Thursday, November 29, 2007

Goethe Institute, Prien and my teacher Herr Ochs

Flash back to 1975. I studied German language in Goethe Institute at Prien am Chiemsee, a beautiful resort town near Munich, the Bavarian Capital during Dec.1975-Jan.1976. Mr.Ochs(Ox) , a bearded Austrian bachelor was my teacher. At that time, I was 29 years old and Mr.Ochs was about 45 years old. He had mastery over the English language too. This made his teaching more effective. While teaching us German, he spoke to us on a wide variety of subjects. He was very international in his outlook. He even took us to restaurants in nearby villages and introduced us to authentic German cuisine, though as a vegetarian I chose to forgo opportunities of getting to taste much of the German food. Herr Ochs had become an indispensable part of our daily life at the end of the two months.

Cut to 2007 April. I was making a visit to Germany on my way to the United States. I took a train to Prien from Munich. Prien had changed a lot in the intervening 32 years. More shops. More crowded Railway station. I did not remember the way from the Railway station to the Goethe Institute any more. With some guidance from the passers-by, I managed to locate the institute. It was heart-breaking to learn that the Goethe Institute had closed down its Prien branch. All that remained was the building, uninhabited . And Herr Ochs who had retired long ago, was no more. Some thing sank in me. The old care-taker of the by-now empty Goethe Institute building was nostalgic and sad. His wife, he said, had worked in the kitchen of the institute for several years. She is no more. He lives alone. I said with a sigh , " Every thing seems to have changed in Prien". He shook his shoulders and countered, " Has not the entire world changed upside down?". True. To lighten the atmosphere, I said," But the German beer has not changed. It still schmeckt gut." The care-taker laughed and the heaviness on my heart eased a bit.

Have you any time wondered why we all suffer from pangs of nostalgia? Why that wistfulness? Why that tinge of regret for times gone by? As if a part of us has vanished for ever, never never to return? Is it because it reminds us of passage of precious time? Our mortality? That we are living on borrowed time ? Will we ever come to terms with the truth that we are living in a time-defined ephemeral world?


Anthony said...

Yes I too, a South African, studied at the Prien-am-Chiemsee Goethe Institut in 1982 prior to commencing my studies at Munich University. That was the happiest year of my life. The staff, the 75 nationalities, the Studentenheim on the hill, the beautiful lake, the friendly inhabitants, the beer fest, the walks in the mountains and swimming in the Alpine lakes. It is a tragedy that the Institut has shut down. A great loss to all those who did not have the privilege of studying there. I often wonder what happened to the good people I met and befriended there from around the world. Wishing you all well.

Anthony Court

Anonymous said...

I also studied at the Goethe Institut Prien fairly recently in the summer of 2003. I can't believe it's closed! I was 19 at the time and something about that beautiful little place was magical. The nostalgia of it is getting to me, and I am not even that far removed, in terms of years. My heart sank when I discovered this location was closed. I've never been happier than I was there that summer. What a wonderful place.

Anonymous said...

in prien hat mein vater deutch gelernt und ein maedchen vom yonkers/n.y kennengelernt
nach 30 jarhen hat er sei gefunden
aber in zwischen ist er WEG ...

rich.a.nelson said...

I also studied at the Goethe Institut in Prien during the summer of 1994. I went back to Prien in 2001 and also discovered it was closed. I was heartbroken. I hiked up the Herrnberg in Prien to look at the home where many of us stayed and found that the building adjacent to the home where I lived had been torn down. It too was one of the most unforgettable summers of my life and I still think of it often. I still stay in touch with a couple of the students from that summer but I know that I will never experience something like that again in my life. It is very sad to see things change but I consider myself very lucky to have been part of that magical summer in Prien.

Anonymous said...

I studied at the Goethe Institut Prien in June-July 2001. It is very strange to me that it is now closed. At the time, the building with its attached dorm was practically brand-new, and they kept going on and on about how proud they were about their new facility. I stayed up the road a good ways, on a dairy farm; the dorm was full, and in fact the Institut seemed a bit overcrowded with students, and some of the courses were held in extra rooms in the elementary school (?) next door. It was a wonderful place and I had a great time. I was just looking to see about taking another course there with my wife, and I was disappointed not to find it on the Goethe site. What a loss!

Anonymous said...

I was a student there in 1992 and I spent 4 of the most happiest times of my life there.I am almost heart broken to know the school is no more.
I stayed at the big house on the hill, with Frau Rappell as the caretaker up there.
If any one wants any photos of what it was like in 1992 I would happily email some when I get round to digitizing them.
God Bless the Goethe Institut of Prien.

Louise Dix said...

I too studied at the Goethe Institut, Prien am Chiemsee. Heaven. It was 1981 and at 22, I was not aware that such a fabulous experience may not come again. I echo all that has been said. My teacher was Frau Bennema. I am shocked to hear it has shut down, however I'm sure students at other sites in Germany had a fabulous time as well- not just the place but the people and the whole experience. I'm sure others in my classes have the same memories.

Fraulein Morgan said...

I was student of Herr Oches in the Mittelstoffe class, 1970. What an experience! I had been living in Bavaria for some time as a aupaire Madchen, Irschenhausen (in the Isartal) and my family there arranged for me to take a semester in Prien. This was shortly after the Czechosolavkian invasion of 129698, for the Institut was filled with Czech refugees. They were terrific classmates. Herr Oches had a party for us in his home.

I was by far the worst student in the class; most of the others had a German parent (the Czechs) . I should have been in the lower class but was only one pojnt off from Mittelstoffe, so I begged to get into that class--I wanted to be with students whose German was better than mine (and no Americans). This made me kind of the pitiful but beloved mascot of the class--i was pretty bad. They all helped me. with my homework. When we took the final exam, Herr Ochs announced that all of us had passed the exam --"und sogar Fraulen Morgan!"--they all stood and applauded!! everyone was amazed I had passed!

Rumor at that time was that Herr Oches was a Soviet spy. W. Germany was crawling with spies so maybe it was true.

Oh how I loved those months in Prien! I lived in town, in a room above the bakery. We had to pay a few marks to take a bath--the faucet was removed, and we had to pay to get it so we could take bath. So I went to the spa for a sauna and shower instead--it was cheaper. The Czech kids were so poor, they stole milk cartoons from our breakfast at the Institute and used it to make yogurt--we would add a spoonful of yogurt as a culture and warm it on on the heaters in our room.
Weekends, we hitchhiked (autostop) into Munchen where all of us had friends with rooms and apartments who would put us up in sleeping bags somewhere.

I took my children there in 1987 and 1992. I am sad to hear it is gone. Very, very sad.

Marciano Rubel said...

I'm brazilian and also studied in May/April 1980. I had a big expectation because I should start my work in Munich just after the course was finished. I had also great time with my friends from Mexico, UK, USA, Australia, Africa; I can1t remember all the people but it was really fantastic.

Jennifer Rosario said...

I too studied at the Prien Ghoete Institute in 1992. I was the youngest student in the program during that session. It was the adult session but they had made an exception for me, who was 14, going on 15 at the time. Those were the most memorable months of my life. It was a life changing experience. I had met so many people from around the world and shared a home with them on the Bahnhof. To this day I wish I could tell them how much they impacted my life. I was a young girl from the Bronx who was dropped into the Ghoete for a crash course in German. I was scared and upset but was so well embraced by all my foreign peers. I am so sad that it is closed now. My memories will forever be with me. I would love to see pictures from that year.

DR said...

I studied and lived at the institute in Prien for 10 months in 2001. It was a very special time in my life. I returned in 2003 or 2004, just to visit with people as I was in the area, and all seemed to be normal.

In 2006, my partner and I discovered that the institute was offering accommodations, which seemed very strange to me. The place was always full, and I couldn't imagine how they had any rooms to offer people who weren't students. We decided to stay there, and I was amazed to see the place so empty!

Almost all the teachers were gone, and I think the only instruction being done was something that had been organized privately. The scores (hundreds?) of students were gone, along with the familiar teachers and administration people.

While there, I heard rumors that Goethe Institute headquarters had made a decision to consolidate, resulting in the closure of some of the smaller institutes. Seemed very strange, because the place had always been so bustling.

I think it might have been the next year (2007), when I learned that the institute had closed. Like many here, I felt like a part of my life had disappeared. Many fond memories.

Anonymous said...

I just came by this article in the net by chance; because I was not able to find the adresse of Goethe institute at Prien in the web.

As all of you, it is sad to hear that the school was closed.

I spend a wonderful summer there in 2004. I was staying at the residence near the train station.

as many of you, I will remeber that time as one of the best in my life: the beer & bbq's, the soccer and volleyball matches, the nights at the locals pubs, the kebab near the central station....
only nice memories.

Gabriela Baumgartner said...

As many others have experienced this beautiful town and the Goethe Institut, so did I in January 1986. I have some of the fondest memories of my life as I set out alone shortly after high school graduation. I met so many wonderful people from all over the world and especially befriended several Japanese students. Alas, my address book with all my contacts was lost during a move around 1993. If anyone remembers me and our class, please contact me at:


Gabriela Baumgartner (Gaby)
from USA

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amanda said...

I was just looking through photos of my time in Prien Goethe Institut and decided to google it and found this site. I had the best time of my life too, 4 months 78/79. Herr Naumann was the best teacher I have ever had in anything. I had a room in Tulpenweg with Frau Wunder as my landlady, and there were lots of South African refugees studying with us. I went on to study viola in Freiburg with some of the best teachers, had the best times but nothing as rich and stimulating as this. They say music is the universal language but this sharing of cultures, food, humour, debating life's big questions in our newly learnt Deutsch left an indelible mark on my soul..went deeper than any music. Elena, the Greek journalist who read our cards...the Brazilian priest, the Swiss lawyer, the American biologist, the Finnish dental nurse. I was fascinated by you all. We touched briefly, intensely and for most of us at the beginning of our adult life's journey, hopefully taking this feeling that the world is full of great human beings with amazing stories to tell with us.
Thanks Prien, Goethe Institut, and Germany for having me.

Anonymous said...

I was reviewing some home movies and found the segment I filmed in 1968 when I arrived in Prien am Chiemsee for a course at the Goethe Institut. My friend and I were given accommodation over the butcher shop (Toni Schoenhuber was painted on the side of the building). When we heard a cow mooing in the night, we fantasized that it would show up as steaks the next day! Some of the students made a weekend trip to Czechoslovakia right before it closed due to the Soviet invasion, but I didn't want to take any chances. There was a wonderful mix of nationalities and ages. I spent several months enjoying the people, the food, and carefree adventures. Everyone couldn't wait to hear my Monday report, since something unplanned always happened to our traveling group. We learned, too late, that "umsteigen" meant we needed to be on another part of the train before the cars separated at the next station. We also took an unplanned trip to the Salz Berg, instead of arriving in Salzburg. The fun and interesting personalities are still wonderful memories this many years later. I hope the Goethe Institut continues its program to give other adventurous people future happy times.

Amoré Ziegler said...

Could anyone please help me with supplying contact details such as website, email address or contact number for the Goethe Institute in Prien am Chiemsee? I can't seem to find their contact details anywhere?

My email address is

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iNekic said...

Thanks for sharing that!
I also was lucky to study German in Goethe Institut Prien in summer 1994.
An amazing time, beautiful place and surroundings.

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