Amelia Marriette was working as a Curator in a museum in South Devon in the UK; this was her dream job. Suddenly, the local council made her job redundant, because they could no longer afford to keep the role open. Amelia became depressed, and her health began to suffer. But her life took a turn for the better through a chance meeting with an Austrian woman, Katie, with whom she was to find love. The couple relocated to Austria and Amelia set out on a physical and spiritual journey, a journey of self-discovery, repair and rejuvenation through the exploration of nature, centred on her 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, Amelia knew she had found healing, peace and true happiness.
By coincidence, Amelia’s father, Leonard Eason, was stationed at RAF Klagenfurt in the Carinthian Region of Austria between 1946-48. This is an extract from Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature by Amelia Marriette.
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 (Amazon Worldwide Print on Demand with black and white illustrations) · E-book is available from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop & Amazon Worldwide (both in Full Colour)
Amelia is currently researching the years following the Second World War in Austria. Her next book will be a non-fiction book about her 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 her father, a sensitive and loving eye witness.
N.B. The image of RAF Klagenfurt must not be reproduced without permission.