Love in the Mountains: Kate & Michl
Every year people from around the world fall in love with the mountains and culture of Tirol – and some even fall in love with a local. We asked international couples about the role the mountains have played in their relationship.
Happily ever after in the Zillertal Valley
Kate and Michl Seiringer, both 53, have lived in the village of Finkenberg in the Zillertal Valley since 1992. Kate is originally from England and works today as an interpreter. Michl takes care of the holiday homes they rent out to visitors. The couple have three children. Their oldest daughter is currently expecting a child of her own – and the father is from England!
Michl: During my apprenticeship as a baker, I developed an allergy to rye flour. While skiing in Mayrhofen, I happened to meet an English baker who told me that they don't use rye flour over there and invited me to come and work for him. That's how I ended up in the southern English coastal village of Swanage Bay in 1988.
Kate: I was living in London at the time and had just broken off my engagement. I fled to my family's holiday home in Swanage Bay. I had no money and needed a job. I came across an advert in the local paper that a bakery was looking for people to carry out deliveries.
My boss invited Kate for a trial day. Instead of having breakfast in the bakery, we bakers hid in the packaging room, because it was easy to see outside from there.And suddenly this fantastic-looking girl comes in. I think you were wearing a miniskirt…
It was a jumpsuit …
Right! I turned to my colleague Marc and said to him: "That's the girl I'm going to marry." But he was also interested, so we bet ten pounds.
My job was to pack and load the bread. When I was done with one load, I looked through the hatch to see when the next one was coming. All I could see were the bakers' legs. Five pairs were typically English and uninteresting: thin and white. But then there was one pair that was really enormous. For three days I looked at those hunky legs. I think that's what finally did it for me.
I was 18 at the time and had to go back to Tirol to do my military service. Before that we wanted to visit my home country together. It was a real culture shock for Kate.
I didn't know a word of German, and your mother was anything but enthusiastic! She couldn't understand why it had to be a foreigner when there were so many fine girls in the Zillertal Valley. But I will never forget my first experience of Krampus. I immediately sensed that there was something in the air that day. The adults were laughing all the time while the children were crying. When it got dark, suddenly there was a rattling at the windows and Saint Nicholas came through the door with this hairy devil in tow. Then I was grabbed, carried out of the house and beaten with the rod. And the mother-in-law kept shouting "Go on, go on." That was one of my first impressions of Tirol!
(laughs) Like something from the Middle Ages!
He still finds it funny today. The next day I ate "Zillertaler Krapfen" for the first time. Heaven and hell within 24 hours. I remember thinking to myself: "The food is so good, but the people are so bad." I couldn't imagine living here. But on the journey home I had a little something extra in my luggage...
When I got the news that Kate was pregnant, I was very happy. I said, "Well, I guess it's fate. Hop on the plane, we're getting married."
Love in the Mountains
This article is part of the series "Love in the Mountains". In it, we talk to couples living in Tirol. One of them is a local, one comes from another part of the world.
Your mother was less happy. In Tirol at that time, a woman was measured by her ability to work. In London I was a reinsurance saleswoman and I had never seen a sickle in my life. At the wedding, your mother wore black.
I remember it more as anthracite. But yes, the wedding was funny. We should have hired an interpreter, but we couldn't afford one, so we did a deal. I would nudge Kate when she needed to say "I do". My friends from the bakery in England also came over for the wedding, which was really nice. Even Marc, who owed me ten pounds!
While Michl was doing his military service, I lived with my parents-in-law. When he was done we wanted to open a restaurant in England, but because Michl didn't have a permanent residence permit it didn't work out.
A few years later I received the news that the local bowling alley with a restaurant attached in the nearby village of Mayrhofen was available for lease. We had just six weeks before we had to open. I got into the kitchen and Kate put on a dirndl and served.
We worked a lot. But it was a good time. I learned German and we were able to build something together.
The first years here in the Zillertal Valley were not easy for Kate. Fortunately, she is a fighter.
It took me a long time to understand why many people in the Zillertal Valley are so harsh. At some point it struck me - people take on the characteristics of the landscape in which they live. And life here used to be harsh. The "Nadl", or grandmother, still knew what it felt like to go hungry. Experiences like that become ingrained and are naturally passed on to the next generation. But the "Zillertalers" are actually quite soft. You just have to scratch the surface long enough to see what is below.
Soon everyone took Kate to their hearts. They saw she could work hard and also have a laught at the same time. Today my whole family confides in her because she is so warm and open.
When I first came to the Zillertal Valley, I thought time had stood still. The physical work, the economical use of resources, the closeness to nature. Today, I can hardly imagine a better life. I think it's fantastic that the butter here tastes different in autumn than in spring and that the water is so clear. I think the people here are ahead of the rest of the world in not even allowing things to develop in the wrong way.