On the day of our arrival to Bregenzerwald, in the very west of Austria, my son Liam and I woke up in Belgium and my husband Georg in Vienna. The Bregenzerwald alpine forest district happens to lie somehow “in between”. We thus arranged to meet “halfway, slightly above” (in the German town of Stuttgart 😉 ) driving the rest of the 300 kilometres that day together. To a place called Schoppernau. Schoppernau, at the very back of the Bregenzerwald, beckons us with views that speak of a unique connection between natural and cultural alpine landscapes.
This connection then revealed itself day by day, as we ventured deeper into the Bregenzerwald forest district. It speaks of arduous settlement history, of day-to-day village life, of pride in local crafts and a unique sense of humour, too. The “Wälder”, as the locals like to call themselves, do speak their own tongue, too (I cannot understand their local dialect, mind you, and yet we “live in the same country”!). Marvellous. I can only recommend you spend some time here exploring. The first time I’ve visited Bregenzerwald back in 2017 along its Cheese Road, I vowed to come back one day. Here we go, then.
Finally, then. Hello, Bregenzerwald, with tremendous stories about nature, culture, architecture and local know-how!
Let’s talk about the local architecture and know-how first. Twelve villages have joined forces and offer so-called “Umgänge” (local guided tours) in their respective little towns. The maximum number of participants is 10 people – a very personal, interesting tour thus. At the time of our visit, Hittisau happened to offer such an Umgang local guided tour. Veronika, our guide, told us all we needed to know about the skills in wood processing (I love the wooden tiles that cover not only roofs, but walls of houses and farms, too!), regional construction skills, typical day-to-day life in a Bregenzerwald village and – the only women’s museum in a rural area worldwide!
Our guide Veronika also pointed out the BUS:STOP Krumbach project, a joint initiative of culture, architecture and business. Seven so-called “Wartehüsle” (bus stops, in the local jargon 😉 ) were designed and built by seven architects from seven countries. Exciting architecture obviously knows no bounds in the Bregenzerwald! You can read more about this project here. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to all the “Wartehüsle” ourselves.
One of the reasons was that we were already expected at the equally exciting Werkraumhaus workshop and museum space in the nearby village of Andelsbuch. Almost 100 regional craftsmen exhibit here, dozens of them were involved in the construction of the building, which acts as a “stage for crafts with a variety of uses“. Definitely plan a visit if, like us, you are interested in examples of a successful combination of design, architecture, craftsmanship and regional know-how!
Back to nature in Bregenzerwald. Or have you ever done a barefoot hike across an alpine moor ..?!
Once Georg and Liam went off for their daytime nap (like son, like father), I had some time left to do another unique nature experience: A barefoot hike through the “Fohramoos” nature reserve, forest and moor! Well … what’s this, exactly?
“We have to take our shoes off across the bog! There’s no other way round it”, Katharina, our guide laughs. “Otherwise, the moor will take our shoes off,” I think to myself – and I’m basically right. Bogs, or moors, are an incredibly fascinating terrain for bare feet. Definitely one I won’t forget! Squeaking and chatting, we learn to follow Katharina’s trail through the moor very carefully: One step beside her footsteps and the moor “ensnares us up to our knees” …!
But after only a few minutes we become sure-footed and really enjoy the natural barefoot treatment under our feet. We continue our barefoot hike through the adjacent forest out of sheer joy of walking barefoot! Only the fire ants drive us back into our shoes … Wow, dear Katharina, what an experience!
Last but not least, there is a another nature tip I have for you: The (stroller-friendly) hike by the Hochtannbergpass. As it started drizzling, we couldn’t make the entire trip between Kälbelesee and Körbersee lakes. But the views were nevertheless rewarding. Check this out.
Our accommodation and more foodie tips for exploring the Bregenzerwald.
After all these experiences, it was a pleasure for us every day to return to our family-friendly home base, which has been awarded the Austrian Ecolabel for sustainability: The Hotel Adler in Schoppernau. Young hosts and couple Sandra & Simon also have a three- and one-year-old daughter themselves, so we understand each other right away, young parents we are. Many regular guests come here, we learn, some of them in the third or fourth generation. No wonder, given the enthusiasm of the entire extended family. The spacious rooms, the small but fine wellness area with a “jacuzzi on demand”, the delicious breakfast and dinner – there is nothing you could possibly miss here.
By the way, another tip for great local fare is right on top of the mountains! On the very first day of our trip, we went to nearby Diedamskopf alpine summit and from there, to the Alpe Mitteldiedams. With our Bregenzerwald Guest Card, we could use all mountain railways free of charge! You can get the guest card for the Bregenzerwald holiday region right off your accommodation starting from three overnight stays. Buses, mountain railways and swimming pools are included, many other services and entrance fees are reduced – in fact everything you need for summer mountain experiences! Very practical indeed.
Don’t forget to get your very own cheese diploma!
To finish our trip through Bregenzerwald, local cheese pope Ingo Metzler awards us a diploma confirming that “Elena Paschinger … has completed the 1st cheese school of the Bregenzerwald Cheese Road with excellence“. Signed by Ingo himself and the board of directors of the Cheese Road! Well, it was hard work to make our first own fresh cheese after hours of stirring, cutting, scooping and towering up the ingredients … a wonderful experience to mark the end of our stay.
Check out even more images from Bregenzerwald in the following Flickr photo gallery. You can follow us live through a throwback at our Instagram Stories.
Disclaimer: We have been invited on this trip to Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg. All opinions are my own.