Updated: Aug 14, 2022
I was a curator working in a museum in South Devon in the UK; this was my dream job. Suddenly, the local council made my job redundant because they could no longer afford to keep the role open. This was heartbreaking and depressing, but my life took a turn for the better through a chance meeting with an Austrian woman, Katie, and we became partners. We relocated to Austria, and I set out on a physical and spiritual journey, a journey of self-discovery - repair and rejuvenation through the exploration of nature, centred on my resolution to complete the same 15-kilometre walk through the hills and woods of beautiful Kärnten in Austria every week for a year. By the time that year was over, I knew I had found healing, peace and true happiness.
By coincidence, my father, Leonard Eason, was stationed at RAF Klagenfurt in the Kaernten (Carinthian in English) Region of Austria between 1946-48. This is an extract from my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature.
Chapter 14 (Extract)
My sister and her daughter are visiting us in Austria and can’t decide whether they should accompany me today. They are a little disappointed as they had wanted to find Austria in deep snow, but none has fallen recently. I point out that the Koralpe is snow-capped and the Karawanken will almost certainly be so, and that once we have climbed high enough, we will be rewarded by stunning views.
They are convinced, and we depart at 11.30 am. It is a chilly -1°C but feels colder, as it is very blustery; however, we are heartened by the sight of a beautiful blue sky. As we rise higher, we do indeed see the Karawanken Mountains, which are extraordinarily clear, snow-capped and magnificent. I explain to my companions that they are 135 kilometres away and that they separate Austria from Slovenia – with Slovenia to the south and Austria to the north, and with a total length of 120 kilometres in an east-west direction, the Karawanken chain is one of the longest ranges in Europe.
When I was jotting down some tentative ideas about how I might use the walk to explore tangential avenues back at the beginning of January, it occurred to me that my project might help me to explore more about my father because by a strange coincidence he was stationed in Austria from 1946-1948. Immediately after the conclusion of the hostilities of the Second World War, my father was posted to RAF Klagenfurt, which lies only 69 kilometres from my new home. RAF Klagenfurt is less than an hour away from Bad Sankt Leonhard. Moreover, Klagenfurt airport is the one we always use to travel between here and the UK – it is sited approximately on the same spot where RAF Klagenfurt once stood. Immediately after the cessation of the hostilities of the Second World War Austria had been split into zones of occupation and controlled by Britain, France, the United States and Russia. Reg Herschy outlines in his book Freedom at Midnight the problems that the Allied Military Governments of the four powers had to address: the immediate problems not only of hunger but of dealing with the ‘Thousands of refugees that had fled from the advancing armies and great numbers of anti-Tito forces who had been driven over the frontier into the Carinthian region.’16 My father was one of the military personnel sent to Austria to help administrate the repatriation process.
The year before he died I realised that although he had travelled extensively in his long life, he had never returned to Austria. Suddenly it seemed vitally important to me that he should return, so on his 89th birthday, I asked my father if he would like to visit once again. He readily agreed, as despite the awful circumstances he had enjoyed his time in Austria and had been left with a lifelong love of the Austrian landscape. The short trip was planned for October and was a success, and during it, my father spoke more about this formative and early part of his life than he ever had before.
After the visit and within an hour of us returning from Austria and having got my father safely home to Malvern, my father quietly left the living room, went upstairs and came back down with a small box containing his diaries from 1943-1948. I had no idea that they existed. I am sure that I would never have seen them if we had not made the journey back to Austria. Later the same day, I remembered that years before I had seen an old suitcase in the loft marked with a sticky label with the word ‘ART’, scrawled across it. Climbing carefully up the ladder and into the attic I found the suitcase, opened it and there I saw a neat stack of unframed but completed watercolours, all dating from this period of my father’s life. Later, I was able to match them to the diary entries. As a curator, this was a dream come true.
Walking into Alchemy – ISBN-13: 978-1861519474 – Full-Colour Version is only available from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop OR Mereo Books http://www.mereobooks.com/books/genre/mind-body-spirit/walking-into-alchemy ISBN-10: 1861519478
The E-book is available from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop
I will be signing copies of my book at my book reading on Sunday 28th August - and offering a special price of £15.00 per book. Please book your free place by calling 01684 892277 or visit the webpage Amelia Marriette - Book Reading, Talk & Discussion - Malvern Theatres (malvern-theatres.co.uk)
Walking into Alchemy is also available from Amazon Worldwide as a Print on Demand product with black and white illustrations.
I am currently researching the years following the Second World War in Kaernten in Austria and especially RAF Klagenfurt. My next book will be a non-fiction book about my father’s experiences, which will show an alternative viewpoint: a book about art, nature and bird life in Austria, all seen through the eyes of my father, Leonard Eason, a sensitive and loving eyewitness.
N.B. The image of RAF Klagenfurt must not be reproduced without permission; please just get in touch, I am happy to help if I can and my father's work is properly credited.