Sunday, July 5, 2009

Reinhold Messner is Italian

Reinhold Messner is a mountain climber who is considered by many to be the all-time best. He was the first to ascend all 14 8000-meter peaks and the first to climb Everest solo without oxygen. He has also written dozens of books, has been active in politics at the European level as a Green Party Member, and has set up a number of Mountain Museums in his native Alto-Adige/Suedtirol.

I'm often surprised at the number of people who don't know about this Italian region and its Germanic character. It has historically been contested between Italy and the German-speaking world. In 1939 the population was presented by Hitler and Mussolini with the untenable dilemma of leaving the land or being Italianized- both forms of ethnic self-destruction. Nearly all of them voted to leave. This process was interrupted by the war. The region is still Italian, and has fortunately maintained its unique Germanic culture.

In the video, Reinhold speaks in excellent Italian (with a distinct accent and some mistakes with prepositions). He even speaks with his hands. He refers to his meeting with fellow Green Party member, the late Alex Langer, and to their identity as natives of Alto-Adige. A mention is made of his famous refusal to plant that region's flag on top of Everest at the time of his ascent, when he stated that his only flag was his handkerchief.

I don't admire many people, but I admire this fascinating man. Read all about him and his adventures in this article from National Geographic.