As i trawled through the dismal number of recent posts on the blog, I realised that the move to Dornbirn had not just gone unblogged but there is next to no mention of the place where I live and my life in general. As dismal things go, my mental state can be well explained by the fact that I still cannot call Dornbirn ‘home’ in the true sense. However we are making peace with each other.
I moved to Dornbirn, the foothills of the Austrian Alps, a little over three years ago. On a rather warm day in May we set all our belongings into a house and began the painstaking process of turning it into a home. Dornbirn is a strange little place. It is the largest “city” in the federal state of Vorarlberg, the latter borders Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Although I use the word “City” loosely here. The Vorarlbergers are also an interesting lot. Most don’t consider themselves Austrian and would prefer to be Swiss instead (in fact there was a petition for Vorarlberg to become part of CH at the end of the first world war!) but Switzerland is having none of it! In summer the hike in the mountains and in winter they ski down it. They are fiercely protective and proud of the Ländle (small land) culture which mainly comprises of a German dialect that no one 100 km in either direction understands, cheese and käsespätzle (cheesy dumplings?) which is actually quite tasty! In my 3+years here I still don’t know if the Vorarlbergs are welcoming of immigrants or not. While the area is extremely technologically developed they still hold onto tradition vehemently (explaining the repeated suggestion that I get pregnant and take maternity leave!). They see nothing wrong with women only looking after the family and cooking lunch while the men head off to the fields to bring in the bacon.
That said, I was wondering the other day what I would miss about Dornbirn, should I ever leave it and miss it at all! and I realised, much to my own shock, that I would miss seemingly innocuous things; the smell of baking bread that fills the entire town two days a week, the stunning Alps and how they look different every season, how the gym people know my name and sign me in when I forget, how the local Italian restaurant knows our order, how I will always (always!) run into someone I know whenever I step out of the house. How every street has a hiking path leading up from it and the strange celebrations like ‘witch burning’ and ‘carnival’.
They say that home is not a place, it is a person. In my case Dornbirn has given me friends I never thought I would make this late in life. It has finally given me friends who I can call for a coffee on a cold day, ask to cook me food when I don’t want to or go out with when I’m feeling like a night out.
And suddenly, I realised that this has been home away from home. While I’ve chosen to actively be at odds with my life here, it has patiently put up with me all the while trying hard to show me it’s ways, while trying to learn mine.