C Polsterei Mohr Andelsbuch © Dietmar Denger / Vorarlberg Tourismus
“Well,” says Dr’ Holzbauer and glances down as he runs his hand over the freshly planed board, carefully, almost tenderly, as if it were fragile. “It’s basically like you’ve fallen in love. You’re meant for each other and you feel that at every moment. That’s what it’s like when you work with wood.” Dr’ Holzbauer (“Timber-Builder”), of course, isn’t the speaker’s real name – it’s actually the name of the wood-working business that Dietmar Berchtold runs in Andelsbuch. Dietmar is a guy like a tree and has a smile like the morning sun when it pokes its head above the Bregenzerwald mountains. Dietmar builds those structures that are so typical of Vorarlberg, the ones that make the wood seem almost weightless and causes guests to take photos of entirely normal supermarket outlets because they just look so great. He opens up his workshop to the public once a year during the FAQ festival and a lot of people come to see him then. He explains what he does to them and these encounters usually rather quickly lead him into philosophising about the meaning of work. Is it important? And, more particularly, when does it make us happy?
Those are exactly the kinds of questions that are asked during the Bregenzerwald FAQ. The three letters that are used as the heading for this ‘forum with festival character and culinary sophistication’ stand for ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. Questions that people are always asking themselves and have always asked themselves down the ages and across cultures and to which the answers are continuously changing: was everything better in the past? Do you have time? What do I really need? What can you do? Am I allowed to be happy? In a way, the festival, which now runs for a week, focuses on such questions as they are asked at presentations, meals taken together, panel discussions and concerts that are staged at unusual locations. There are items on the programme where visitors simply sit back, close their eyes and listen. But there are others where they first start to reflect with the other participants and then join in the discussions because the questions have triggered something in them. Virtually all of them possess social relevance. Even if many of them appear rather personal at first.
It all started a few years ago with a kind of field kitchen, which later developed into friendship.is, the company behind the FAQ. “A meal together in the meadows, that’s all there was at first.”
Singer Lùisa at the FAQ Bregenzerwald
Workshop tour: stop at the upholstery workshop
Johannes und Andrea Mohr at Polsterei Mohr in Andelsbuch
Martin Fetz is one of the creative minds behind the FAQ. He comes from Egg and had lived elsewhere for almost twenty years. But, when he decided to visit his home in Vorarlberg more often, he found that his circle of friends was also back and had returned from such places as Vienna, Berlin and London. “We met up for meals and, at some point, we realised that we were all asking the same questions,” he says. “And that we talked about them completely differently on a mountain meadow than at the office. Or on the phone. That’s when we came up with the idea of organising the FAQ.” Fetz and his colleagues from friendship.is were, of course, aware of the fact that it’s easier for people to get into conversation when they meet outside their familiar surroundings. “But we weren’t expecting that the right combination of event and location would produce such a response.”
Martin Fetz and his team had the president of the Caritas organisation in Austria present a talk in a carpenter’s workshop and held a panel discussion with Armin Wolf, who’s a journalist with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF, at the Baumgarten mountain station. They chartered an old steam engine, chauffeured passengers through the Bregenzerwald and, as they travelled, asked them about the last WhatsApp message they received. Schwarzenberg’s sustainability icon Alois Flatz discussed the future of the planet with visitors (and revealed what he told his client Al Gore). Communication design professor Elisabeth Kopf from Vorarlberg curated an exhibition at the Werkraumhaus in Andelsbuch for which her students in Vienna did not go on-line in search of inspiration but found their ideas on walks and hikes in nature (or as Elisabeth put it, “in real life.”) Top chef Jodok Dietrich served a ‘Fragenhaftes Menü’ (‘Questionable Menu’) in a former stable and incidentally explored the social aspects of food with his guests. And Lùisa, who’s a singer from Hamburg, performed in an old barn and, in the breaks between songs, she enthusiastically talked about her trip to the Bregenzerwald, “It’s just like being in a film if you’ve got the right music playing in the car!”
One course in Jodok's ‘Fragenhaftes Menü’ (‘Questionable Menu’)
FAQ protagonist and cook Jodok Dietrich
Martin Fetz chuckles as he realises that the unusual combinations of events and locations during the FAQ surprise even the artists. And the continuing demand proves that two things were destined for each other: a festival idea that, at first glance, may seem somewhat unusual and ‘the most urban rural region in the whole of Austria’ as Fetz likes to call the Bregenzerwald. “That’s always been a trait of the people here, this curious looking-over-the-hill thing, which is great for the FAQ.”
Reserve? Not at all! Like the way Dietmar Berchtold was able to convince his guests of the benefits of wood as a raw material within a few minutes this Sunday morning and the way Jodok and Konrad Felder opened up the world of metals to the same visitors shortly afterwards. The company that the two brothers run is another stop on the tour of workshops that opens the doors to the trades around Andelsbuch and allows people in the region to take a look behind the scenes. The two Felder brothers make hotel pools, show kitchens, alpine dairy equipment and such custom-made products as the copper façade for the restaurant on top of the Nebelhorn – ‘actually anything that’s complicated’ – as Jodok says in summary of their corporate philosophy. The FAQ to match: do I need challenges? What skills do I actually possess? And is there always a solution? Or rather: are there answers to all these questions? Well, there are, but none that are always right in all locations, as people at the FAQ events are quick to realise. But, maybe, answers are not what matters. Perhaps it’s actually much more important to ask the questions. That you meet up with other people who are also looking for answers.
That you get talking to each other and that you enjoy a meal together and listen to music and maybe even run your hand carefully over a piece of freshly planed wood. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll fall in love.
They love metal: Jodok und Konrad Felder
Meeting up in front of the Alte Säge
Discussion with Zimmerei Kaufmann
FAQ organiser Martin Fetz
The FAQ Bregenzerwald is a forum that possesses a festival character. It promises potential for a good time.
The next FAQ will be taking place in early September.