A dozen wooden tables on a grassy field at the edge of the forest. It’s still warm, but the sun is about to set behind the mountains in front of us. On our right we hear cows mooing and new-born pigs squeaking, on our left we enjoy an amazing view over the village of Röthis and the mountains beyond. We are surrounded by people laughing, talking, eating and drinking. It’s a nice day and the atmosphere is very gemütlich. Where we are? The Nachbaur Buschenschank of course! It’s May, after all.
Every year in May and September, Anna’s uncle and his family open the doors of their winery to let people taste their youngest wines. When we are in Austria at the right moment (and we always are, because it’s one of the reasons we’re going), we visit this event, called the Buschenschank. This year is no exception. From the garden of Bowser’s grandparents it’s a short, very steep walk through meadows up to the winery of the Nachbaur family. Hours later it’s only a matter of falling over in the dark, rolling down the grassy hill and eventually finding yourself back into the garden of Bowser’s grandparents. Or someone else’s garden.
While Anna and I drink delicious grape juice, Bowser finds other stuff to do. He is happy here: all this space to run around without his parents constantly telling him to watch out. Such freedom! In the Netherlands he barely takes three steps before we have to save him from cars, bikes or dog poo on the streets. Here in Röthis the biggest danger for babies (and people coming from the Buschenschank) is to lose balance, fall into the high grass and roll down the hill. But that might actually be more fun than it is dangerous.
Anyway, Bowser is having a great time. In between all the running around in the garden – chasing the dog of his grandparents while yelling “Wah! Wah! Wah!” – he finds time to go for long afternoon strolls in the forest and visit the playground there, to go and watch a football match of his uncles and to practise his vocabulary. He can now say ‘auto’ (constantly pointing them out to us, as if we don’t see them), ‘bus’ (even more exciting than regular cars), ‘mama’ (only in his whiny voice when he wants something but knows he is actually not allowed to have it), ‘hallo’ (in exactly the same manner and tone Anna says it) and ‘ciao’ (happily waving while doing so, sometimes even sending an air kiss if you’re lucky).
Bowser also likes to sing. There are six or seven songs he really enjoys and he knows all the melodies by heart. When he’s riding on the new tractor his grandpa bought him, he sings. When he’s walking stairs, he sings. When he’s trying to fall asleep, he sings. When he’s sitting in the car and stares out the window, he sings. I think I made my point clear: he sings all day long. He also dances. When there’s music, he starts shaking his hips. He definitely doesn’t have that from me: ask my hip-shaking Brazilian friends about my dance moves and they will probably just laugh. I blame it on my Dutchness.
One of my other Dutch qualities is cycling. And so when we are all going to the market in the nearby town of Feldkirch, Bowser’s grandma and I decide to go by bike. It is a fairly warm day and I’m looking forward to a relaxing cycling trip through the countryside of Vorarlberg.
“You’re ready?” my mother-in-law asks when we stand in front of the house.
And off she goes. Down the mountain. Within a few seconds she’s out of my sight. And she never even looks back to see if I’m okay! Which I’m not.
I mean… I want to cycle in peace, take in the beautiful landscape, maybe even shoot some pictures – I brought my camera after all… but there is no chance. At least not if I want to keep up with her. And since I don’t know my way around here that well, I have to keep up.
She races through villages and along streams. Down the mountain and up again – as if it makes no difference to her – without ever looking over her shoulder to make sure I’m following. Within ten minutes we are in Feldkirch, where we have to wait half an hour for the others to arrive by bus. It gives me just enough time to catch my breath and play it cool toward Anna and Bowser.
In the evening we go back to the Buschenschank, where Anna talks to her friends and family and Bowser has a conversation with some cows and a pig. I just sit there, not understanding much, sipping my drink, thinking to myself it’s about time I learn to speak this vorarlberger dialect, or at least figure out how to communicate with farm animals. Maybe then I’ll one day perfectly fit in here.