Consumating the Moment
I have been off a set from time to time. On one occasion, my spirit of adventure was rewarded with an unexpectedly perfect moment. I had followed one of the typical recommendations of a friend “who has been there before during a shoot” and discovered a great place “where you can discover some local culture.” What tempting advice! Sometimes if you accept the challenge, it either rains cats and dogs, the place is closed unexpectedly or you most certainly will not find yourself in the same brilliant situation as made out in the initial splashy story, but surrounded by Japanese tourists with more technical gadgets than local books on ancient culture.
I had to take a rental car to get there and must admit the GPS almost drove me crazy. It took some time to manage to type the address into the tiny display with an even tinier pen. Almost at my destination, the system first politely tried to prompt me to take a one-way street the wrong way. Don’t they have some real-life people check on the maps they use for the VDOs? Another attempt on my life was a request to turn left over a bridge that must have been there ages ago but not anymore, in mobile times. I had to hit the brakes to avoid sliding into a wild mountain river with no proper barrier to prevent that in more versatile moments.
When I finally arrived, I parked my car outside a very white and chivalric-looking castle and glanced through the current signs of the display of it. How nice! Painting lessons for beginners, some colloquy on watercolouring and in the evening a French movie shown on the big outdoor screen they would hang up in the courtyard.
Some middle-aged lady noticed my uncertain scratching of the head and inquired some in her language. She switched over to pretty good English, told me her name was Barbara, and said that the castle’s petite café-restaurant serves good food. But nope, she said, there is no conducted tour since the place is used for cultural purposes only and they rent the large rooms for workshops and musical events. I looked at her hesitantly which must have given her a bad impression of my pitiful expectations.
She said she’d show me around, but only, as she said (smiling), because there are no other tourists around and her part-time colleague could keep an eye on the shop. Barbara told me some very nice stories about the castle. They do have some interesting events there: one as castle’s dialogue days, exhibitions of artists from all over the world. I followed her up some spiral stairs that I barely managed with my vertigo because my attention was captured by the stair walls. They were covered by black and white comic strips in English! The thing was that it was rather bad Austrian humour translated into somewhat incomprehensible jokes. Barbara rattled her bunch of keys and produced an old looking one that opened one of the wooden doors.
We were entering a huge knight’s hall, and I stood there, fascinated. The hall was covered with more than 130 wooden, hand-painted coats of arms on an arched ceiling. The ceiling was not high at all which gave the knight’s hall a rather cosy and homely impression, and a good wooden-like warm smell. She told me that this hall was only for men during that time, and so they built lodgings for the ladies right below this hall on the first level of the castle. We took a secret passage down there to see an equally beautiful bower. It’s not really open for public visits, Barbara continued, only for dancing workshops and musical events. I nodded and kept a big grin on my face the whole time.
I suppose she liked me because she asked whether I would care for a swim in the swamp lake underneath the castle. She could phone up a friend for keys to open “the old public swimming baths” for me. Before I could reply, she told me to look out the medieval windows and pointed to a lovely wooden something only a blink away. Look, she said, there are no pupils from the youth hostel around today. You would have the entire institution for yourself! What a prospect!
All I had to do was pick up the keys from the hotel reception desk to open the public swimming baths. The swamp was close in with impenetrable water plants and reeds, and the wooden 19th century baths were the only access to the water. What a treat! The water was warm enough for a swim, although very dark with lots of fish. A small island in the middle of the swamp lake was a bird sanctuary. The entire small village with the castle and a few hotels (that was all there was!) is situated in a picturesque basin of such an accomplished arrangement that I felt like I had won the lottery. Natural acoustics came to my ear as far music. No traffic sound to hear. I plunged into the water with its velvet sensation and warm smell.
After a seemingly endless time, I climbed onto the wooden diving platform and dried myself in the sun, and then heard someone playing the trumpet from a hotel. No, that was not a dream! Felt perfect and infinite.
And that was just an ordinary August day in Austria! I bet you have no idea what it took to get me back to work! And nope, I won’t tell you where it was – you can find out yourself!