It’s an oddity of the East-West orientation of the Central European mountains that the ebbs and flows of ice ages of the last 2000 years have repeatedly wiped out and then replenished the Austrian and German forests. The legendary Walder we drive through today are the result of a romantic 19th century attempt to replant the Bavarian and Alpine plateaux. No Roman Legionnaire would recognize our organized landscape from his perch atop the limes Germanica that protected his delicate civilization from the Barbarians.
Some major forest uses are gone—beekeeping from before the advent of sugar, charcoal for glassmaking, yews and oak for weapons, firs for smelting and mining. It was said that an entire German oak forest sank at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but these days most ships sunk in anger are made of steel. Hunting and skiing have become more recreational than essential. The great farm hearths fed by firewood gathering are more decorative than practical.
Apart from pollution, the biggest threat to the modern European forest is the proliferation of deer with their omnivorous eating habits. So hunting is encouraged, mainly during the fall rutting season when you can hear the bellows of red stags and the crack of Mouflon ram horns echoing across the alps. The only animal that is still hunted year-round is the wild boar. In the closest thing to old-fashioned society hunts, you will find lines of BMWs at the entrance to a forest trail, as their owners figure out which end of the rifle to point at their eyes.
Hunting blinds are found everywhere in the Alps, but in a wild January like this one, outside of hunting season, they mainly serve as great photo subjects for people like us.

Categories: Austria

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