October 2007 issue

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The melody of Germany & Austria

From a rich historical and cultural legacy to awesome scenery, Germany and Austria offer students seeking German language opportunities a fulfilling range of experiences. Gillian Evans finds out more.

To the uninitiated, both Germany and Austria may conjure up stereotypical images of fairytale castles and beer-drinking locals, snowy Alps, cream cakes and coffee houses. While these characteristics may well sum up parts of each country, Austria and Germany offer a much richer and wider variety of experiences for those looking to learn German. They both boast stunning scenery, an abundance of architectural treasures and cultural heritage, and are situated right in the centre of Europe – Germany is bordered by nine countries and Austria by eight – making them ideal bases from which to explore many other European countries. This, says Edgar Hälbich at the Anglo-German Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of the reasons Germany is visited by hundreds of thousands of students each year.

Sven Haushalter at Carl Duisberg Centren (CDC) in Berlin emphasises Germany’s rich cultural heritage. “Students are attracted to Germany above all for its culture and history,” he states. “From Martin Luther and the Reformation to the fall of the Berlin Wall; from Albrecht Dürer [author] to Neo Rauch [modern artist]; from Bach to Rammstein [industrial metal band], German culture and history has played a pivotal role in the development of western civilisation.”

Austria is also a country steeped in culture, and many of its cities owe their popularity today to their famous past inhabitants. One such city is Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart – and the film location of The Sound of Music. Visitors to the city can take in Mozart’s birthplace, attend concerts of his music, or take a Sound of Music city tour. But Ursula Pretting at Inlingua Salzburg International School of Languages, which is located in the old city centre, maintains that Salzburg has much more to offer. “Whether you are an art connoisseur or a gourmet, music lover or a holidaymaker looking for rest and relaxation, a daydreamer or a night owl, you will simply love Salzburg,” she relates. “You can stroll leisurely through the narrow streets and alleys of this baroque city. Countless stores invite you to do some shopping, and from the terraces of the world-famous coffee houses you can enjoy the view of beautiful architecture in the well-preserved, historical city centre and take a break from sightseeing with a delicious piece of cake.”

The city is also home to the Hohensalzburg fortress, central Europe’s largest, completely preserved fortress, and the wonderful Hellbrunn Palace with its rambling public gardens and world-famous fountains. But, as it is located in the Alps, Salzburg also has a lot to offer nature lovers. “The Alps are only a few kilometres away from Salzburg,” relates Pretting. “There, you have ideal conditions for hiking, mountain climbing and skiing. Numerous lakes – many of which are so clean, [their water is of] drinking quality – like the Wolfgangsee, Fuschlsee or Mattsee, are great places to cool off in the summer”, she adds. Another Austrian city steeped in a rich cultural and musical heritage is the country’s capital, Vienna. The imperial legacy left from the Habsburg era includes palaces, high baroque churches and aristocratic mansions, while music and theatre flow through the city, which is home to a world-class orchestra, the famous Viennese Boys Choir and one of the world’s finest art collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. What’s more, says Babsi Baumgartner at Actilingua Academy in Vienna, the city is “the ideal place to learn German!” She elaborates, “The Austrian capital combines the convenience of a modern cosmopolitan city with the imperial charm and flair of bygone years. It boasts outstanding infrastructure, is clean and safe, and has all the inspiration you could wish for on a language course. The monuments [from] its rich history and imperial past capture the imagination of history lovers. Music and art fans swarm to the city, and its vibrant social scene provides fun and entertainment.”

Like Vienna, Germany’s capital, Berlin, has a strong cultural legacy, as well as a whole catalogue of attractions that mark many important dates in history. “Berlin is the political and cultural capital of Germany, the place where Germany was born and reborn, again and again, a city that has embodied the dramatic swings of German history,” relates Haushalter. “Today, Berlin is full of contrasts, a crossroads between eastern and western Europe; a dynamic, international city, with six orchestras, three opera houses, dozens of theatres, and too many clubs and galleries to count,” he states.

Berlin is also one of the party capitals of Europe. Axel Freudenfeld at Did Deutsch Institut in Berlin says, “Berlin attracts the younger crowd [which] is more into partying, shopping or relaxing – simply having fun – because Berlin is a very young metropolis, it is still emerging and developing, definitely not mainstream but rather experimental and exciting. When people in other big cities go home at night, Berliners dress up and start to go out.”

Berlin’s many historical and cultural attractions also make it attractive to “more serious sightseers”, adds Freudenfeld. Famous Berlin sites include the Brandenburg Gate, the boulevard Unter den Linden and the new Potsdamer Platz, but Melanie Mähren at BWS Germanlingua, which has centres in both Munich and Berlin, says there are many things that students often do not know about the country’s capital. “Berlin has more bridges than Venice!” she

Agent viewpoint

“My students choose Germany and Austria because of the German language, they are near the Czech Republic, there are pleasant people in Austria and Germany, and good [language] schools. We send students to Munich, Frankfurt-am-Main, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Heidelberg and Berlin in Germany, and Vienna and Salzburg in Austria.”
Radka Hazuchova, Student Agency, Czech Republic

“Both countries, Austria and Germany, are dynamic and diverse. They offer excellent German language instruction, a broad range of internships and experiential options, cosmopolitan cities, history, ecology ... the list goes on! We send students to Kitzbuhel, Salzburg, and Vienna in Australia, and Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, Regensburg, Schmoeckwitz and Stuttgart in Germany. In addition, we work with several home-study programs in smaller communities. All are popular for different age students. Berlin, Salzburg, Schmoeckwitz and Vienna have wonderful teen camps. Munich, Vienna and Berlin offer excellent study/internship combinations. Adults love the friendliness and cultural offerings of Stuttgart and Regensburg. Both Austria and Germany are very welcoming to foreigners. The food and nightlife are both high on the “favoured” list of student evaluations.”
Vanessa Valero, NRCSA, USA

“In general, many Japanese students like the old town and castles of Germany. The “Romantische Strasse (Romantic street)” and the “Neuschwanstein Castle” are one of the most famous destinations for the students. Many music students and art students also like to study in Germany. Of course, German beer, sausages, and football are also very famous for the students. Austria is an attractive destination, especially for music students. Other historical entertainment, such as opera, ballet, or music concerts are very popular. In Germany, we send students to Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Wiesbaden, Augsburg etc. Munich is the most popular destination for Japanese students in Germany. It’s an attractive destination because of its historical value and students know it’s famous for the October fest. Munich is a very convenient location, especially to be able to make short trips to other countries and famous European cities. In Austria, we send students to Vienna. The thing that surprises our students [about the two countries] is how safe many cities are, including the big ones.”
Nanako, Shiraishi, Language School Worldwide, Japan.

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