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On the cultural and culinary routes of Bregenzerwald

© by Arnold Weisz

Bregenzerwald, or the forest of Bregenz in plain English, is among the lesser-known parts of Austria. The region in the far west of Austria, in the state of Vorarlberg, deserves much more attention. Join us on a slightly different journey into the nature and culture of Bregenzerwald.

A trip around the Bregenzerwald in Vorarlberg can be far more than just hiking in wonderful nature. You should also enjoy local culinary delights and let the distinctive artistic expressions you find everywhere in the region, in architecture and art, be part of your experience. Furthermore, the area has flourished as a go-to place for cultural events. We have travelled around the Bregenzerwald during the summer and winter to get a taste of the region.

Different

Bregenzerwald (“The forest of Bregenz”), which extends from Lake Constance to the border with Tirol, is a bit different from the postcard images usually associated with Austria. You can travel from the seaside to the high mountains within a few miles. The cultural landscape has a few surprises installed for us, as they adhere to different architectural traditions in this part of Austria. Rather than what we are used to seeing, for example, Styria or Salzburg. Moreover, the inhabitants of Vorarlberg also speak different German dialects here. Alemannic is the same dialect used in Switzerland, which differs slightly from the Bavarian-speaking rest of Austria. No worries, we communicated fine with the locals using the usual “standard German” or even in English at the tourist resorts. Another delight was that it felt quieter and less hectic here than in the more touristy parts of Austria. Hence, this region is for you if you want to hike on less-beaten tracks or visit uncrowded sights.

< Click on the images to enlarge >

From nature to the dining table

The landscape in the northern part of Vorarlberg differs, from the ragged snow-covered peaks in the south of the state, with its little rounder undulating shapes. Moreover, the Bregenzerwald is a mixture of hills, valleys and forests where the cultural landscape dotes the valleys and hillsides. With its widespread forests, the region was only permanently populated about 1000 years ago. Therefore, the hilly terrain is unsuitable for large farms or the production of large-scale food crops. Consequently, the farmers in Bregenzerwald have concentrated on livestock farming.

Moreover, pastures are covered with juicy grass, wildflowers and herbs that give the milk a unique and natural taste. Hence, cheese producers do significantly benefit from this. We, therefore, followed the tip of making some stops along the so-called KäseStrasse (cheese road).

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KäseStrasse Bregenzerwald

Over the centuries, but notably during the last decades, cheese from this part of Austria has been a sought-after delicacy. It has been claimed that the Bregenzerwald is for cheese connoisseurs, and Bordeaux is for wine connoisseurs. No wonder 35,000 cows outnumber the 32,000 inhabitants that share this region. These cows produce first-class milk to make high-quality cheeses. To give visitors the opportunity to buy cheese and a small insight into what lies behind it, you can go on a culinary journey on the KäseStrasse Bregenzerwald. It’s by far as cheesy as it sounds, by the way. Along the route, you can visit outlets, dairies and eateries that offer a taste of local culture and course, cheese in many forms and varieties. Having both eaten and bought some of the local delicacies, we had a real taste of the cultural diversity in this beautiful part of Austria.

Cultural diversity

We found a few sights and sounds a little unusual when we left the culinary route happy and satisfied. First, we visited the women’s museum (Frauenmuseum) in Hittisau. The museum aims to show the culture and history created by women from the women’s point of view. Next, we went on a musical trip. Ready for departure? Take a seat, sit back and join a musical journey. Bahnhof Kulturverrein (The Railway Station Cultural Center) in Andelsbuch offers concerts in many different music genres by visiting bands from Austria and overseas. When we visited the place in early March this year, the Meretrio jazz band from São Paulo, Brazil, played. This was just a small taste of what the Bregenzerwald region offers its visitors. Why don’t you come and have a look at the rest for yourself!

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.