... and jobs in Europe
Today was the day. And what a day it was, indeed. We started a bit earlier than usual in order to get a bus to Längenfeld, incredibly picturesque village below Obergurgl. We passed by other locations on our way, most importantly the greatest ski resort and “Bike Republic” in the area.
As soon as we got out of the bus we met our guide, Ingeborg. She started the trip by telling us that every village, every farmland has its own small chapel instead of one big church for whole neighborhood due to long and difficult distances the people would have to cover to get to the mass. The interesting fact was that while listening we were on very busy main street. The guide immediately mentioned that due to the traffic, years ago the road had to be broadened. In order to make it wider the villagers torn down the old chapel. Soon after they rebuilt it on the other side of the road, where we were just standing, in front of it. We were about to learn why this was important news for us.
We proceeded further to the house of Franz Senn – a priest that made major changes to the area. He was the person that wanted to combine tourism with alpinism. He got in touch with German Alpine Club and convinced them to build huts and shelters in the surrounding mountains.
We followed the guide that brought us into the heart of the valley. It was explained to us that the valley itself was formed by a glacier – the smooth, flat shape gently surrounded by the mountains. We stood on the bridge above the river. It seemed very calm and of use to the local population. In reality, while very useful indeed, the river was also the main threat to the inhabitants, because of the possibility of flooding. Interestingly enough, while the older, some hundreds-of-years-old houses were built in line with the nature (in a good spot, not endangered by the flooding, nor the avalanche, with good sunlight, etc.), the new houses and touristic attractions completely ignored the risk of natural disaster. Apparently for some people couple of years without an accident and the profits are more important than the lessons given by the history.
The group moved on to the museum, where we could see very old houses among the newly built ones. We learned that whole valley was strongly dependent on agriculture and tourism – which is the key point of creating the museum in the first place. The thing is that the village was all about the tourists, not the original inhabitants. And so, people decided that they will create a museum on their own, as a mean of preserving the history, the culture, personal memories and lifestyle. It is somewhat connected with the reconstruction of the chapel. People wanted to preserve their culture and have the sense of belonging. That is why we had an incredible opportunity of visiting 400-600 years old buildings that were used not only as a shelter and living place but also as a storage for the personal memories of the villagers.
After learning the history of mentioned buildings, we saw the evolution of flour and linen production methods – from handwork, then simple tools, finishing with huge, water-powered mills that did almost all the hard work for the workers. We followed this with delicious, locally made lunch and shortly after had a lecture about Austrian labor market and opportunities for young people – both Austrian and migrants.
The trip to Längenfeld finished with a game called “One step forward”. We had a chance to fit into a random role from large variety of people: immigrants, unemployed or challenged in other way, but also wealthy, successful or simply regular people with different backgrounds. The point of the game was to respond with one step forward if the question asked could be answered by “yes”. After we saw the results, who get further and who stayed almost completely in place, we had a lively discussion about the possibilities, circumstances and opportunities the life gives us all.
Then we got back with bus to Obergurgl for the dinner, as per usual delicious, and finished the day with evaluation, Polish and Spanish cultural evenings – which, surprise, surprise, turned out to be hell of a party!
Pawel Budzisz (Poland)