The Walser from the Valais Alps
The similarity of names comes not by chance: the Walser, as the inhabitants of the Kleinwalsertal in Vorarlberg name, come from the Valais Alps in Switzerland. From there in the late 12th century the first groups of Upper Valais made their way over the passes. What exactly the causes for the start of their arduous hike across the Alpine passes to the neighboring valleys in Austria you don't know. Was it the growing population, was it natural disaster, climate change or even the plague? There are no records of it, so one can only guess. In any case, Valais families moved west, south and east, where they settled in inhospitable areas.
Tough - the Walser
To my question to Stefan Heim, the archivist in Riezlern im KleinwalsertalHe explains to me why they chose the route over the mountain passes for their hikes: “Back then, those were the easier routes. The trade routes from the south led over the passes, and the traders crossed them with their mule horses, on whose backs salt, flour and spices were transported to the north. Just think about your journey from Oberstdorf: this way is easy today. But you crossed thirteen waterways in the process. Roads as we know them today did not exist back then. The routes over the passes were the easier choice. ”They were tough, the Valais, who became Walsers through their hikes.
The Walser Museum in Riezlern
We are in the Walser Museum in Riezlern, which is located on the two floors above the Kleinwalsertal Tourist Information Office. There you have Walser utensils Mountain farmers which show that life on the steep mountain slopes once determined their daily routine: they raised cattle and goats on the mountain pastures, mowed the grass that they let dry in hay almonds and used mule horses to transport their trade goods, which historically they were only allowed to transport over the mountain passes to Austria.
The Kleinwalsertal - a dead end
The Kleinwalsertal has a special feature: it offers only one access to the valley, and is only accessible from the north via Germany. If you think you can cross the valley and drive on to Austria, you soon find yourself wrong. After 17 kilometers, the roads in Baad end at a roundabout. Behind it, there are only trails and trails that lead to mountain huts on the mountain heights.
Walser mountain farmers
The barons of Rettenberg allowed some Walser families to use the slopes of the valley as alpine pastures. They cleared the mountain slopes and settled in the hunting area of the nobles in the Breitach Valley. They had to do mercenary services in case of war and pay a rent. The land was assured to them and they could pass it on to the family.
The migration of the Walser
There are no written records of the migration of the Walsers. But there are similarities in the dialect, in the architectural style of the houses, in the church patrons. St. Theodul is still celebrated today on August 16 in the churches in Kleinwalsertal.
Today there are three main towns in Kleinwalsertal: Riezlern, Hirschegg and Mittelberg. Of the almost 6000 year-round inhabitants of the valley, just over half are Austrians, and 45 percent are foreigners. The Germans make up the largest part with 30 percent. One of the reasons for this is that the Kleinwalsertal has been part of the German economic territory since 1891 through the Customs Connection Treaty, although it is Austrian territory and belongs to the province of Vorarlberg.
Open to the Allgäu
To date, the valley can only be reached from the German side. "We don't want it any other way," says one of the innkeepers, whom we get to know on our short trip to the Kleinwalsertal. “That would be fatal for the valley. So the holiday guests come and stay in the valley. If there is a way to go further south from here, tourism will decrease. No, it's good the way it is. "
In fact, tourism today is the most important source of income in the Kleinwalsertal. Played earlier Agriculture, livestock and the production of cheese play an important role, these meanwhile only play a minor role. Craftsmen are also a mainstay of the economy in the valley. Industry could never settle here. And so today tourism is important for the economy in this valley.
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This is what you need for a trip to Kleinwalsertal Vorarlberg
- We recommend comfortable walking shoes for a hike in the Kleinwalsertal Vorarlberg.
- Practically for traveling is one backpackin which you drink, Brotzeit, a Jacket and store odds and ends.
- What you need for a picnic - With it you can have a picnic on one of the mountain meadows with a view of the mountains of the Kleinwalsertal in Vorarlberg.
- Binoculars * - On this hike you can watch birds and look for other animals.
- You are well equipped for hiking in Kleinwalsertal Vorarlberg Austria with these Hiking maps * and Hiking guides *.
- Do you have everything? With our Hiking checklist you can easily check that.
- Do you like to travel with the motorhome? There are several campsites in the valley. Our Packing list camper helps that you don't forget anything.
- In winter the Kleinwalsertal offers ski areas for winter sports enthusiasts. Our Packing list winter vacation helps with packing suitcases for the winter vacation ..
Arrival by plane, car, bus and train
The nearest airport is Munich. Arrival by train is also possible. The train goes to Oberstdorf. From there, bus #1 will take you to Kleinwalsertal: Timetable and booking*
Accommodations in the region:
Accommodation for online booking is also available in Kleinwalsertal* via Booking.com.
Do you already know:
- A road trip through the Kleinwalsertal
- Mountain railways in the Kleinwalsertal
- Kleinwalsertal Eating and drinking
- A permaculture garden in the Kleinwalsertal
- Farms in the Kleinwalsertal
- Blooming mountain meadows in the Kleinwalsertal
- Restaurants in the Kleinwalsertal
- With the mobile home on a culinary journey of discovery through Styria
Source: On-site research. We thank Tourismus Kleinwalsertal for the invitation to this trip. Our opinion remains our own.
Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline