The air is delightfully scented with the smell of freshly baked apple pie. Leni, the little daughter of hosts Evi and Jürgen Haller, plays happily in the back of the room, where daylight streams in from a circular window in the ceiling above. The spacious guest and reception room is partially below street level. Covering the rising hill, it opens up to a well-lit space in the front. Framed by two apartment buildings, it is sheltered yet invitingly open.
One building has apartments with terraces or typical Bregenzerwald style porches, the other serves as an architect’s office in the basement. The latter also features a parlour on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors. We sit together on this rainy morning and I discover how it all began:
Once upon a time in an old house in Bildstein…
“When the old Mesmerhaus in Bildstein was signed over to me 15 years ago, I guess I also inherited the job of hostess that went along with it,” says Evi Haller. “My Great Aunt Maria was the last occupant of the building, which had been in the family for many generations. She was one of the first to rent out guest rooms in the village. She lived with the guests, took them on excursions into the surrounding area, and sat with them on a bench in front of the house in the evenings to enjoy a view of the valley below. Here, visitors were always welcome and were offered homemade schnapps. Over the years, many guests became friends. The entries in her old guest book were a testament to just how beloved Maria was amongst her guests. Such notes are similar to those we find in our guestbook today, which means we’re still doing something right!” But what to do with the big house in Bildstein? Evi Haller, formerly Böhler, was intent on preserving and renovating the house, which was not an easy undertaking, given that the building was historically listed. During the planning phase, she met master builder Jürgen Haller. He was to be her future husband, which also speaks to his talent for long-term planning. Jürgen brought with him the right design ideas for the house renovations and some bright ideas for its use. “It quickly became clear that Evi and I would move to Mellau together. So why not do in Bildstein what countless people in the Bregenzerwald have already done: rent out holiday apartments. The building’s exceptional architecture and exposed location made it possible to create a unique tourist offer here.” Today, this architectural jewel situated next to the Bildstein Basilica is a popular holiday domicile and offers Evi and Jürgen Haller a wealth of experience. “Without the Mesmerhaus, Tempel 74 would not exist,” agrees the pair with conviction.