Kirch­berg am Wech­sel

Published Categorised as Austria, Nature, Photography, Popular Posts 3 Comments on Kirch­berg am Wech­sel

wooden house

Last Summer I spent a week work­ing at the juni­or school in Kirch­berg am Wech­sel, a tiny moun­tain town on the east­ern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essen­tially one long street between some moun­tains, with “Lower Austria’s finest stalac­tite cave” (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgen­stein fest­iv­al. As moun­tains go, by Austri­an stand­ards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said some­thing to the kids about the moun­tains they basic­ally went “what moun­tains?” and when I poin­ted out of the window they went “oh yeah, those, there are much better moun­tains in other places”. Still, I like any kind of moun­tains, and the Wech­sel is still 1,743m high, so it’s hardly a hill. Mountains/​hills and water, that’s what I like. I wouldn’t do well some­where like Kansas.

forest 2

There weren’t many surnames to go round at the school, and a lot of the chil­dren were cous­ins. There’s a game I play with the young­er chil­dren called “change places if …” which is essen­tially music­al chairs, but they only change places if they match a condi­tion someone shouts out. This is the first time I have ever had things like “change places if you have some cows” cause the major­ity of the kids to swap chairs. I also said “change places if you have blonde hair” and only the kid with white blonde hair moved, the other 10 or so blonde kids seemed to think they had brown hair. The Alps!

The land­lady of the gues­t­house cooked me loads of amaz­ing veget­ari­an things with pump­kins, and mush­rooms she’d picked herself in the moun­tains. The portions however were inten­ded for people doing seri­ous hiking rather than making sock puppets with juni­or school chil­dren, and I kept worry­ing her that the food was no good because I could never clear the enorm­ous plat­ters. I also drank a lot of Almdudler.

At one point I kept hear­ing what soun­ded like the Twin Peaks music through my bedroom wall, and I wondered if I was imagin­ing it. There turned out to be some kind of “relax­a­tion veranda” down­stairs next to the little stream where they had a chil­lout cd on a loop which did sound a lot like the Twin Peaks music.


It was the kind of place where when you go to the super­mar­ket, the cash­ier goes “oh, you must be the English teach­er!”. The local branch of Spar also sells leder­hosen and dirndls. You know you are in rural Austria when you can buy leder­hosen at the super­mar­ket. And yes, people do honestly own them and wear them on special occa­sions. They are quite expens­ive actu­ally, about €300 for an outfit, and made of really nice mater­i­als. This magazine also exists, with patterns to sew the vari­ous featured dirndls. Flick­ing through the magazine feels like living in some pleas­ant but odd Heidi altern­ate universe.


The local accent was pretty strong, kind of a cross between Vienna and Styria. The follow­ing week I was in Feldkirk on the Swiss/​Liechtenstein border where they have a totally differ­ent accent (and which is in gener­al a more cosmo­pol­it­an area) and I had to remem­ber to change my pronun­ci­ation of kirk to not get laughed at. In Kirch­berg it’s like keeerrrrk­beeerrrrrk and people will not get you if you pronounce the town name any other way, in Feldkirk they pronounce it as you would in English.

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  1. The Missis­sippi Delta would be a night­mare scape for you…there are lots of bayous and rivers but it's so flat water won't run. Ha.

    Good music though.

    A Wittgen­stein “fest­iv­al”? Were there rides? Go up a ladder and have some­body kick it out from under you?
    Surely there were games.


    Gergeous pictures.

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