The human brain is like a time capsule. It’s capable of retrieving information from the past through memory recall. Have you ever heard a certain song or smelt a distinct scent that transports you to a memory? This often happens to me, especially with music.
Sometimes I’m reminded of an event, location or person and once the connection is made its hard to forget. It’s the unusual pairings that are the most interesting. For example, whenever the song “These boots are made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra plays, I’m taken back to Austria. And not just anywhere, but to the bottom of the famous Großglockner pass, a high-alpine road.
A perk of being an expat spouse, particularly in geographically-concentrated Europe, is the accessibility of travel. Thanks to the Schengen agreement passed in 1985, anyone can cruise with relative ease through twenty-eight member states. Without debating the politics of the agreement, we’ve enjoyed taking advantage of these flexible borders during our time in Europe.
Memory recall in Austria
Which is why in 2016 we drove our car from France to Austria on holiday. Between stops in Salzburg and Innsbruck we made a detour around Zell am See and headed south. For anyone wondering, the natural landscapes in this region are gorgeous. Picture perfect! Any photos you post to instagram are sure to get a ton of likes. Whether you’re at the base of the mountains or up near the snowcaps, the views are incredible.
The scenic route that traverses the mountain range is called the Großglocker pass. Popular with motorcyclists, cyclists and thrill-seekers the road is 50 km and reaches heights of 2504 m (8215 ft). Elevation induced nosebleeds!
The only direction is up
Before our ascent we made sure to stop for gas. At the bottom of the valley we found a busy Shell station. Nearby, herds of cows grazed in the fields silently, except for the clank copper cowbells and the occasional “Moo”. Although it was mid-summer, the air was fresh. It could chill your lungs each time you took a deep breath. For a couple of Canadians who grew up next to the Rockies, the crisp, clean air felt like home.
While we waited our turn for the pump, the arrival of a loud bike exhaust interrupted the tranquil ambiance. The motorcycle rider, dressed in head-to-toe black leather, sported a sleek helmet that concealed his face. When he eventually turned off his engine and removed the helmet, he exposed the embedded speakers. Turns out he was a fan of classic pop songs. All we could hear was Nancy Sinatra’s voice singing about boots and walking.
The juxtaposition between the cows in the fields, the majestic mountains and Nancy Sinatra …it made us laugh. It was such a silly song to hear at that moment and in that environment. Which is why it’s such a great example of memory association and the power of recall. Are there any songs that prompt your memory?