The picturesque town of Lech in Austria’s Vorarlberg region has long been a favourite winter resort for those that love to ski or snowboard. Indeed the Dutch Royal family holiday here every year.
But it also holds much for visitors in summer. On a hot summer’s day we arrived for our first visit to Lech and now can see what all the fuss is about. It really is a picture postcard type of town.
Lech is a small town with a deservedly big reputation. Full of traditional Alpine architecture, warm locals and all the quality that Austria is renowned for.
The first thing that makes itself apparent as you arrive is the crisp, glacial river running through the town and an enclosed wooden bridge that enhanced the view like few bridges can. Looking up snow tinged mountain peaks encircled us in 360-degrees of natural wonder.
We were there in late June and the sun burnt brightly against a deep blue cloudless sky, yet the remains of winter clung to the mountains high about us.
Just as they did for Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, the mountains were calling us. We sought out the cable car to take us up 2,350 metres to the very top of Mt Rüfikopf.
First see the best places to visit in Vorarlberg…
Within a few minutes we were at the summit, breathing in the freshest air and looking down on the world. Wonderful views stretched out for miles around. There was even a viewing platform that showed the distance to various cities around the world.
From our lofty position, we saw lakes in the valley, lush green forests and fields, Lech’s huddle of buildings and a selection of scattered hamlets. The wide-open spaces in between giving a sense of timelessness. Our place in the world felt noticeably smaller when set against these mountains.
As we strode out over the mountaintop there were clusters of remaining snow, and as it was the height of summer, we naturally had a snowball fight. There were a few children that engaged in snowball fights as well, but I’m pleased to say we were the only big kids do so. Age really is only a number.
If your pleasures are less energetic, there are great panoramic views from the Rufikopf Bergstation restaurant next to the cable car station, which serves an array of tasty Austrian dishes.
We had lunch there and the food was good, the beer great and sights outstanding. It was difficult to drag ourselves away and head back down into Lech. However, the rewards in town are good too.
Lech is akin to nature’s amphitheatre, where all the drama takes place on the outside. And within, is the serenity that rural Austria is renowned for.
After the delights of the mountain, we decided to walk from Lech to the tiny town of Zug. The 50-minute stroll was through peaceful countryside – the winding river an ever-present partner.
Fishing and foraging for food
Once in Zug we headed to the Schualhus, or old school house, now part of Hotel Rote Wand, where they run cooking classes in Vorarlberg cuisine, using local ingredients.
Originally built in 1780, the exterior of the Schualhus remains pretty much as it always has been, but inside is uber stylish with a new kitchen all set for small group classes.
Waiting for Sarah and I, was Chef Manuel Grabner, who was to take us on our culinary journey. Manuel led us out to gather the food for our meal saying we had to forage for and catch it first. We had thought he was joking. Though he wasn’t, it wasn’t as gruesome as it may sound, just a tad unexpected.
Leaving the Schualhus we wandered down to a small lake, created by them diverting that glacial river. There we found a fish farm, and within minutes a salmon trout was captured in a net. And it was soon dispatched from this world with three swift taps to its head.
Learning to cook is one thing, but catching the meal is very different. We were caught aback for a moment – feeling just a little squeamish at the thought of us cooking the fish that had been merrily swimming just moments before. Of course we shouldn’t have been, most of us eat meat and fish regularly. But it’s rare for us to witness the end of the road for the food on our plates.
Next we stopped at the hotel’s herb garden. Manuel showing us a whole host of herbs that grow well in Vorarlberg’s soil. I was struck by one of his comments when he said, “The hardier the herb, the tastier it is, and you will need less of them in your cooking.”
Well, Manuel picked those he needed for our meal and we set off to the kitchen.
Once back in his domain Manuel gathered the ingredients – salmon trout, lobello tomatoes, goat whey, fresh goat’s cheese, Bramato – a corn semolina and wild wicken (or sweetpea) flowers and horseradish from the Rote Wand’s gardens.
Cooking is always better with wine, so with a glass of sparkling Austrian wine in hand, we began work.
There was beautifully intricate preparation of all the ingredients. The salmon was sealed in a bag with sea salt and cooked in water at 48 degrees..
It was a real experience to capture, collect and then cook Vorarlberg’s food – after all, it doesn’t get any more locally-sourced than fishing and foraging for your ingredients.
See more of Vorarlberg’s mountains and discover the cool, quirky architecture of Krumbach on the links below, and on Visit Vorarlberg.
Leave a Reply