Jürgen Kürner, ‘boss’ of the Semmering hotel and tourism school
At the age of 31 he was already director of the ‘BLT’ (Höhere Bundeslehranstalt für Tourismus – federal teaching institute for tourism), this beautiful school perched at a height of 1,000 metres, an hour away from Vienna, at the foot of the Zauberberg and its ski-slopes. Six years later Jürgen Kürner embarked on this 16th ‘Christmas in Europe’ with amazing zeal, certain that he had the full support of everyone in his school.
It doesn’t take long to find him – his booming laugh is like an Argos beacon, and to conduct an interview with him all you need is one question, the rest just happens of its own accord – a journalist’s dream! A few hours before the delegations began their journey back home, a few moments before the gala dinner, he was able to spare the time to give me his answer.
‘Ach, es ist einfach grossartig für mich’ are his first words (Ah it’s really tremendous for me). There is so much warm feeling in this event that it’s become like a large family for me! And I think that my colleagues have the same feeling. That’s Europe for you – all these hearts beating together here. Organising this Christmas in Europe was not really a problem – in fact quite the contrary, it has been an extraordinary experience and everything is running without any snags. I have to say that I have an amazing team with me. Same thing for our sponsors - I had no difficulty persuading them and it has been a real pleasure - especially the local sponsors who have helped us enormously.
Now that this magnificent event is drawing to its close I could say without hesitation that I would be glad to start all over again organising Christmas in Europe.’
Jeff Schon, from Luxembourg
Jeff could be a model for a fashion catalogue. He is 18 and a student at the Diekirch hotel school in Luxembourg and he’s delighted and enthusiastic about being a member of the Luxembourg team. He says that he has discovered ‘an excellent atmosphere and really nice people. There’s a lot of preparation work to do and I’m finding out a lot of different things, we really don’t have time to get bored here. And then there’s the fun of discovering other countries, other people, other friends. No, really, I’m so glad to be here!’
The three Austrian graces
They are called Birgit Koschutnig, Karin Novenz and Victoria Holler. All three are wearing the school uniform, and all three are on duty filling the glasses with a very special wine, a sekt Szigeti, for the apéritif before the gala dinner. All three have a beaming smile that is in no way artificial – it’s a real Austrian smile, a natural one!
They couldn’t spare me much time but they told me how happy they were to be part of this Christmas in Europe and to give of their best so that the whole enterprise was a success. The only little grumble that all three of them had – ‘we have a lot of work to do, and that has stopped us from going to the exhibition.’
Thomas Stadler, ‘Mr Communications’
He’s a hospitality student and was a member of the Semmering team last year in Orebro. For him it was an unforgettable experience. This time, in Semmering he has been given responsibility (or did he take it on himself?) for in-house reporting of the event. Armed with his digital camera he shot thousands of pictures. No, you haven’t misread that – thousands of photos, which he then distilled down and presented as video montages projected for the audience. He can’t have been getting much sleep!
His impressions echo those of his fellow participants. ‘I really like seeing all these people, there’s an excellent atmosphere here and we’ve made a lot of friends. Our friends in the other delegations have had a chance to discover our region and I’ve seen fellow students whom I met in Orebro last year. It’s really fantastic!’
In the general melee of visitors to the exhibition two Semmering students are clearly delighted and ‘sprachlos’ (speechless) at the discoveries they are making. No comment needed!