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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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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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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Sandy Sculptures Lauterach, Austria, 8-2017

Sandy Sculptures Lauterach, Austria

Where to spend Friday date night? Well, at the 20 million year old sand formations on the Bregenzer Ach in Lauterach, Austria of course. After 32 years of date nights this was a first for us. I had passed by these unique formations on numerous occasions and had made a mental note to spend some time there. So on a recent Friday we finally did. Armed with a spritzig prosecco and goodies we did just that. We enjoyed a lovely summer evening frolicking in the water and admiring the remnants of the petrified sea coast formed by the ebb and flow of the tides that had once graced these lands million of years ago…


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Freeriding The Arlberg, Körbersee, Austria, 3-2017

The blue snow glowed under the full moon as the dark slopes loomed silently against the skyline. At its towering feet the Körbersee Lake lay covered in its winter mantle and the March night was magical high in the Austrian alps. Franz, myself, and our son had come for some days of spring skiing to meet up with a lively group of friends we try to meet every year somewhere in Europe. And this year the snow gods smiled upon our lucky crew and bestowed some fresh powder and sun drenched days. To make things even better the primo weather made for some incredible photographic opportunities that our group indulged in.

The Körbersee Hotel is a small oasis in the Warth/Schröcken ski resort with access to Lech am Arlberg only a few hills away with the speedy Auenfeldjet gondola. What makes the lodgings unique is that access to the hotel is either by foot via a hiking trail from Schröcken or Warth or one can ski in, cross country or downhill. This small gem lies in a small valley with an unsurpassed view and an easy cross country trail around the lake with even more advanced trails into the mountains. We will be back next year for sure!

What makes this film especially unique it is our first time to use a drone for spectacular aerial views of these magnificent mountains, especially the Juppenspitze and the Mohnenfluh.


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Ice – Land Wirtatobel, Bregenz, Austria 2-2017

The melting water had frozen into long gleaming daggers that decorated the steep rock faces along the icicle trail of the Wirtatobel ravine. The night before the temperatures had plunged and we had to be extra careful navigating the sidewalks let alone an icy mountain path. January had been the coldest month in Austria in over thirty years and Franz and I had been on the look out for an exceptionally cold day to photograph a flow of water that we drive past to go cross country skiing in our local mountains. After capturing our shot we made our leave and a little side road beckoned us. And what a sight we saw. We were enchanted to find the ravine adorned with elegant icicles on both sides of the crevasse and the gleaming formations captivated us as we walked in silence enjoying the splendor of a Sunday morning hike up the magical gorge.


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Birthday In Heaven, Nenzinger Himmel, Austria, 8-2016

Nenzinger Himmel village

Turquoise skies graced with billowing clouds were reflected in the pool beside the burbling stream. In the distance the familiar clanging of cow bells mingled with chirping of birds that could be heard in the peaceful valley. We were in hiking paradise. Franz and I were visiting “the only heaven on earth” the Nenzinger Himmel settlement in Vorarlberg, Austria to celebrate my birthday. This pristine outpost is located at the end of a dramatic rocky gorge that winds along the Gamperdona Valley just above Bludenz and situated on the borders to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The sparkling Mengbach (Meng River) cascades through the ravine 16 kilometers until it reaches the River Ill. High mountain peaks of limestone and dolomite loom over the fairytale like setting below. The village is comprised of 200 cottages and one simple hotel called the Alpengasthof Gamperdona at which we stayed. Tourism is permitted during the summer months with tightly controlled road access that ensures the integrity of the nature park. Hiking paths abound from the hamlet to emerald lakes and meadows bursting with alpine flowers. What a way to spend one’s birthday. I highly recommend it!


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