“Auxiliary verbs should only be used in imperfect tense, it’s more elegant.” Hans announces, matter of fact. No wonder I have struggled so much to learn German, I am not even fluent in basic grammar. I am not only translating German to English in my mind, but also trying to draw on almost forgotten basics. Hans is interested in teaching me the right way to speak German and the right way is elegant. I had classes one on one with Hans just by virtue of good timing. Two classes every morning, each 45 minutes long. In addition, we met three times per week in the evening for a walk or a beer. Hans was funny, witty and helped me immensely with my German skills. He was very generous with his time despite the fact that I was so limited in my skills -which made speaking difficult. He was easy on me, I only had to use the phrase he taught me, “entschuldigung, das ist mir sehr peinlich” (excuse me, that embarrasses me) once or twice.
My journey to Deutsch-Insitut Tirol in Kitzbühel was somewhat last minute. It was chosen solely on it’s proximity to the other part of my journey near Kufstein. I found Deutsch-Insitut Tirol by searching “language schools” in vicinity of Sonnhof Ayurveda on Google Maps. I read a few reviews, visited the website and realized that this would be a perfect way to experience a very small region of Austria. I have been studying German since high school and for some reason, it compels me. German is something I want to learn but my immature attention span places it just out of reach. So I toil away in spurts, then the rest of the time my mind is constantly coming up with the German word for whatever I’m thinking of in that moment.
I spoke to the proprietor and teacher of Deutsch-Institut Tirol, Hans both over the phone and via email. He was able to take me on with less than a month until my trip. Hans set up accommodations for me with Pension Oberhauser and the rate was extremely reasonable at 37 euros. What’s more, the pension was right across the street from the school. My trip was completely set; two weeks learning German with Hans in Tyrol and a week doing detoxing at Sonnhof Ayurveda near Kufstein.
Pension Oberhauser was a beautiful quintessential Tirolean home, flowers and all. Herr and Frau Oberhauser were extremely friendly and warm, I immediately felt at home there. The pension had three rooms, each with a shower and sink. There were two shared bathrooms in the hall. I had everything I needed to be comfortable including my own balcony. Included in the price was a traditional cold Austrian breakfast every morning and even more valuable, German conversation with Frau Oberhauser. She was very patient with me despite my limitations. I felt I understood a good deal. Normally quite chatty, I was not able to speak as much as I would have liked. Nothing like confusion to hold the tongue! Not only was I right across from school, there was a footpath next to a beautiful stream which leads right to Kitzbühel. Depending on your pace, you can be in the center of town in 20-30 minutes. Conveniently, there were two grocery stores and a restaurant, Alpenpizzeria minutes away by foot.
Kitzbühel is a very popular ski resort and the annual World Cup alpine ski races are held on the Hahnenkamm mountain. Skiing has been a part of the culture since 1892 when Franz Reisch first set out on some planks from Norway. Alpine skiing was born! To this day it is a hugely popular destination for skiers from all over the world. There are many races throughout ski season. For those who want to come and learn while skiing, students at Deutsch-Intstitut Tirol take classes in the morning then ski in the afternoons. When it’s not covered with snow, many folks will take the cable car up and hike down the mountain. Hans told me this is very hard on the knees, it’s much better to hike up and then take the car down. It may be better but also much more difficult! Once at the top of the Hahnenkamm, there is a restaurant with outdoor seating on an enormous patio with beautiful views. The Schwartzsee Lake just outside of town offers an easier course for a leisurely walk. It features stunning views of the surrounding mountains as well as a place to grab a beer to drink right on the lake.
Kitzbühel has loads of charm no matter what one decides to do. The high end shopping is impressive, but even on Sundays when shops are closed you will find folks wandering through town. That’s because every shop has a beautiful window display with their finest wares to peruse. This is great for those who’s budgets only allow for looking! I was searching for a dirndl for my daughter while there. Venturing inside one shop I found the proprietor very knowledgable and friendly. I found a very unique blue dirndl designed by Swarovski. It had shiny eyes in Swarovski crystals all over it. In the end I was too unsure about it to purchase without my daughter there to try it on.
Good food was plentiful and although there were many high end places there were deals to be had. Especially at lunch. Goulash Suppe with hearty German seeded bread and butter could be found easily for 8 euros or under. That would entitle you to lounge outside on the patio and people watch. The grocery store could beat that price easily. You could have a do it yourself sandwich for a euro or two. Benches abound for free, sometimes even with musical entertainment. Alpenpizzeria is close to the school and offers a delicious, economical lunch special.
The Aquarena is the public pool and it was my favorite thing in Kitzbühel by far. I love a good sauna and The Aquarena had so many different options in their enormous sauna room. There was a Turkish steam bath, Kneipp pool, as well as three different kinds of saunas. Remember that saunas in Austria are all in the buff and co-ed. I was told that there is one day per week when ladies have at least part of the sauna area to themselves. The prices for admission to all facilities for the day range from 8.20€ if you have a cable car ticket to 16.50€ for a full price adult. There are two large pools, one for athletes and another for soaking. There are slides and children’s play areas as well as a restaurant to grab a bite.
My time in Kitzbühel is very special to me as it was the first time I was able to focus solely on German language learning. Traveling alone meant that I had to constantly seek out interactions with strangers -in German! Tirol is a fantastic area of Europe to spend time in, no matter your interests. It’s filled with beautiful architecture, exciting sport activities as well as great food. I found it to be a wonderful base even on the weekends to explore the surrounding area via train. Of course the people are the real treasure in Austria. Hans and The Oberhausers made my time very enjoyable. Most of the people I met greeted me with “gruβ dich” in Kitzbühel and “gruβ gott” in the environs -meaning something like ‘bless you’ or ‘God bless you’. I continue to plug away at my language skills, striving for consistency in practice so that I can return with better fluency than when I left.