Interview with our friend Gareth Hamilton (ENGLISH)

In October we interviewed Andrea Mark from England. Today you can read part of a conversation that I (Pia, daughter of Hannerl & Luis) had with our friend Gareth Hamilton. Gareth Hamilton has been a friend of Andrea Mark and our family for many years. He prefers to travel by car, bus or train rather than getting on a plane and he travels through many countries.

Hi Gareth, we have known each other for many years.

Gareth zu Besuch beim Tag der Teichanlage mit Hannerl Wascher
Gareth zu Besuch beim Tag der Teichanlage mit Hannerl Wascher – Foto: Thomas Burchhart

Gareth, can you still remember when and why you came to visit Koeflach for the first time?Hallo Gareth, wir kennen uns schon viele Jahre.

At the time I was an English language assistant. Andrea, who has already been interviewed, was also an assistant. We studied together at Durham University in north-east England. I was working at the BG/BRG in Leibnitz and Andrea was in Köflach. An English friend and I came to visit Andrea. This friend had a car and I drove; it was my first time driving on the right side of the road!

Gareth, could you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

I am an assistant professor in socio-cultural anthropology. I come from Northern Ireland but have also lived in England (Durham), Austria (Graz and Weiz) and Germany (Halle an der Saale), and now I live in Latvia. I really like to travel but decided that I didn’t want to fly any more. So I come to Köflach by train (or bus)!

You live in Latvia now. How did you end up there?

After I got my PhD, I needed a job. I had taught at Durham University and was still doing so. A friend and colleague from Estonia, married to a Latvian man, noticed there was a job in Riga and recommended I apply. I did, got it and have now been here for five years!

Gareth bei seiner Promotionsfeier in steirischer Tracht mit Sir Thomas Allen (Foto von Gareth Hamilton)
Gareth bei seiner Promotionsfeier in steirischer Tracht mit Sir Thomas Allen (Foto von Gareth Hamilton)

You have taken an interest in many different traditions which take place in the winter months. Why/where does this interest stem from?

So, I had studied the self-employed in eastern Germany for my PhD. But a colleague in social anthropology from Oxford (Nicolette Makovicky), posted something about Krampus on Facebook. I commented that I knew this from my time in Styria. We decided, with others, to put together a research project. We are still in the course of applying as getting everything together takes time. But a colleague, Ann Wand also from Oxford, also organised a conference on winter festivals from which we learned a great deal. For example, there are Krampusläufe in the USA! And I would also recommend this great ethnographic book on Krampus customs in Salzburg, edited by Matthäus Rest and Gertraud Seiser. Very exciting and colourful! Wild und Schön: Krampusse im Salzburger Land

In Austria there are lots of traditions in the run up to Christmas. There is the advent wreath, Barbara branches, Father Christmas and Krampus, New Year’s violins and three kings singing.

Which of these do you know, Gareth?

Advent crown (wreath) are know in England. For example, apart from in churches, the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter has been keeping this tradition going for 53 years. Santa Claus (St Nicholas) comes in the night of 24 December. Children leave out milk and biscuits for him, and perhaps even carrots for the reindeer. In Scotland, the first visitor on 1 January should bring some coal, and preferably have dark hair. There are regional customs that are quite diverse. For example, in south-west England, people sing in orchards and bless the trees.

Gareth zu Besuch beim Tag der Teichanlage mit Alois Wascher - Foto: Thomas Burchhart
Gareth zu Besuch beim Tag der Teichanlage mit Alois Wascher – Foto: Thomas Burchhart

Now we have a short wordrap:

In my suitcase when I go to Koeflach I always pack …
… my mobile phone so I can take photos!

This song is typically Austrian in my opinion …
The Styrian regional anthem ‘Hoch vom Dachstein an’. Happily, you can’t miss it when you going about on the tram in Graz due to the announcements. The voice of the American woman who does them is unfortunately not so pleasant!

Before I live in Koeflach I thought that the Lipizzaner were …
… something to do with Spain as it is called the Spanish Imperial Riding School.

In Köflach I always buy …
… Pens from Libro. And a great deal of food to take back to Latvia. And often sparkling Schilcher wine!

I always wanted to travel to Austria with …
… With my grandmother. She died while I was a language assistant in Austria. Although she was ill, she was always so fascinated when we spoke on the telephone. I once told her about the foehn winds and she told all the nurses in hospital about this warm wind which came down from the mountains. She was so keen to find out about things that it is a shame she never got to visit Austria.

Gareth, thank you very much for this chat. It was so interesting and from the length of the article our readers can see that we would have had lots more to talk about. We look forward to you visiting us again. Greetings from Koeflach!

Perhaps you are also interested in:
Das Interview mit Andrea
Gareth beim Tag der Teichanlage in Köflach

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