good: we adjusted very well to the relaxing Croatian way of living, made ourselves familiar with traditional food and regional wines, got used to living on the coast and made good friends. Then Anna got pregnant and things changed. In a nutshell: Anna’s employer wasn’t very supportive of this whole family-thing we were creating. Furthermore, our first impression of the Croatian health care system and the hospital in Rijeka wasn’t very positive. The fact that we didn’t speak the language made things even more complicated. All things considered, we decided to move back to the Netherlands. Now, almost a year later, we return to the place where Bowser was made…

The last few days we’ve been in Schlaiten, a village in Osttirol with less than 500 inhabitants, located near the Italian border. Up the mountain, on a farm above the village, lives Bowser’s oldest relative: die Uroma. She’s been living here for hundreds of years with her cow Linde, who is now – like every summer – on holidays higher up in the Alps where she can run around in the grass and play with all the neighbour-cows. Die Uroma stays behind on the farm with her rooster, four chickens and fat dormouse. It is a peaceful and quiet place and the view from the terrace is breathtakingly beautiful: perfect for a four-day-stop on our way from Vorarlberg to Croatia.

“Are you drinking already? At ten in the morning?” I ask Anna and her dad. They are sitting in the garden, cleaning the mushrooms Anna’s dad found in the woods, drinking a glass of white wine while doing so. At the exact moment I hear the words come out of my mouth, I realise my mistake. There is no such thing as drinking in the morning in Austria. It simply doesn’t exist. What Anna and her dad are doing (and what I’ll be doing two minutes later as well), is part of a very old tradition. And so I already know their response to my ignorant question: “No, we are not drinking in the morning. This is Frühschoppen! Do you want a beer or some wine?”