“It’s the small things that truly get to my heart. I think they always have, but I only became aware of it over the years. As kids it was all about nature and the simple life. We were out picking berries with our mother, worked on the fields with dad, and looked after the animals. We also had a few rooms for guests, and we loved having them around. It was like a family extension. They stayed for two weeks and were a part of our lives.
I guess that’s why I took a degree in Hotel Management. Yet, I’ve always loved sports, too, and loved being out in nature. Therefore, I trained as a hiking guide almost 20 years ago. When I guided my first tour for the Naturpark Ötztal, I knew immediately: this is my world. It is such a wonderful feeling to share the unique richness of our valley with guests. When you get them to let go and to connect with nature – and thereby also with themselves. When they take off their shoes and with them all their inhibitions and hesitation. When they walk barefoot through the grass or in a lake and you can see in their faces that there is something happening deep inside.
My motto is: Take the first step of a hike at the same pace than the last. Often, you have to slow people down right at the beginning. They tend to rush off, maybe they first have to peel off the hectic routine they are used to. But once they do and the group has found its rhythm, then you find calm and ease. And only when you are calm you can connect with nature. Anyone can hike from A to B. But for those true experiences, those moments that will stay with you forever, you must make room for your senses and feelings.
Today, my main task at the Naturpark Ötztal is environmental education, also for schools. Each year, up to 1000 kids from the Ötztal take part in our programs. We have herbal courses, geology tours or we take them to the Piburg lake equipped with dip nets, microscope and wellies. I believe that those experiences sharpen their awareness for nature and shape them for life. And to be honest it’s the same with grown-ups when their curiosity and openness reawakens.
A few years ago I started with photography. Beautiful raindrops on a spider web, a nettle-eating caterpillar, young marmots playing around – those are special moments and they keep on surprising me. You cannot plan them. You have to let them come to you. And then enjoy their wondrous beauty.
I have a line that I always put down in the summit book and it probably says it all: "It's not my legs that got me here, but my heart." Patrizia Plattner, graduated in Hotel Management, hiking- and nature park guide