But then came the pandemic. In spite of challenges, the new team was nevertheless able to preserve. “We put on events for as long as was possible including concerts, lectures, and cabaret with masks and just half the seats occupied. We postponed, reorganised, corrected information again and again and sent it out via newsletter. Things continued this way and the kulturverein bahnhof remained full.” Gradually, new people also joined the association. One of them was Andreas Schwarzmann, who already had a long history with the kulturverein bahnhof.
“I used to live in Feldkirch and I was a regular at the ‘Sonderbar.’ It was a basement pub where big bands used to give small concerts. One day, there was a ‘meeting of cultural promoters’ in Vorarlberg, and they invited those of us from the ‘Sonderbar’ to come to Andelsbuch. We had a barbecue in front of the kulturverein bahnhof. It was a great party. When I moved to Andelsbuch 17 years later, I had such fond memories of the kulturverein bahnhof. For me, it was like a catalyst for integration, an anchor and a harbour. I work in Dornbirn, and my daily walk to the bus stop takes me past the bahnhof. So I pop in, check the mail. It’s my first stop of the day.” The way everything looks in the area around the kulturverein bahnhof is also thanks to Schwarzmann’s actions. “In cooperation with the local Horticultural Association, we designed a flower meadow around the building. A gravel lot next to the tracks was transformed into a colourful, bustling world.” Sustainable coexistence, also with the surrounding environment, is now part of the kulturverein bahnhof’s agenda.
“Some time ago, thanks to Andreas’ help, the municipality organised a repair café afternoon,” says Pöltl. “This was a very exciting thing. It attracted many people from the valley to the kulturverein bahnhof for the first time. So we decided to include this event in our programme going forward. After all, when the village comes together at the bahnhof and repairs old things for the future, that’s culture too.” The kulturverein bahnhof has space for about a hundred seated visitors. There is also a small bar where the ticket office used to be. “It’s the most important place after an event, where the guests like to congregate.” The erstwhile waiting room serves as a stage and visitors’ area. There is space for bar tables and a couch in the back, seating in the front, and the stage is close and barely elevated. “It’s a very special setting.
The artists’ dressing room is in an old wagon in front of the door. Nothing is spacious here, so everyone has to get really close. It’s a space for open encounters in a place that still evokes memories. The Wälderbähnle railway used to stop here from 1902 to 1980, and that history still resonates. Some guests used to ride the train themselves, others are interested in railways in general. For everyone else, the rooms have an impact through their history.” Pöltl points to places in the wall that reveal the original wallpaper or the underlying brick wall even after the renovations. “Some people want to know more and ask questions. I can at least help them out by providing some information, such as the fact that the Wälderbähnle ran on a 760 millimetre gauge, the ‘Bosnian gauge’.”
Most visitors, of course, come for the colourful event programme which is nothing if not diverse. “Which I think is so great,” enthuses Andreas Schwarzmann. “There are so many different proposals flowing into the schedule that no single person can know all of them. The dance weekend is a great example. I have long been involved with Irish dance myself, but other dances were new to me. There were workshops, a dance café and a disco. Now a lot of people are asking for a repeat performance.” Pöltl adds, “We are not able to hold big concerts here, but we are able to present artists in an intimate setting. Prince Grizzley is a prime example. He fills festival arenas far and wide with his band and his country music. His first performance at the kulturverein bahnhof (under strict coronavirus protocols) was something truly special. The audience had to wear masks and be seated. They stayed glued to their seats until the very last note. This was very special for everyone.
We allow acts to take the stage here, to try things out, and perhaps launch a career. We also present music, literature, art or cabaret that’s edgy and perhaps little known. Almost 15 years ago, I was asked to help out at the bar. It was a concert with an unknown musician: Herbert Pixner. He was on stage with an accordion, a harp and a bass violin. Probably not for me, I thought. I did the bar duty, and because there was soon not much going on, I went into the event room. Five minutes later, I had experienced a personal epiphany: I sat there crying in torrents, I was so moved by the music. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. That’s what you can experience when you visit the kulturverein bahnhof. Emotional breakthroughs that open up new worlds.”
Author: Carina Jielg
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2023