The farmers’ republic
The people from the Bregenzerwald region are regarded as self-assured, almost headstrong. This results from their history. The valley between Lake Constance and the Arlberg mountain range, which once used to be completely covered by forests, was under the possession of the Earls of Bregenz who ceded many rights to monasteries and the lower nobility. The “forest” was colonized by people coming from Bregenz around the year 1000.
Already long ago did the farmers of the Bregenzerwald region develop a strong sense of belonging. The political structure of Vorarlberg – which was given extensive rights in 1380 by the Habsburg monarchy – provided the basis for a sovereign „farmers’ republic“ with its own constitution and an independent jurisdiction. The Landammann was elected in free elections, his town hall was located at Bezegg between Bezau and Andelsbuch.
Architecture and handicraft work
Whereas today the valley’s prosperity is based on agriculture, trade and tourism, many people had to earn their living far away from home in earlier times.
The most significant Baroque monasteries and churches in eastern Switzerland and southern Germany were built by architects of the guild from Au which revolutionized church construction in the 17th century. The monasteries of Maria Einsiedeln, Disentis and Weingarten as well as the church and the monastic library of the St. Gallen monastery were constructed by experts of the Baroque Architect School in Au and Bezau.
The international success of today’s architects and craftspeople reminds of this old tradition.
–> Handicraft work plays an important role in the Bregenzerwald region. One important part is the Werkraum Bregenzerwald organization.
One of the most famous Baroque painters, Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1807), was born into a family in Schwarzenberg. She was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and a friend and teacher of Goethe in Rom.
Today’s most popular artists from the Bregenzerwald region include the painter and art performer Tone Fink, the sculptors Herbert Albrecht and Herbert Meusburger and the action artist Paul Renner.
Franz Michael Felder from Schoppernau, a social reformer and writer in the first half of the 19th century, is well-known as author on a local level only which is absolutely unjustified. He was the founder of the first farmers’ association in the Bregenzerwald region and thus was a formidable opponent of the Gallus Moosbrugger family, the “Earl of Cheese” of the region.
The Bregenzerwald dialect
The dialects in the valleys of Vorarlberg have Alemmanic roots. The spoken dialects remind of the Swiss German and the Swabian dialect.
Even people from Vorarlberg have difficulties understanding their compatriots who live in the Bregenzerwald region. Nearly every village has its own dialect.
The only thing they have in common are the Alemmanic roots which are reflected in the sound shift.
The Juppe – the traditional women’s costume in the Bregenzerwald region
It is regarded one of the most beautiful and elegant traditional costumes in the Alpine region. The Juppe with its pleated dress and the hat.
Sunday Mass, weddings, festivals, processions, funerals etc. – all these are occasions to wear the beautifully embroidered costume with the pleated black, brown or white skirt and the hat made of varnished cambric.
The traditional costumes and the precious headdresses, the so called “Krönele” or “Schapele”, are handed down from one generation to the other but are still fabricated by skilled women’s hands.
All those who want to learn more about the complex fabrication of the traditional Bregenzerwald women’s costume should not miss out on a visit to the Juppenwerkstatt Riefensberg, the traditional costume factory.
Mountain farming in the Bregenzerwald region
For centuries, the farmers of the Bregenzerwald region have applied a 3-step farming method. Thus, they preserve the mountain landscape and make optimum use of the pastures.
Alpine herbs give the milk the final touch
On the one hand, this farming method is applied for economic reasons, which means that the farmers make optimum use of the mountain pastures. On the other hand, this method forms the basis for the preservation and conservation of the highly sensitive mountain landscape. Furthermore, the mountain pastures feature many herbs which are the best food for milk cows. Thus, the milk becomes extraordinarily tasty and aromatic and is perfectly suited to be processed into a flavorsome Bregenzerwald mountain cheese.
Home-coming of the cows
In many Alpine regions, the cattle parade is regarded the highlight of a farming year. In Schwarzenberg, this tradition has been preserved just as it was 400 years ago. In mid-September, the cows return from their summer sojourn high up in the mountains.
The traditional market day
Every year, the traditional market day is held on September 16 in the village center of Schwarzenberg. It is mainly regional businesses who sell their products there. In the Angelika-Kauffmann-Saal, the best Alpine cheese is rewarded.