Standing at the centre of the attractive village square with its church, fountain, dance hall and inns, I opine to my wife that “even within the Bregenzerwald, Schwarzenberg is a special.” “You’re right about that,” says my wife with a grin. “Everyone knows that the people from Schwarzenberg are unlike any others.” “You took the words right out of my mouth,” I tell my wife, who seems to have read my mind. “I guess we’ll head straight over to the dance hall, where the first pole of the Umgang tour awaits.” The dance hall is the only remaining building of its kind in the Bregenzerwald. Formerly a court of law, it now serves as a village community centre.” Having already stolen my thunder once already, I’m keen to impress my wife with my knowledge. “Let’s head into the church for a moment now. Inside there’s something truly unique that you won’t see anywhere else in the world: paintings that Angelika Kauffmann completed at a very young age in addition to a piece she performed much later in life: the altarpiece she gifted to the congregation shortly before she died.”
As a painter in London and Rome, Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807) achieved great fame internationally and was considered the best and most expensive artist of her time. At the age of sixteen, she travelled to her father’s hometown, who had been commissioned to decorate one of the side altarpieces in the church. Angelika was entrusted with painting the heads of the twelve apostles. As I recount Kauffmann’s many achievements, my wife points to another building in town: “There’s also a beautiful museum in Schwarzenberg dedicated to Angelika. It was designed by two Vorarlberg architects: Helmut Dietrich, a native of Mellau and Much Untertrifaller from Bregenz. I can see yet another Umgang pole out front of this building as well. There are special exhibitions here every year with themes inspired by the works of Angelika Kauffmann.” I nod in admiration. My wife has also done her homework about Schwarzenberg. Not to be outdone, however, I add: “The event hall, which was designed by Bregenzerwald architect Hermann Kaufmann, is the venue for the Schubertiade Festival Schwarzenberg concerts in her honour.” The Schubertiade is a world-famous festival that attracts admirers of the famous Austrian composer. Aficionados make a pilgrimage to Schwarzenberg twice a year to hear the world’s best performers do justice to his music. “I guess we’ve gotten a bit sidetracked,” says my wife. After all, we’re still standing in front of the museum.
“Not far from here, however, is the district of Baien, a cluster of a few old houses of anonymous architecture, where people used to farm communally. Unfortunately, many such beautiful places no longer exist.” From Baien, we take a walk via Heuberg back to the village. As we enjoy a short break, I opine aloud: “By the way, are you aware that the German poet Eduard Mörike also holidayed in Schwarzenberg in 1857? In his honour, there’s an Eduard Mörike memorial trail, which is a hike from the village up to the Hochälpele area, which is typically only frequented by skiers in the winter.” On the way into the village, we pass a 400-year-old building called ‘Hof Nr. 6,’ which was rebuilt by architect Thomas Mennel as a residence for himself and his wife, the musician Evelyn Fink-Mennel, and their children. Rarely have the advantages of old and new been so expertly combined. By now, we’ve nearly returned back to the starting point of our tour, the village square. I would have been genuinely surprised if my wife had failed to point out the final two missing poles along our Umgang tour, namely the ones out front of two inns, the “Hirschen” and the “Adler.” Both are venerable buildings, around 250 years old, which dominate the square. Both are also prime examples of how to expertly integrate older buildings into modern times and also well worth a visiting for their delicious food. My wife reaches out to take my hand.Which of these fine establishments we’ll visit is entirely up to her.
Author: Walter Fink
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2022