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Saturday, 31 August 2019

Austria: A Land of Scenic Beauty and Historic, Medieval Towns - Page 5

Written by Roger Marks
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Through our hotel, we booked an evening of traditional mountain folk music, dance and singing from the Tryol region (the eastern Alps located in western Austria) arranged by the Gundolf family for more than 50 years. The hotel arranged for transport to and from the auditorium about a 15 minute drive outside of Innsbruck. All of the performers were in their traditional local costumes. There were acts of yodeling, numerous folkdances, singing, and music using the alpine horns one associates with the mountain dwellers of the Alps.

The next day we drove from Innsbruck to Mittenwald, Germany, one of the most colorful villages in Bavaria just a 45 minute drive from Innsbruck. The town is famous for its architecturally traditional painted houses with scenes from history or folklore. Some of the houses date back 250 years. We also visited the Geigenbaumusem (violin museum) as this area is famous for making violins for over 300 years as the location is ideal for good quality wood.

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From Mittenwald we drove back into Austria to Reutte to walk the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. It is 1,322 feet and spans between a fort and a castle built in 1296 with its fortified walls and towers still intact. The suspension bridge is 376 feet high and can carry up to 500 people at one time. There are metal grids on both sides of the bridge that are almost shoulder length so we felt very secure walking the entire span of the bridge. One can also see the highway below through the metal grid design but fortunately it wasn’t disorienting. The bridge swayed more in the middle as it was more exposed to breezes. There were some great views of white-capped peaks in the distance. From Reutte, we drove to Bregenz, a city nestled in the far northwest corner of the country. We had had one of our best dinners of the trip at Salzgeber Gastronomiebetriebs, a boutique 18th century inn and restaurant. Specifically we had carrot-ginger soup, Wiener schnitzel (lightly fried veal cutlet) served with cranberry sauce, chicken breast with coconut curry, and apple strudel with whipped cream. To walk off our dinner, we strolled along the Bregenz Promenade on Lake Constance, just a couple of blocks from the restaurant. We then walked back to our hotel, Hotel Germania, which we booked because of its central location and two-minute walk to the cable car.

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The next day we took the famous cable car to the top of a small mountain (about 3,100 feet) with views of Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. There were very good views of the mountains and Lake Constance. We then drove the 66 mile “cheese road” that begins on the outskirts of Bregenz and is known for its beautiful scenery and over 70 alpine cheese farms with traditional farm house architecture. Almost every village on this road has its own cheese house making its own cheese. We stopped in Lingenau, one of the more scenic villages, to visit a modern cheese cellar where several hundreds of mounds of cheese are left to mature on racks piled to the ceiling in a room not open to the public for sanitation reasons but can be viewed through the glass window. There are 60 varieties of Vorarlberg cheese made in this region that are sold throughout Europe.


We then drove to the charming medieval village of Feldkirch, about a half-hour south of Bregenz, where we spent much of the afternoon exploring. This is the most westerly town in Austria on the border with Liechtenstein. The town dates back to the 1200s and is very well preserved including the city wall which was rebuilt around 1500. We visited the Schattenburg Castle built 800 years ago as a fortress and then a residence, poorhouse and prison. Today it houses a museum and is the best-preserved castle in the region. There are great views of the old town from the castle. We also visit City Hall, St. Nikolaus Church built in 1478, the bell tower and the Palais Lichtenstein which was a residence for the Prince of Lichtenstein around 1700 and today serves as the tourist office and library.


After returning to Bregenz, we did a two hour walk around the old town, passing many architecturally interesting mansions leading up to the entrance to the Old City. We visited the tower built around 1600, the old city hall, a Baroque townhouse built in 1720, a church with 14th century frescoes, the Lake Chapel topped with an onion dome, and across the river, the Parish Church of St. Gallus, a 14th century Gothic structure notable for its late Baroque and Rococo interior decoration.

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The next day we had a nine hour drive from Bregenz to Graz, a major town located on the opposite side of Austria, with a detour to visit the Hochosterwitz Castle. The drive should have been closer to seven hours but for road construction that added on an additional two hours. The castle is built high on a limestone rock almost 2,200 feet above sea level. We took the glass elevator to the castle which is considered one of Austria’s most impressive medieval castles. It was a refuge for the local population during the Turkish invasion in the 11th and 12th century. This is one of the few castles that was never conquered. It contains a museum composed of three rooms where one can view the armory and paintings. Part of the castle and courtyard are now occupied by a restaurant. What today’s tourist sees is a sparse castle which is particularly impressive from a distance with its fairytale architecture perched high on a rock dominating the surrounding area. One of the more interesting aspects of it are the 14 different gates that one passes through if climbing the stone path from the entrance to the top or hiking from the top back down.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 02 October 2019

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