Schlepping Through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd

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9780345465030: Schlepping Through the Alps: My Search for Austria's Jewish Past with Its Last Wandering Shepherd

Hans Breuer, Austria’s only wandering shepherd, is also a Yiddish folksinger. He walks the Alps, shepherd’s stick in hand, singing lullabies to his 625 sheep. Sometimes he even gives concerts in historically anti-Semitic towns, showing slides of the flock as he belts out Yiddish ditties.

When New York-based writer Sam Apple hears about this one-of-a-kind eccentric, he flies overseas and signs on as a shepherd’s apprentice. For thoroughly urban, slightly neurotic Sam, stumbling along in borrowed boots and burdened with a lot more baggage than his backpack, the task is far from a walk in Central Park. Demonstrating no immediate natural talent for shepherding, he tries to earn the respect of Breuer’s sheep, while keeping a safe distance from the shepherd’s fierce herding dogs.

As this strange and hilarious adventure unfolds, the unlikely duo of Sam and Hans meander through a paradise of woods and high meadows toward awkward encounters with Austrians of many stripes. Apple is determined to find out if there are really as many anti-Semites in Austria as he fears and to understand how Hans, who grew up fighting the lingering Nazism in Vienna, became a wandering shepherd. What Apple discovers turns out to be far more fascinating than he had imagined.

With this odd and wonderful book, Sam Apple joins the august tradition of Tony Horwitz and Bill Bryson. Schlepping Through the Alps is as funny as it is moving.

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Hans Breuer, Austria's only wandering shepherd, is also a Yiddish folksinger. He walks the Alps, shepherd's stick in hand, singing lullabies to his 625 sheep. Sometimes he even gives concerts in historically anti-Semitic towns, showing slides of the flock as he belts out Yiddish ditties. Born in 1954, Breuer spent his childhood in Vienna fighting the lingering Nazism in Austrian society. His performances are an attempt to educate his fellow citizens on the people their parents and grandparents had helped to wipe out of Europe.

When New York-based writer, Sam Apple, hears about this off-the-wall eccentric, he flies overseas and signs on as a shepherd's apprentice. Demonstrating no immediate natural talent for shepherding, Apple does his best to earn the respect of Breuer's sheep, while keeping a safe distance from the fierce herding dogs.

As this strange and hilarious adventure unfolds, Apple is determined to find out why Breuer has chosen to become a folk-singing shepherd and to see if there are really as many anti-Semites in Austria as he fears. What Apple discovers turns out to be far more fascinating and moving than he had imagined.

With this odd and wonderful book, Sam Apple joins the august tradition of Tony Horwitz and Bill Bryson.

About the Author:

SAM APPLE, who grew up in Houston, is a graduate of the creative nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University. Apple’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, Forward, and The Jerusalem Report as well as on Salon.com. He currently lives in Brooklyn and is a contributing book editor at Nerve.

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