Bavarian hills: too alive with the sound of yodeling

So there you are, high up in the Alps with the mountains all around and the echo of a lifetime to try out. What could be more tempting than to let out a throaty hol-la-di-ri-a-ho? But please kindly refrain.

Bavaria's environment minister, Alfred Dick, is asking people not to yodel in the Bavarian Alps any more. Yodeling, he claims, is harmful to the environment.

It may seem like the sound of music to humans, but to the rapidly dwindling mountain fauna it is just noise, an environmental spokesman says. And such noise, he says, scares the timid mountain goats and is driving golden eagles, blackcock, and other rare birds toward extinction.

Actually it is not so much yodeling itself that Mr. Dick objects to, but people trying to yodel.

He would not particularly mind any of Bavaria's approximately 1,000 trained yodelers holla-ing away from a mountaintop.

These days, such accomplished yodelers tend to let rip mostly at folklore evenings for tourists in local inns or village fetes. Cowherds who once would voice melodious evening greetings to their lady-loves across the valley now use the phone.

As a result, the mountains echo with the sound of city folk trying it out, usually with painful results.

``Not everyone can do it,'' the spokesman says. ``It is like picking up a trumpet and trying to play. It has to be learned.''

It seems Mr. Dick, who issued his advice in a list of 13 warnings to mountain hikers (including: don't drop litter or stray from the marked paths), was thinking of humans as much as the rare fauna.

``People come to the mountains to enjoy nature and tranquillity. They should not be disturbed,'' his spokesman explained.

Bavaria's nature conservationists, however, are not overly impressed by Dick's sensitivity.

Hubert Weinzierl, chairman of local branch of the nature protection league, says he would prefer his hills were alive with the sounds of yodelers any day, than to have cross-country motorcyclists or hang-gliders in the Bavarian Alps.

``A good yodel would be the least of our environmental problems,'' Mr. Weinzierl fumed.

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