Bregenz, the western-most point of Austria, sits at the edge of a huge, clear, grandiose lake called Lake Constance, like a well-to-do lady preparing for a picnic – that she’s going to have whatever the weather. In summer, travelling west through Innsbruck to Bregenz’s rain-frosted streets is a tour of green-flushed ski-runs absent only of snow to make them thriving villages and holiday hot-spots. It’s mountainous country, and the train winds through the valley like a stiff breeze, throwing green at you from every direction.
Here’s some cool stuff we saw and did in Bregenz.
Our accommodation in Bregenz was a brilliant Airbnb, at which our host’s father met us and had a beer with us while he explained everything about the flat. It was a great place to stay while we navigated the town.
We took a cable car up a mountain called the Pfander, rising above the town’s spires and buildings until the lake’s glinting grey expanse was laid out before us. Atop the Pfander, we found incredible views, animals in a wildlife preserve, wild eagles and stunning views of Austria’s western mountain range. I can only imagine what this looks like in winter (I suspect quite snowy!) but in summer, it was a spectacular vision.
We walked to Germany. About 10km from Bregenz’s town centre is a German town on an island called Lindau. We decided to hike out to Lindau one day when the weather looked good, following the curve of the lake out and around. We crossed the border on foot, traipsing through lakeside wetlands and following a very busy cycling track around until we found ourselves sitting by Lindau’s waterside, looking out at the lake. We had lunch by the water, walked around a bit, then hiked back into Bregenz as the sun started to drop under the oncoming clouds.
We went to see Turandot on the lake. Opera on the lake is a big part of the Bregenz Festerspiele, and was one of the principal reasons we wanted to visit the town. So on Thursday night, we dressed up and went out for a pre-opera dinner, which was lovely. Well, lovely and damp. Well, lovely and suddenly the subject of a torrential downpour that lasted through dinner, and through our full-speed sprint back to the hotel, through our changing into the weatherproof gear we used in Iceland, and through the first half of the first act! The whole crowd was wearing North Face, Deuter, Mammut et al – we even saw a guy in fishing waders! It was hugely fun even with the rain, and the performance was spectacularly executed. The stage is positioned in the lake, and the performance included a headless body being thrown over the wall to float in the lake, fire twirling, martial arts and stunning vocal performances by the leads. Even the stage, festooned in terracotta warriors leading into the water, was incredible.
We also saw an incredible performance of Don Giovanni (inside a theatre this time!). Put on by some up and coming performers, it was a very dark take on Mozart’s work. Set in the hallway of a 70s apartment as opposed to a period setting, the thoroughly disreputable Giovanni and his hipster-bearded manservant Leporello set about ruining lives to chase their own pleasures. Gone was any nuance about Giovanni’s character – from rape, to bags of coke offered to the new bride he is trying to seduce, to insulting his ex-wife by pouring wine into a dog bowl and pushing her down on all fours to drink it, it was a brilliant adaption. The individual performances were strong,very emotional and completely engaging. It was a brilliant an unexpected treat, watching this vile characterisation of the Don rush headlong into his own comeuppance.
So that was Bregenz! Our next stop was a luxurious nine days in Lake Como, which we’ll write about next!