This week, I finally got the chance to try Langlaufen which is something that all the Austrians I know rave about, from the students of 16 to the teachers to 70-year-old Eva. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to live life on the edge (remember when I attended what I thought was going to be a salsa dancing class and turned out to be a posh jazz concert?) so when the secretary at school asked if I wanted to try it out with her, of course I replied in the affirmative without looking up exactly what it was.
After I’d finished teaching for the day, we went to a spare classroom to put on all the clothes to protect us from the -10 temperatures and drove about for about twenty minutes to get even further up the mountain where the snow was even thicker than it is in Rohrbach. I still can’t get used to how much colder it is ‘up here’ than in Linz, and it still surprises me that a mere 20 minute drive away lies an actual mountain and actual ski runs. No wonder all Austrians ski – it would be rude not to.
As it turns out, Langlaufen is cross-country skiing and is simultaneously great fun and really hard work because unlike downhill skiing, you have to put a lot of effort into actually getting anywhere. I’m not very good (obviously) but it was I had a great time anyway. Skiing along at one point, a family went past us who were speaking Czech – I pointed this out to Helga (the secretary and my new mate), wondering how far they’d driven to get here. Oh no, she replied, we’re in the Czech Republic. We crossed the border about ten minutes ago.
Of course we did. Of course we just skied into a different country.
After a hard couple of hours of skiing, we went for a tea and an omelette at a tiny pub/restaurant nearby. I was really happy to have a lovely new friend at school, to have learnt (or started learning) a new skill, to have found a new hobby (she said I can go with her again any time I like!), and to have been able to keep up with her in German (even if not her skiing).
In keeping with the theme of the week, on Tuesday I got the afternoon off to go to the Nachtrennen – a downhill slalom race in Schladming. Though I’ve seen World Cup races before in Wengen and Sölden, this time was different because I actually had someone to cheer for. Willig had called me down from my flat the previous Sunday to have lunch and watch the skiing with him because there was ein Spektakel aus Großbritannien on TV. Ein Spektakel aus Großbritannien is not exactly difficult German, but I was convinced I’d misunderstood because even I know that British people are terrible skiers (and can you blame us, with our unfortunate lack of mountains and snow and with the Austrians to compete with!?). But he was right – Dave Ryding had indeed just won the first run of the World Cup slalom race in Kitzbühel! We ate lunch and drank wine and Likör during a very tense second run (I accidentally got a bit drunk) and Our Man Dave came SECOND! THIS IS HUGE NEWS. There was much shouting and cheering from Willig and I, especially when I realised that Dave would be at Schladming the following week for the race I was going to watch with school!
So, after four back-to-back lessons on Tuesday morning, Marina and I clambered aboard the bus with the students for the school trip – that’s right, the Austrians love skiing so much that they have actual school trips and time off lessons to go and support their skiers at what is essentially a massive piss-up. God bless Austria.
On boarding the bus, the supervising teacher asked if I was from the fourth class. The fourth class are aged 16-17. It was not the first time that I’ve been mistaken for a student, but much hilarity ensued anyway when I explained that I am, in fact, a teacher, and now whenever I bump into that particular teacher in the copy room he calls me ‘the one from the fourth class’ and laughs his arse off. It was mildly funny the first time, but it’s wearing a bit thin now.
After a three hour bus journey and a huge palava with Marina’s ticket, we eventually made it up the mountain in time for the first run and the sunset. We watched half of the first run and saw Our Man Dave – the students and teachers were very sweet and cheered extra loudly for him because I’d explained how excited I was. The atmosphere was great, especially when Marcel Hirscher did his run – he is widely accepted as the best Austrian skier, and is the one who beat Dave to first place in Kitzbühel.
We descended into the town after a while to thaw out a little and grab a coffee before heading back up in time for the second run, which I can say with hindsight was a mistake. Clambering back up the mountain was a near death experience. If there are two things the Austrians take seriously, they are skiing and drinking – meaning the way back up was not only impossibly steep, covered in ice and slush, pitch black and incredibly busy – but also swarming with hoards of Austrian teenagers smashed off their faces, falling over themselves, trying to carry each other, randomly stopping without warning and crawling along on their hands and knees. I’m genuinely proud to have lived to tell the tale.
Our Man Dave
Overall, Dave came in in tenth place and Hirscher came in in second – it was such a good result and I was thrilled! Despite the cold, it was such a fun atmosphere and I can see why the Austrians love their skiing so much – I really hope I get the chance to go to another race in the future. Unfortunately, we had to head home not long after the race ended because it would take us another 3 hours to get back to Rohrbach. Marina and I arrived back at my house at around 2.30am, just in time for a quick 3 hour nap before waking up to teach first lesson on Wednesday.
In other (less interesting, less ski-related) news, this week I baked bread from scratch and was very proud of myself…
…and I taught a lesson on ‘Entertainment and Media’ where I asked students to come and write ideas on the board, and in two classes the boys cited ‘Nextflix and chill’ as a form of entertainment. Horny 16-year-olds can be a handful (and a laugh).
Until next time, auf Wiederschauen!