Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to come to the Bregenzerwald for the first time. What would be my first impression? What would I notice? And above all, what would I make of the smell? I remember our previous holidays to Wachau. Every year during the “apricot season,” we got into the car and drove to my mum’s home. Naturally, the vegetation, climate, architecture and culture are quite different from the Bregenzerwald, but what I remember most of all is the difference in smell. Every year, the flowery, almond-like smell of the Wachau proved to be a big surprise.
From the moment I got out of the car and took a deep breath, I knew: This is the smell of our family holiday, this is smell of Mum’s former home. Just as this scent of the Wachau can still inspire a feeling of freedom in me today, I am always amazed when I come to the Bregenzerwald after a long time. It’s the smell of arriving, of being at home. It smells – how best can I describe it? I wouldn’t say cows per say, but there is certainly an animal smell of milk and grease. When I breathe in this smell, it brings a satisfied smile to my face and I am reminded of how important the senses are and how strongly the nose, tongue, ears and eyes are involved in our feelings. From one smell to another: Packing every free space in the car with ripe apricots was the annual ritual at the end of our trip to the Wachau. Boxes piled full of fruit were stacked between my brother and me. It smelled sweet, fruity and entirely Wachau.
In addition to being from Wachau, my mum is also a fanatic for quality. Walking through the aisles of the supermarket, she complains about what passed for an Armenian plum or an apricot. After all, the greenish, firm and sour example of what was being sold could hardly pass as such. “A really good apricot has red cheeks,” says Mum. Small pressure marks are not to be mistaken as bad; on the contrary, the more worn out the fruit looks, the sweeter and more intense the taste. The first dish we always cooked after returning to the Bregenzerwald was apricot dumplings.