An apéritif made with Szigeti sekt, Christmas music performed by the school orchestra, the Festsaal superbly decorated, magnificently laid tables, a guard of honour by the students as the guests entered, formal dress and a gastronomic menu. All the ingredients were there to give the last evening, the gala dinner, all the brilliance that the organisers intended. And so it was.
The tone was set from the start thanks to Thomas Stadler’s video montage to the tune of ‘We are the world, we are the children’ which recalled several stages of our stay in Semmering. Horst Schröttner, the mayor of Semmering, said how proud he was to host such an event in his village; he reminded us that, despite its small size Semmering nevertheless provided 102,000 bed-nights per year! He hoped that all the participants would take away with them an excellent memory of Semmering and that above all they would return there one day.
The succession of dishes served was punctuated by a variety of entertainments, including a fire-eating barman, the school choir and the school orchestra – until the arrival of the restaurant service team bearing the dessert – baked Alaskas – to the thunderous applause of the diners.
And of course there were speeches; the one from Christiane Keller said it in a nutshell: ‘Sie haben uns verzaubert am Fuss des Zauberbergs (you have enchanted us at the foot of the Zauberberg mountain), you have written a really fine page in the story of Christmas in Europe. Many thanks for carrying on these traditions’.
Jürgen Kürner, the school director, thanked the delegations for coming to Semmering and said how proud he was of his teachers and students. ‘Thank you everyone, thank you Mother Christmas, thanks to all of you who gave 100% commitment to organising this Christmas in Europe.’ He then singled out for special thanks: Otto, Anna, Thomas, the professional partners including particularly Eduard Aberham and the mayor Horst Schröttner, not forgetting his team of young students. There was a standing ovation to greet and thank all the students in the restaurant and kitchen teams who had made their contribution with such style and dedication throughout our stay.
After the delegations had been presented with their certificates of attendance, another equally touching moment was the exchange of gifts, including a fine book on the ‘Semmering Bahn’ (Semmering railway) presented to each delegation by the village authorities. Almost the last word was from Claude Carriot, director of the Château-Chinon school, next host of Christmas in Europe; Mr Carriot declared that he was delighted to have experienced the atmosphere of conviviality and friendship in Semmering – and this was the appropriate moment to show to the audience a video portraying the setting for the next Christmas in Europe in 2008 in this little town in the Morvan region of France.
Then came the ceremony of handing over the AEHT flag from Semmering to Château-Chinon. It is always a moving moment when the AEHT symbol is passed from one organiser to the next, from Semmering to Château-Chinon, accompanied by the European anthem and laud applause. We have turned the page on 2007 – long live the 2008 page!