The Austrian Tirol: a perfect school trip destination

How does a traditional mountain guesthouse almost 1,800m above sea level in the Austrian Tirol appeal as the dramatic base for a German language school group trip? This was the case for the students from Forest School London who visited the Tirol last month. Read on to find out more about their exciting and memorable educational trip:

It turned out to be a cultural adventure and German language learning experience of a lifetime for this intrepid group of students and their teachers visiting the Austrian Tirol for 4 days. Arriving in Innsbruck on a direct Easyjet flight from London Gatwick, they were transferred to the Alpine Zoo in the Hungerburg area of the city, on the lower slopes of the Nordkette mountains.

A group of students walking in the snowy forest with snowshoes on

Students setting off on their snowshoe hike

The Alpenzoo is the highest zoo in Europe and has an impressive range of animals found in high Alpine areas including wolves, lynx, brown bears and wild boars. German language practice started with reading the labels and signs around the zoo and then ordering lunch in the impressive zoo restaurant, with views over the Inn Valley and mountains.

The group then drove south towards the Brenner Pass, a route which links Southern Germany and the Tirol to Italy and which has been an important trading route since Roman times.  At Mattrei am Brenner the bus left the main highway and started winding up into the Navis Valley until the road narrowed down to a single track road and then stopped. From this point the group and local guide Katarina hiked up a well-marked forest track still covered in snow (even though it was mid-April) up to the Naviserhütte, home for the next few days.

Up at the accommodation, the snow was still over 1 metre deep and fresh snow had fallen just a few days earlier.  The area is well known by local ski tour fans in the winter months, and also tobagganers who hike up to this point and then use traditional wooden toboggans to sledge back down the forest track.  In the summer months, this is a popular area for walking and hiking and the surrounding mountain pastures are dotted with cows, all with bells around their necks.  On the first evening, the group had an informal presentation on life in the Tirol given by the Naviserhütte manager, Patrick, and the group learned about popular annual local festivals, traditional Tirolean costumes and also practised some useful greetings in the local dialect.

Austrian man cutting cheese for students to try

Sampling the local cheeses in the Tirolean mountains

The following day, the group were fitted with snowshoes under the guidance of experienced local mountain guide, Franz, and after a 3 hour snowshoe hike arrived at the Peeralm, a traditional mountain restaurant on the opposite side of the valley. Here they had a picnic lunch in the sunshine before visiting the small cheese production unit managed by Karl, owner of the Peeralm, with tastings of his most popular cheese. Returning to the Naviserhütte for 2 hours of German language lessons, the group had time for playing in the snow before an evening meal of traditional Kazspatzl (homemade cheese noodles with toasted onions on top).

A group of boys and girls in traditional Austrian outfits dancing

Students learning traditional dances from the local Schuhplatter youth group

Day 3 saw the group hiking down the mountain using the snowshoes, now a familiar form of footwear. They went to Navis Village to visit the Hortnagl family home where local guide Franz explained how to make traditional schnapps and fresh apple juice using organic fruit from his own orchards and from other farms. On this evening there was a specially arranged demonstration of traditional Tirolean dance and music by the Navis youth Schuhplattler group, with participation by the Forest School students.  To wrap up the evening, the students and local youth group had dinner together and the opportunity for a cultural exchange, using German as the main language to communicate.

All too soon the last day arrived, and the group drove to Innsbruck for a guided walking tour of the Old Town including Maria-Theresian Strasse, the Goldenes Dachl and a beautiful view of the Nordkette mountains from the Innbrücke.  Innsbruck is the

Group of teenagers sitting in Innsbruck town centre

Students visiting the historical centre of Innsbruck

capital of the Tirol and the 5th largest city in Austria, famous for its winter sports facilities. It hosted the winter Olympics in 1964 and again in 1976 and the first ever Winter Youth Olympics in 2012.  It also has a strong cultural heritage and in 1620 was the location for the first opera house to be built north of the Alps, with Innsbruck university established shortly afterwards in 1669.  Innsbruck became a rich city in the 15th century as the heart of the Hapsburg Empire, and to this day is still the cultural and economic hub for western Austria.

Forest School London has already confirmed that they will be back next year for another German language and culture trip in the Tirol and we look forward to welcoming them to this unique region.

“It was a truly excellent trip with great advice and support from Caledonia. Everything ran seamlessly and the trip was quite an unusual one which really appealed to our students.”

D.Hordok, group leader, Forest School London, April 2018

The itinerary can be customised to suit cross-curricular school groups, with or without German tuition, and can also be adapted for families or groups of friends. Contact us to discuss your trip to the Austrian Tirol on or +44 (0)131 621 7721.


About the Author
Kath Bateman founded Caledonia in 1996 and still has a very active role in the company. As a linguist and avid traveller, Caledonia brings together many strands of Kath’s personal and professional interests. She is a Modern Languages and Tourism graduate and has worked as a tour leader and trilingual guide, ski rep and salsa teacher, cultural events organiser, salsa club promoter and English language teacher. She lived and studied in France and Austria and has travelled widely elsewhere in Europe, Latin America and particularly in Cuba. Kath is still very much involved in the business and is as motivated by what Caledonia does as when she first set up the company in the spare room at home all those years ago.