Riveting Rigoletto, Bregenz, Austria, 7-2019

Biked over today to check out the 2019 Bregenzer Festspiele stage presentation for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. And it was pretty spectacular. Just the head of the clown alone weighs 30 tons and the helium balloon rises during the performance. Pretty impressive.

The stage was designed by Philipp Strölzl and it “highlights the striking contrasts between spectacle and intimate chamber drama…” Strölzl has designed stages for other famous operas as well but made a name for himself directing music videos for the German metal band Rammstein. Kudos to Bregenz for bringing such an interesting designer’s perspective to the stage. The festival runs from July 17 – August 18th 2019 and then again from July 22-August 23, 2020 during which the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and opera fans converge on Bregenz. The video clip is taken from ORF 2 and highlights some impressive performances! (Due to Covid-19 the Summer 2020 performances were cancelled. Rigoletto has been rescheduled from July 21 to August 22, 2021 depending upon the state of the pandemic).
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Freeriding The Arlberg Once Again, Körbersee, Austria 3-2019

Vertical white mountain peaks glistened in the winter sun in the cloudless blue skies.The Arlberg Mountain beckoned us back again for a spring skiing extravaganza! There was tons of snow to be found and the perfect weather guaranteed another fantastic trip. My son and I stayed at the charming Körbersee Hotel right on the frozen lake of the same name located on the north-western edge of the “Lechtaler” Alps in Vorarlberg, Austria. The resort has recently been voted the best ski resort in the world and for us it certainly is. We were graced with optimal conditions and for free riding it doesn’t get any better.

Another day, another adventure. We were ready for day two of our Arlberg Freeriding trip. Our route took us around the Karhorn from Warth to Lech, then down the “Klemm” from the Zuger Hochlicht to Schröcken. It was a new and amazing experience for both of us with all kinds of conditions from freshly thawed corn snow in the first run to powder and steep bowls in the second. We skied until we had our fill, then headed back to the hotel for a well earned sauna and supper. https://www.warth-schroecken.at/…/der-beste-freeride-run-am…

Our Arlberg Freeride adventure continued the following day as we awoke once again to good weather conditions. The trail we chose was known for a priest who reportedly was the very first person to ski from Warth to Lech in 1894 after he read about skis in the newspaper. He ordered a pair from Scandinavia and apparently wanted to use the skis as a mode of transportation so he could “ski better and faster in the alpine terrain” and could more easily attend to his flock. Or maybe he just wanted them simply for the joy of skiing? Whatever his motivation was, we knew ours was to revel in another epic day. The snow had perfectly softened to a carpet by the early sun as we glided down into Lech. We took a break for the requisite beer in the Balmalp restaurant/bar that is “the peak of enjoyment at 2,100m.” and really is the quintessential example of Austrian après skiing. Instead of calling it a day, we just had to take one more run down to Schröcken and found some untouched powder bowls in the process. Three perfect spring skiing days like never before! Skiing in the Arlberg does not get any better. pfarrer-mueller-freeride


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A Bodensee Birthday, August 17th, 2018

Juppenwerkstatt in Riefensberg

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” this iconic opening theme from the the beloved children’s show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood aptly describes my birthday spent in our Bregenz “backyard.” It was a weekend filled with art, music, delicous food, and nature’s beauty that can only be found nestled in “our neck of the Rhine Valley.” On Friday Franz and I began our weekend quest with a visit to a museum that I had long wanted to see in the Bregenzerwald called the Juppenwerkstatt in Riefensberg. The gallery holds an extraordinary collection of the traditional dress of the Bregenzerwald and highlights the involved process entailed in the making of the intricate textile and clothing as well as the culture of this fairytale region. I am now a big fan of this special little museum.


Krumbach Gorge

The August heat was a gift for the farmers fields of corn and hay but I slowly wilted under the suns relentless rays. We sought refuge in a nearby water gorge near Krumbach that was invitingly cool and a much welcomed respite from the rising temperatures. And what a find it was. Small and stylish. At the bottom of the ravine we were enchanted to come upon a site specific art piece that was installed using fishing line to weave patterns in and out of the tree trunks. The filtered light peeked through the overhead canopy and highlighted the repeating strands that created a magical mood. After our short jaunt we sauntered over to a gemütlich (homey) restaurant, the Krumbacher Stuba, intending to have a light salad but after eyeing the specialty of the region, a cheese Kässpätzle, we just had to have that. When in the Bregenzerwald one has to do as the locals do.



Green pastures with languid cows grazing along the KäseStrasse (cheese street) graced the road leading back to Bregenz. Our next stop was the Vorarlberg Museum to view another exhibition that had been on my list titled Wacker im Krieg or Wacker at War. Rudolf Wacker (1893-1939) was a well known local artist who documented his life in Bregenz and his experience in and after WWII. I found the show compelling and it was touching as it paralled the accounts of the war and prison camp life that I had heard from several men of that generation who had also served in the conflict. I highly recommend it. 


The sailboats rocked gently as the halyards clinked against the masts and the seagrass tickled our feet. The orange orb in the sky was setting on our eventful day as we floated in the refreshing Bodensee waters in nearby Hard. Revitalized we sought out the waterside Italian restaurant of Ristorante Margarita sul Lago where we met a close friend and enjoyed a tasty tuna fish carpaccio and a favorite Truffle pasta dish. Franz, food, and a friend. A perfect ending for a perfect birthday. 


My Breitachklamm Birthday Weekend Continues…

“It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty, Would you be mine?…” these sweet lyrics to the beloved show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood kept coming to mind as we continued our weekend excursions in the “hood.” We woke up to another sunny Saturday and got an early start on another wooded “schlucht sucht” or gorge search. Our itinerary for the day took us across the border to Southern Germany in the Kleinwalstertal to one of the deepest water gorges in the Bavarian Alps and in Central Europe called the Breitachklamm. The magnificent gorge had been carved out by the Breitach glacier for a mere 10,000 years! It had been some time since I had last visited and I looked forward to marveling again at the wild waters that flow and swirl down the Eigenkopf rock faces sculpting the stone into elegant formations. As I took in the grandeur of mother natures work the words of the song came to me again “I have always wanted to have a neighborhood just like you, I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…”


20th International Sand Sculpture Festival in Rorschach, Switzerland

“Let’s make the most of this beautiful day…” crooned Mr. Roger’s and that we did as we took in the beauty of Buddah on the shores of Lake Constance. Siddhārtha sat with his eyes closed and lips curved upwards bringing a wide smile to his calm face. His clasped hands gently held a sleeping cat nestled on his ample belly. The serene bodhisattva crafted by a team from Russia had taken first prize at the 20th International Sand Sculpture Festival in Rorschach, Switzerland. And what a sensitive portrayal it was. As were all the other entrants hailing from many countries of the world. The theme of the 2018 competition was “All You Need Is Love” and it was a much needed balm for our troubled times. It was a relaxing Sunday afternoon admiring the talented vision that took the unassuming medium of sand to create such superb works of art. 


Our day was still not done. The evening brought both culinary and musical delights as we dined at my favorite restaurant in Bregenz, Chen’s, where we indulged in Asian fish specialities paired with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc courtesy of our lovely friend Maureen. For dessert we enjoyed an evening of opera with the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra serving up Georges Bizet’s Carmen at the Bregenzer Festspiele on Lake Constance. The opera was an extravaganza filled with “diamonds, death, and spades!” and the superlative performers and stunning floating stage were truly magnifcent. What a beautiful birthday weekend in the neighborhood! 


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Irresistible Iris in Bangs-Matschels, Austria, 5-2018


The regal bloom arched outwards revealing delicate petals with slightly ruffled edges. Its outer florets were like white droplets laced in a lilac pattern with just a hint of yellow in its inner sanctum. This exquisite beauty was just one of the millions of Siberian Iris in an ocean of lavender blue on a recent visit to the European Sanctuary of Bangs-Matschels. The 80 hectare area is located on the Swiss/Liechtenstein border and is comprised of litter meadows, marshlands, and forests that hold rare and endangered species of plant and bird life and boasts over 1,100 species of butterflies. This heavenly spring spectacle is certainly a sight to see!

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Masters of Scythe in Alberschwende, Austria, 5-2018

Hay, hay, hay, everywhere. In my hair, in the air, but hey who cares? For we were at the the Alberschwende Heuen Fair. What is that you might ask? I too had been curious as to what this event was and we were finally able to catch this unusual happening. So on a recent Saturday morning Franz and I headed out to the quaint village of Alberschwende in the Bregenzerwald to watch the International Hand Mowing Competition. In the local mountains where modern mowing machinery cannot reach due to the steep slopes farmers resort to scything the grass the ole’ fashioned way. And this competition grew out of this age old tradition. The scythers had a “hayday” brandishing their shining saber like blades at lightening speeds with unparalleled technique. This gathering even brought out the the young country folk from the ages 5 to 75 to join in the suspenseful scything. The winning time was a whopping one minute twelve seconds to cut 538 square feet! Hip hip hooray to the “heumeisters”!

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Descending to the “Bad” Gorge, Üble Schlucht, Laterns, Austria, 4-2018

The footpath had collapsed. What was left of the hiking trail was hanging off the steep face before plunging into the crevasse. Very carefully we navigated the challenging rockslide. The sun penetrated the vertical walls highlighting the moss covered faces as the Frutz River beckoned us further into the Üble Schlucht Canyon in Laterns, Austria. The name means “bad” in reference to the danger of navigating the terrain before modern paths were built. Despite what its name suggests the canyon is “bad” but only in American slang which translates to “cool.”

The warm spring made it possible to hike into the Üble Schlucht early this year. We had some friends visiting from California and wanted to show them one of our favorite places that requires some effort to get down into. The gorge is located in the Laternsertal and the starting point is in the small village of Laterns. One must be in decent physical shape because the descent is steep and the ascent back up is long and can be a bit precarious with slippery and uneven paths. The start of the trail is about 923 meters and for a moderate hiker it should take approximately 2 1/2 hours to get down to the city of Rankweil. But the energy exerted was well worth it especially to share this alpine wonder with good friends. We sure had a “bad” time!


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The Nativity Museum Dornbirn, Austria, 11-2017

The baby Jesus lay nestled in the center of the boat carved out of exotic wood as an angel with prominent wings watches over the sleeping child. Mary and Joseph accompanied by the wise men peer over the sides of the vessel to admire the newborn baby swaddled in the floating manger. The carved figures display African features and their facial and body language all relay wonderment at the monumental event that has occurred. The Christian nativity scene is recreated throughout the Créche Museum in Dornbirn, Austria, but what makes this collection unique is that it features créches from around the world bringing in differing cultural interpretations and materials to each display ranging from the traditional to the modern. The museum offers people of all faiths an artistic view into the birth of Christ in these beautiful portrayals of the reason for the Christmas season.


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Dramatic Diedamskopf, Vorarlberg, Austria, 9-2017

The cool autumn air held a promise of some afternoon warmth as the cable car ascended the 2000m Diedamskopf mountain in Schoppernau, Austria. Franz and I had come to enjoy the impressive scenery of the neighboring peaks and catch the waning days of the hiking season. Despite the chilly temperatures we enjoyed a local brass band with our lunch and the temperature did somewhat warm up. The panoramic views were stunning, the music did not disappoint, and our day could not have been better.


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Lovely Lechweg, Lech, Austria, 8-2017

The swift Lech River flowed beneath the rocky trail leading through mountain meadows bursting with alpine blooms of all colors and buzzing with bees and fluttering butterflies. The temperature was pleasantly warm with a soft breeze blowing that made for perfect walking conditions. Franz and I had started our hike from the trail in Zug that began at the Fischerstüble that sits on the shores of turquoise green trout ponds that serve up freshly caught trout. The path meanders through stunning landscape and only occasionally does one run into other hikers. Birds of all kinds can be seen and waterfalls plunge dramatically down the ravines. The extended Lechweg is a certified long distance trail that connects three regions and two countries from the Arlberg in Austria to the Southern Allgau in Germany. But for us the extended version will have to wait for another time. Instead we ended our short jaunt at the Gasthaus Älpele and enjoyed a bite to eat in the local restaurant and headed on back to where we began. It was an easy stroll and an enjoyable way to spend the summer afternoon soaking in the Austrian rocky mountain vibes.

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