Sometimes, out of the blue, I’m struck by the urge to drive from Bregenz to the Bregenzerwald. Most of the time, I travel via Doren along the Langenerstrasse road in the shadows of the Gebhardsberg mountain and the Känzele massif, famed for the rosy red face of the Nagelfluh. I recently read about an article about a resident of Doren, who was voted the best organic farmer in the German-speaking countries. Mr. Lingenhel’s work both inspired and impressed the jury of Ceres, the largest agricultural society in Germany. The jury had high praise for Lingenhel as an innovative farmer: “He’s always on the ball, never stops learning, and tries out new things without getting carried away.” What can’t he do? Play football for one, though he is as clever as a midfield strategist. The jury further praised him for being close to the consumer. Every inch of his farm was exemplary and in top running order, no matter when they visited. Lingenhel even operates a clever recycling concept, which is the envy of all the German jurors, who added:
“Several cows grazed happily beneath gnarled fruit trees next to the dark wooden-shingle house. Mountains and blue sky formed the backdrop to this lovely pastoral scene and the beauty of this place makes it all the more surprising that modern, courageous organic farming is practised here.” As I’m familiar with the Bregenzerwald, I am perhaps less surprised. Next time I drive by, I’ll have to stop in. As for today, I plan to visit a wholly new destination for me, one that everyone is raving about. No, for once I’m not headed to Krumbach, and yes, I never never miss an opportunity to praise that beautiful place and its future-oriented local politics. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that the bus stops in Krumbach are even more popular with tourists than with locals. While the bus indeed stops here, many visitors are instead admiring and photographing the town’s unique, architecturally attractive bus stops. Where else in the world does that happen? In my humble opinion, the most popular bus stop is the pole sculpture by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. And not just for the architecture: It also boasts the most beautiful view. I could happily stay longer, but today I have a lunch date with a friend in Hittisau.
As we drive, I explain to my companion that we are currently travelling the lower Bregenzerwald route, which is popular with fitness conscious bikers. As we proceed, an unexpected stop-off opens up on the left hand side. It’s an elegant, flat building: two wooden cubes are nestled inside each other with grand shop windows. There is a large, full parking lot out front, so we stop in to have a look. This is the home of the Devich clog company. Years ago, my sister gifted me a pair to wear to the stable, because I live in the countryside of lower Austria for much of the year. But on the uneven ground of my property, the cowhide-covered clogs proved to be a bit dangerous. Watch those ankles!
When I mentioned this in the showroom, the friendly saleswoman immediately demonstrated that my concept of a wooden clog was outdated to say the least. The once stiff wooden soles have long since become pliable. A plastic joint has been added so that the shoes conform to the ground like rubber soles, only harder. Our minds changed, my companion purchases a pair. Who wouldn’t want to purchase something in such a magnificent showroom? From the moment I entered inside, I knew we wouldn’t be leaving empty handed. Friendly, airy, wooden, and elegant, the space showcases every manner of shoes including boots to slip on and to lace up, as well as slippers both smooth and shaggy. The shoes are made from natural materials such as sheep, goat and calf hide and are available in myriad colours from pink to natural. I had wanted to show my companion the Women’s Museum, but that would now have to wait until after lunch instead. The Ernele restaurant in Hittisau, an extension of the famous Hotel Schiff, is also a timber building but unlike any other. It also happens to be the main attraction of today’s excursion. This amazing cube-shaped building even features a beautiful garden. Inside there’s glass and the exterior is covered with wooden slats all around. Erna is the name of the proprietor’s mother for whom the building is devoted. Before we could order, we noticed the face of an elderly English gentleman, who stood out as he spoke to the waiter. In the bright, airy ambiance of the restaurant, framed against the backdrop of the open kitchen, he looked not only distinguished, but happy. As we selected from the menu, we delighted in the fact that people from myriad backgrounds can appear so at home in today’s Bregenzerwald.
Author: Armin Thurnher
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2020