PAZNAUN PEOPLE: ALFRED SIEGELE, WOODWORKER

Alfred Siegele is 63 years old and lives in Kappl. He used to be a crane driver, but since retiring, he has made decorative wood pieces which he sells throughout Austria. He talks to Trisanna about the peace of the mountains, his childhood in Kappl, and how tourism has brought the region to life. Alfred, we’re standing here in front of your house in Langesthei. There’s a wonderful view from up here, but most importantly, it’s incredibly quiet. Is it sometimes too quiet for you?
No, personally I like the peace. But I must admit I’m often asked how I cope here. I understand that this region can seem really bleak to some people, and obviously not everyone wants to live in the mountains, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And I’m really happy, too, that it’s still so quiet here. It’s hard to believe these days, but in the past, there wasn’t much going on anywhere in Paznaun.
Yes, that’s right. There wasn’t very much, just a street which led through the town and individual houses on the mountain slopes. But that was another time, too. There weren’t many oppportunities for young people here. Only about half could do an apprenticeship.
How do you remember those times?
They were great, actually. Everything was a little more modest. I had twelve brothers and sisters, we had to live more humbly. We always had enough to eat, but there just wasn’t the choice that there is today. In those days, you couldn’t just go quickly to the supermarket, no, we made the food by ourselves. Today there seems to be an abundance of everything. Back then, even little things were worth a great deal. A bread roll with a sausage was something special.
That changed when Paznaun became a winter ski area.
Yes, tourism has changed everything, and it happened incredibly quickly. In the 70s the first visitors arrived. Suddenly there was enough work for everyone. Does that mean you’re also very pleased with tourism here?
Yes, very. We live from it, without our visitors there’d be nothing going on, there wouldn’t be so many roads and many people would have long since moved away. Tourism creates jobs throughout the year. In construction in the summer, with the lifts and the hotels in the winter. In Ischgl in the winter it can be pretty full here, isn’t it sometimes too overrun for you?
I like when things are happening in the town and it’s always exciting when so many people from different countries come together. In the summer it’s quieter. And up here in Langesthei, it’s always quiet anyway.