“Are you going to take me out for a nice lunch today?” asked my wife, who enjoys cooking, but not all the time. “Of course. Where would you like to go?” – “To one of the nice restaurants in Hittisau, either the Krone or the Schiff, the “Ernele” or the Hirschen. And we could have a look at the Hittisau “Umgang” at the same time; I think it starts at the Krone.” It is a wonderful day so let’s go. Even the drive through the lower Bregenzerwald is a delight, among green hills, beautiful flowers, brown cows and snow-capped peaks. Then we reach the village square in Hittisau, with its fountain in the middle. “Let’s do the Umgang tour first,” says my wife, “so that we really work up an appetite.” Even as she speaks, she is scanning the square for the stainless steel column marking the first point on the “Umgang”. We have always enjoyed searching for these signs which point the way towards finding so much more. It doesn’t take my wife long, she has already spotted the first signpost. “Here, just outside the Krone. They have earned that mark of distinction because they work closely with the craftsmen of the Bregenzerwald. They won the Bauherrnpreis [architecture prize] in 2009 for the conversion, which was designed by architect Bernardo Bader.” I thank her for the information and can immediately show her that I know a thing or two, as well: “Look, just across the square is the Ritter von Bergmann Hall. Ritter von Bergmann founded the region’s local historical society. And this really beautiful hall, the second point on the “Umgang”, was designed by Hermann Kaufmann and Christian Lenz.”
Then I also take the liberty of pointing out the huge single-nave church that stands on the square and was built in the Classical style in the middle of the 19th century. “Did you know that there is even a picture of the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in this church, on a ceiling fresco that dates from 1941? He is shown burning in hell, and being tormented by a devil. That’s what people thought of him during the Second World War.” We continue on the “Umgang”, which now takes us past a number of private houses. They are interesting buildings which show that there is room in the Bregenzerwald for high-quality new construction among the old, traditional houses. Quality breeds quality. One very special example is the Hotel Schiff, which has put up a new building right next to the old one. “Shall we just eat here now?” asks my wife. I point out that we still have some important buildings to see on the “Umgang”. And so we come to the Women’s Museum, the only one in Austria, which has won several awards for the building and for the museum itself. The design was by Cukrowicz/Nachbaur-Sturm, who also designed one of the private residences we had already seen. So many outstanding architects are represented in such a small area here that it is almost like a Who’s Who of Vorarlberg architecture. We conclude with a sheltered housing development by Fink/Thurnher ZT, built on an especially favourable site in the village with incredible views of the surrounding scenery. “There really are a lot of buildings here by first-rate architects,” I remark, “and they have won so many awards. Such a density must be pretty unique – even in the Bregenzerwald.” “So, now we are finished – and we can go and eat. You promised you would treat me,” says my wife. And so I did – but I’m not telling you which of the wonderful restaurants we went to. You had better try them out for yourself!
Author: Walter Fink
Edition: Reisemagazin Summer 2019