Guttes Leben

The Trifecta of Gutes Leben (good living)

Living Well in Vorarlberg

It’s been a busy past few weeks and I’ve neglected my blogging – living the good life seems to be preferable to writing about it.  But now, I’m pooped.  A few minutes of downtown affords the opportunity to catch up with the Blog. The Trifecta of Gutes Leben (good living) in Vorarlberg.

Bringing our Adventure to an end

In the next few weeks Ursula and I will clean up the apartment, pack up the cats and begin to head back to Alaska.  There’s much more living and a few items on the ‘punch-list’ to knock out before then.  It’ll be a hectic and emotional few weeks as our ‘Year in Vorarlberg’ adventure draws to a close.  If you’ve followed along, you’ll note it was not quite a ‘Year’ for either of us nor did we accomplish all of our aims.  Most importantly though, was that we did develop insights and a keener understanding of life over here and the possibilities and what the future may hold.  We’re plotting out the few immediate steps so that long-term options become more  possible.  But, all that’s for a future Blog.

There are a few notable mentions of events over the last few weeks that uniquely capture the spirit of living the Good Life (Gutes Leben) in Vorarlberg;  Bodensee Living, Menzinger Himmel (Heaven) and ‘Public Viewing’ the World Cup.

The Boating Life

Ursula’s sister’s ‘Man’ (partner) is a proud owner of a 30 some foot motor-boat and marina slip  on the Bodensee.  This past weekend we had the pleasure of a boat outing and experiencing what they call ‘Bodensee Living.’   We drove up to the Swiss town of Horn and enjoyed a local orchestra serenading the residents and visitors at the marina while awaiting the arrival of the boat.  As it glided to a stop on the step-down dock, we hopped onto the craft and sped off to the center of the Bodensee to see the sights from the water, for a change.  

I’ve described the Bodensee in the past blogs and on this day it lived up to its magical reputation.  The sun was glaring, it was hot, and seemingly every boat with a slip in the three surrounding country’s  marinas was active on the lake.  There were literally a thousand boats moored, sailing or tootling around the lake (it is 26 miles long). 

In short order we ended up in ‘Modloc’ (my naval friends may appreciate the use of that term) as we dropped the anchor in 5-foot waters a few hundred meters off the Swiss town of Staad.  There were dozens of other motorboats surrounding us, and several of them had clusters of three or four tied off together, encrusted with sunbathers bedecking the decks and swimmers circling about.  In time, three other boats tied up to ours and the enthusiastic appreciation of sun and water and life in general, was palatable. 

A ‘wet’ excursionThe Trifecta of Gutes Leben

My sister-in-law owns and runs a bar in a small town nearby.  Swiss bars, from my experience, are a bit more refined than the typical American bar; they’re not much like pubs either.  Her’s, at least, has the appearance of an upscale Cafe where hot nibbles and cold Champagne are served throughout the day and night.  One is as likely to see a flute of Veuve Clicquot Brut served as frequently as the local beer.  Needless to say, with easy access to liquor, our boating experience was a wet one, in many ways.  It seems that the arrival of each new boat was an occasion to break out another bottle of Italian Prosseco, or exchange glasses of wine, and the occasional beer or two.  There seemed to be no end to the cold beverages and the chilled water of the lake. 

Liberated swimming

Apparently, the Bodensee, while onboard a boat at least, one can swim in your birthday suit!   Although not many other boats lived as risqué, ours did!  It’s a strange sensation for this prudish American boy, but…when in Rome…  The best policy is to keep your eyes up at eye level and stay in the water. We’re all kind of old and wandering eyes are no pleasure for anybody!  But, ‘liberated’ swimming in the 5 foot deep, slightly chilled lake waters was a great way to work off the extra calories and retain a degree of modesty! 

Towards the end of the evening all four boats motored off for cocktails at the local marina.  Shortly after we wandered to an Italian restaurant overlooking a second marina for the sunset, Pizza and good cheer.  After the evening, we motored back to the pier and ma

de our way back into Austria and home to our apartment.  It was an excellent introduction to ‘Bodensee living.’

Nenzin HeavenThe Trifecta of Gutes Leben

By some stroke of good fortune, we ended up with an incredibly gracious and friendly landlord.  For the past 7 months we’ve tried to link up for a meal or some sort of outing, and this week it finally happened.  They live in the nearby valley town of Nenzing, and because they are residents, they have exclusive vehicular access to Nenzinger Himmel; all others must take a local/tourist bus or walk in.  They treated us to a drive into the valley; our first time visiting.   I joked beforehand about the name and noted that when residents of Nenzing passed away, that I guess this is where they must end up…if they were good.  My landlord nodded, and with a slight contemplative smile suggested it would be OK.   After we arrived, I understood why. 

The ride into the valley is harrowing.  It is a former cart track that over the years has been widened to accept a single car.  There are numerous pull-outs built in along the way so that two vehicles may slowly pass each other.  On one side of the road, the earth rapidly rises, its steep walls are festooned with enormous deciduous trees and a smattering of redwood evergreens.  The other side of the road drops precipitously to a rushing and rumbling river, hundreds of feet below.  The sun’s rays sneak into the scene from a few bare spots in the overhanging fauna.  The road appears as if it was scratched out of the mountainside and left with precarious overhangs and old landslides.  It is a daunting drive, and I’m quite happy with did it with one who’s done it many times before.  

The Valley that time forgot

About 16 kilometers into this winding and rising trail one finally crests into a long fertile valley that appears as though time has forgotten about it, though the residents have not.  The valley is a few miles long and perhaps a mile wide, resplendent in verdant, plush grazing meadows. It’s surrounded by the ever-present craggily peaks of the Austrian Alp summits featuring cob-webs of a myriad of steep walking trails.  Probably as long as any of the locals can remember, this valley was used by the ranchers as the summer grazing lands for their cows and livestock.  Each spring the shepherds round up the villagers’ livestock for the 16-20 kilometer treacherous track up into the valley.  At summers end, they would herd the fattened cows, adorned with flowers and bells and all sorts of festive ornaments, out of the mountains and back to their celebrating, waiting families below. 

But, because the route has been so inaccessible, the valley is still pristine and virginal with flush meadows, and bubbling creeks, noisy waterfalls, and lazy shades.  Nowadays it’s is a haven for athletically inclined tourists who spend their vacations hiking the surrounding mountain peaks and trails. There’s a single hotel and probably around 100 small wooden decorated cabins owned by the residents of faraway Nenzing.  They’re for rent.  While I think they all have electricity, I’m not sure if running water is prevalent as I saw many old outdoor pumps in active use. 

Even the cows know its heaven!

The cows are still there, hundreds and hundreds of them.  Apparently, they are so accustomed to this valley that each evening, on their own accord, they leave their grazing grounds and meander back to their long barns with automated milking and feeding booths.  I’m told each cow knows precisely which stall is his/hers and finds their way to their specially prepared  diet – depending on if they are pregnant, milking or being fattened up. The stall barns are over a hundred years old on the outside, but I guess inside one finds the latest and greatest cow tending technology.  

We walked up and down the valley and through the small cabin village, stopping only for a cup of coffee and cake.  The beauty can be best described through the photos, so I’ve included several here in the hopes they give a proper appreciation of this hidden gem of a Himmel. 

Seasonal Soccer

I’ve lived in and out of Europe since ‘95 and seen a few trends bloom and wither away.  One of the more recent movements has been towards nationalism and pride in peoples’ own cultures, their history and accomplishments.  Nowhere is this exemplified more than the World Cup competition that consumes the early summer past-time every four years.  The best way to enjoy this resurgence of nationalism is with the Public Viewing events featuring the games. 

In most cities, towns and ‘Doerfer,’ one can find numerous open-air pubs, cafes, and restaurants nestled in the cobblestone town squares and alleys featuring the day’s game on a big screen TVs.  The crowds gather an hour before the event to compete for the best seats and settle in with a few beverages and lots of good cheer and chat. When the game arrives, the plazas are quiet as everybody’s attentions focus on the play – that is until there’s a feat of incredible sportsmanship or a goal.  Then, the area erupts in oohs and aahs and few ‘Scheisse.’ 

On one occasion a few years back we found seating at a local square with a dozen pubs and cafes all adorned with numerous Big Screen TVs.  The square was packed with tables and chairs all directed towards the owner’s screens.  The noise during a goal was deafening as two hundred voices reverberated off the half-timbered buildings and glass-fronted shops. 

Viewing in Feldkirck

Our little town of Feldkirch features a similar, but less impassioned celebration of competition, even though the national team failed to make the top 36.   Attending a Public Viewing of an exciting game is an exhilarating event, regardless of who wins or looses.  In spite of whoever you’re rooting for, opponents all take your shouts and gestures in good spirit.  While watching a key game for Germany in an Irish Pub in Vienna, we were quite surprised to hear an uproar of local applause when Germany lost.  That’s about as contentious as ever I’ve seen the crowds.  This year’s competition has come and gone, and it’ll be another four years before the TVs come back to the cobblestones.  It’ll be worth the wait.

This past three months filled with Guttes Leben rapidly comes to a closure.  Undoubtedly, there are a few more ‘highlights’ to come, but it’s now time to focus on the journey and adventure ahead.  


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