Hochst to Dornbirn and back - Travels With Bernie - CycleBlaze

Hochst to Dornbirn and back

July, 2014

Bernie agreed to take us into the mountains. That is definitely a car expedition, because we are talking about going way up. Even though we had found Bernie to be an excellent and avid cyclist, he characterized himself as more of a hiker. Bernie feels that people fall naturally into one camp or the other. So for today's adventure we switched camps, and donned backpacks. The backpack that Bernie gave me was called a "Dachstein 30". There is no telling if this has any actual link to the famous Dachstein mountains of Austria. The bag might have just as easily been called and "Everest". Still, I thought it quite fitting for an Austrian expedition.

Delia could not come with us since she had a previous commitment with a birthday celebration in the Filipino community. We first drove then back through Bregenz to drop her off. It was surprising to be first of all in a car, after two months away from them, and secondly to find ourselves in heavy traffic in Austria, where we had mainly been experiencing the wide open spaces.

We said see you later to Delia and headed off. Since it was pouring rain, we did not head immediately for the hills. Rather we stopped in the nearby town of Dornbirn, which is the biggest town in this province of Vorarlberg (it's bigger than Bregenz). Vorarlberg is one of nine Austrian provinces - second smallest in area and smallest in population.

Here is our track or the day. You can see Bregenz in the right corner. From the ridge we climbed, Lindau was easily visible across the lake.
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Dornbirn had a small market ongoing , with cheese being one of the main things on offer. My natural inclination to want to buy it all was dampered by Bernie and Dodie, who both could attest that we already have a lot at home. One of the main types of cheese that you see here is simply called bergkase - mountain cheese. I might as well take this space to explain something that only dawned on me later in the day - actually, mainly Bernie explained it to me later:

The farms that are up in the alm - the high meadows - with the Swiss style cows - are not sending fluid milk daily to the factory or supermarket. The distances are too great and roads may not exist. Rather, their game is the production of cheese. With high farms, the cheese is produced at each place. Lower ones may be able to be part of a co-op or in fact send the milk to a cheese factory. So in a market when you buy "mountain cheese" it really is mountain cheese, and it is the predominant use for the milk of all those lovely cows up in the hills. Well ... duh!

p.s. I  read this to Bernie, and he points out that the cows here are not called Swiss cows, or even Swiss style. Rather they are Vorarlberger Braun Vieh! That is, brown cows from this province. Bernie does concede that they are essentially the same cow as what the Swiss have.

Ah, back to the market in Dornbirn. Rather than featuring a rathaus presiding over the market square, Dornbirn has the Rotes Haus. This is the oldest house in the town, having been built in 1639. It is still in use, as a restaurant. Since we are the out of town visitors, we got to eat there. The interior reminded me of an English pub - with dark panelling and low ceilings. We went for traditional dishes - schnitzel, of course, and kaesspatzle (basically, mac and cheese!). Back outside, we dove right back in - to a bakery - for a takeout coffee and a mohn schnecke. Bernie was impressed that I ordered these entirely in German, also fielding the follow on questions like "do you want just one?" "do you want sugar or milk" and "do you mind waiting while the water heats up". I found when learning to work with computers that having a project to do - a real reason to learn - was the way to master it. Getting a mohn schnecke for powering up the mountain is a great reason for learning German - at least the bit needed to get hold of the pastry!

Dry sausages at the market
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The Rotes Haus
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Look Dave, Mohren Brau is made here
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Insect houses for sale at the market
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Around the market square
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Kids, anything you would like on here?
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With Bernie at the Rotes Haus restaurant
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Mohren means moorish or black
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Our clever ploy of hiding out in the Rotes Haus gave the rain a chance to stop, so now we completed our drive up to the base of the mountain. This was not exactly a mountain in the sense of Mont Blanc or anything. It was called the Hochalpele - high alm. This was essentially a ski hill, in that a number of lifts went to the top. But it was unique because it afforded views down to the Lake, to Bregenz, to the area near Hochst where the Rhine enters the Lake, and then back around to the south, where there are numerous villages and high farms among the Alm.

The walk began as we passed through a farm. Apparently it is an unwritten rule that people have the right of passage where there are established trails. The farm had pigs and turkeys as well as cows, giving us the chance to tell Bernie about our past experiences raising pigs and turkeys. A little higher up, some of the cows were standing in the trail, giving us the opportunity of making their acquaintance.

Bernie grew up in these mountains and knew all about them. So he pointed out plants, as well as villages and other mountains. As we progressed, the walk reminded me of the one up to Lake Agnes, near Lake Louise. I was telling Bernie about it, and stressing the fact that there is a tea house at the end - a big plus. But, Bernie had that covered, because there was a tea house at the end of this one too! What's more, you could also sleep one the second floor, if necessary or desired.

As we walked down and Bernie pointed out other plants, I asked about Edelweiss - made famous to us, of course, by the Sound of Music. Bernie has never seen the movie - it had no real play or impact inside Austria. Anyway, I learned that Edelweiss is relatively rare, and protected - only found in a few places in this province. So I wasn't going to see, and certainly not pick one.

Back home, we had way more food than we have become used to seeing. This included great chocolate cake made by Bernie's Mom, and also an Erdbeeren Schnitte that it looked like Bernie had gone out specially to source this morning. This one was the best yet - with the feature I have been looking for - a qwark layer. In this case there was a cake base, the qwark layer, another cake layer, then a thin coating of something else, before the strawberries and gelatin. The whole thing was very moist and yummy. Actually, I have eaten so much cake today it's almost like somebody is trying to train me out of it. Tomorrow, though, we will leave this lovely house and family, and go back to "limping" from bakery to bakery!

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Ron SuchanekI did a backpack up to a place called Skoki Lodge many years ago. Seems like it was near Lake Louise.
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