Where I come from
Is a region with a hard and suffered history.
For centuries it has been a gateway to the Italian Pianura Padana and home of borders and defence lines. In this area borders are everywhere, and it is quite common to hear or read different languages when walking on the streets, or in cafes, stores and offices.
I come from the area where Western, Eastern and Central Europe all come together, if ever these terms have any significance, the area where Austria, Italy and Slovenia enter in contact.
New and old experiments with bordersToday in Europe borders are only a formality for the common traveller. Sure, they exist, they have political relevance, but one can walk all over Europe without ever having to stop or exhibit a document. This is a pretty extreme and avant-garde experiment, if you think that countries that have chosen to take this step have usually fought each other for most of history up to a few decades ago.
This can be new or unheard of not only for non Europeans, but also for all those who live far away from a border or near borders who were always well defined, both politically and culturally.
But here, where i come from we have had quite some time to get accustomed to this liquidity of boundaries.
The closest and most recognizable experiment in the past was probably the one attempted by the Austro-Hungarian empire, when they united many different nations and cultures under their rule, but permitted a certain degree of cultural autonomy to subject populations. This created strange situation, especially here where three very different cultures and languages meet.
A situation where all were politically united under one flag, but at the same time maintained significant differences and traditions.
Obviously it was not a free choice of these populations to be united, but the fact they were brought some positive consequences, since it forced different elements to coexist.
A perfect Example: Julius KugyThe great Mountaineer and alpinist, botanist, man of culture, but mostly th great human being that was Dr. Kugy, is a perfect example of differences coming to live together and of how they can give the most positive results.
Kugy was born in Gorizia/Gorica/Gorz and lived in Trieste. Two cities that were Austrian but of Italian culture. He spoke German, Slovene and Italian fluently and his love for the mountains of this region was without boundries.
And he explored them without boundaries.
To read pages of Kugy's explorations is to have a glimpse on how perfectly differences can exist together. There is never a word in his work to divide or separate, but all those he talks about, Italian, Slovene or Austrian are brought together by the fact they live, explore and love those mountains that are there between them.
And mountains are a perfect place to experience this, as often each side of a mountain here has small towns speaking different languages and having different cultures. but when people meet on the peak or on the ridges, it is hard to say who is who, and frankly it is not even that important.
A sad interludeUnfortunately, those same peaks and summits that were a symbol of togetherness and peace for men like Kugy became the main theatre of most exemplary nationalistic war. In 1914-15, trenches and bunkers were dug into the meadows and galleries cut into the majestic rocks, and men, often from neighbouring valley, towns, or cities fought cruently against eacho other to gain just few meters of rocky land. The trails we now walk along were used to fight, our ferratas were used for the same reason. Where we stop and enjoy the view there were snipers and lookouts and machine gun nests. Barbed wire was all over, and men died by the thousands.
This folly continued later on with another big war, and the seeds of hate that were planted deep gave many bitter fruits.
Many of those seeds are still growing down in the planes, where it is easier to have a clouded mind and to give in to interests, but up in the mountains, from what i can see, things are working much better. It is easier to have clear thoughts in that fresh air.
Our mountains todayWalking on any trail in the Eastern alps you will hear many different languages. You will hear "Buongiorno", "Guten tag" and "Doberdan", and none will feel out of place or foreign. These languages are the native languages of our mountains at equal degree, and i think myself lucky to live near ranges where i can look down on different countries and see how close they are, walk down to a different culture and find similarities with mine, and meet people that have a different background but share the exact same feelings as mine, when we sit on a rock on a summit to enjoy our lunch.
I think mountains all over the world have this strength, to make people forget smaller and less important things, and realize, through a common passion that it is easier to find common points than it is to invent differences.
My hope is that mountains all over the world can make people aware of this, and that people can take these feelings with them when they go back home to the valleys and planes.