by Jenny Friedrich-Freksa

Above (Issue I/2019)


For those who live in the mountains, spectacular vistas are an everyday thing. They reside up high, somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, amidst nature's gifts – but also at its mercy.In this edition, we probe mountains, the culture that surrounds them, their dwellers, and the myths and legends that originate from up on high. In her introductory essay, writer Esther Kinsky takes us to the moraine landscape in Friuli in northeastern Italy, the geologist Gillian Foulger explains how glaciers grow, while geophysicist Kristin Richter tells us how they die. 

Around the world, an estimated 900 million people live in the mountains. Geographer Bernard Debarbieux researches what those people have in common – and what divides them. In Nagaland, in India’s Patkai mountains, a young man rediscovers the mountaineering knowledge of his grandfather and in the Eastern Carpathians, writer Noémi Kiss is surprised by the talkativeness of the Csango community. 

Mountains are magnetic, especially to those of us who reside down below. Their majesty can impress or frighten us. The treasures they hold is being plundered in some areas, as with the so-called mountaintop removal mining in the US’ Appalachian Mountains. There, whole mountain tops are being cut off. In other places though, those treasures are protected by nature reserves. 

Human beings and their culture would be different if it were not for mountains, whether at an altitude or down below. Focusing on mountains means exploring the interconnection between the high and lowlands, just as the streams that start in the mountains supply water to people in the valley below. It also means hearing the tales that humans tell one another about how the world began, such as the story about the two mountain peaks that fell in love, a story that every Maori child in New Zealand knows.  

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