Bregenzerwald, Austria: Whimsy and Beauty

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Brown Swiss cows live up on the top of Niedere mountain, where cheese is produced next to where the tram stops. It's also a popular place to paraglide, with dozens of flyers jumping off the cliffs.
Brown Swiss cows live up on the top of Niedere mountain for the summer, where cheese is produced next to where the tram stops. It’s also a popular place to paraglide, with dozens of flyers jumping off the cliffs.
Local buses serve even the highest elevations here in Bregenzerwald.
Local buses serve even the highest elevations here in Bregenzerwald.

My first full day in Bregenzerwald was long and full of fascinating sites and an overwhelming number of alluring mountain vistas. Around every corner, another tidy home punctuated by red geraniums and stacks of narrow logs neatly tucked away came into view.

Many of the people around here use these buses, like we did, to get up and around the steep streets.

View from inside the Angelika Kauffmann Museum in Schwartzenberg.
View from inside the Angelika Kauffmann Museum in Schwarzenberg.

Angelika Kauffmann was a painter who lived briefly in Schwarzenberg, and there is a museum in her honor here that showcases her fine portraits of royalty and upper-class people, and artifacts of early life in the village.  Angelika’s first marriage was annulled after she found out the ‘Duke’ she had married was a penniless, already-married charlatan.

She went on to become one of the most famous painters in Europe and was very influential.

One of the favorite pastimes here is hiking up steep mountains. We took the tram up to the top of Niedere, a local hotspot for parasailing, and up at the top, scores of backpacks turned into parachutes as the flyers joyously ran over the edge to soar and swoop in the winds.

The lakefront Bregenz Opera House features a floating stage, where the singers perform the operas, like this set for Carmen.
The lakefront Bregenz Opera House features a floating stage, where the singers perform the operas, like this set for Carmen.
Kunsthaus Bregenz.
Kunsthaus Bregenz.

Bregenz is a lively city, right on the lakefront, with strollers and vendors all enjoying themselves in the sunshine.  The city is not a part of Bregenzerwald, it hugs the shore of this big lake that has Germany, Switzerland and Austria all around it.

In Bregenz, on the coast of the Bodensee, which is also called Lake Constance, every two years brings another stunning exhibit on the floating stage where an opera is staged. This year’s set for Carmen includes giant hands and a deck of fluttering playing cards. Stunning, and intriguing, it’s typical of the stage sets that are always jaw-dropping.

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In Bregenz, we toured the Kunsthaus Bregenz, where an exhibit by Mika Rottenberg explores humans who profit from their bodies, documentary footage, and four stories of hard-to-explain yet memorable art.

I guess you have to see it.  The building too, is a work of art, all glass panels on four sides.