C Wochenmarkt Marktgasse Feldkirch © Gregor Lengler
The wall used to run around the whole city, it was strong and closed and well guarded and the residents felt safe behind its battlements. The gates were shut in the evenings and only opened again at daybreak when the merchants with salt from Tirol and messengers from distant principalities started to arrive. Not much is left of that medieval wall. The Austriaguide has gathered her visitors in front of the Montforthaus, the culture and conference venue. She points out an area a few metres to the right where some of the historic city wall has survived through the centuries. Above it, and previously connected to the city’s wall, stands Schattenburg castle, which dates from the Middle Ages. The modern Feldkirch and the historical one alongside it – that’s something her guests will keep on seeing on the tour, says Alexandra. But now it’s time for a tasting.
There are guided tours that discuss a lot of a city’s history and culture – and two hours later most of it has been forgotten. That’s why Austriaguide Alexandra prefers taking people through her home city on this tour that’s a little different. The ‘Schnabulieren und Degustieren’ (‘Feasting and Tasting’) tour combines Feldkirch history with stops at coffee houses and places where items are still made mostly by hand. The participants meet honey experts, wine specialists and chocolate masters at the various stops and are able to chat with Feldkirch residents.
The tour leads also to where Kathi Schwärzler works, for example. She’s standing behind the counter, beaming and talking about bees. It is their products – different types of honey and liqueurs – around which the Culinara revolves and the new honey-balsamic vinegar arrived just this morning. Come on, don’t hold back. Give it a try! And some of the other oils and vinegars as well, please! “The aronia vinegar is wonderful – the boss grows the berries himself!”
The good is often concealed here but it still remains within reach
There are many shops like the Culinara in Feldkirch: unusual, different, often hidden down narrow alleyways or concealed in courtyards. Elsewhere in Austria, the same chains have long since spread but in the country’s westernmost city is still home to many jewellery workshops, espresso bars and bookshops that are run by their owners. “The Feldkirch Salzstadel used to be next door to the Churer or Salztor gate,” says Alexandra on the way to the next stop on the tasting tour.
Feldkirch’s favourable location meant that the town became a transshipment point for many goods, especially salt, which was traded in large quantities with the city of Chur.
Vienna is quite far away but its coffee-house culture may still be experienced in Feldkirch. That’s because Café Zanona where it’s possible to study the daily newspapers and talk about everything under the sun while drinking a Verlängerter – a strong coffee with added hot water – has been in business here since 1979. “The men over there were already sitting at that table when I was still at school,” says Martina Häusle, who took the coffee house over from her parents 10 years ago. Café Zanona had long since become permanent fixture in Feldkirch by then, partly because it makes its own cakes and pastries. And eight out of 10 visitors are regulars, says Martina. And seven of those eight like to get chatting with guests they haven’t seen before at the coffee house.
One last chocolate and Alexandra takes her group to the next stop. The tour usually takes in three stops, which each last around 20 minutes. “But a glass of wine is always to be had,” says Alexandra and heads for the Bengodi, where Dieter Schönenberger-Wohlgenannt has been sharing his enthusiasm for Italian wines and liqueurs with customers for 10 years. And where the first thing to do is to sample a prosecco. And Parma ham. And an espresso.
The ‘Schnabulieren und Degustieren’ tour isn’t the only one during which visitors are able to experience special aspects of Feldkirch because other guided tours that focus on such topics as ‘Zauberei, Aberglauben und Magie‘ (‘Witchcraft, Superstition and Magic’) and ‘Tatort und Strafort Feldkirch’ (‘Feldkirch as a Scene of Crimes and Punishment’) are also organised.
Invigorating: the prosecco at the Bengodi is poured by the owner himself
Cheers and bon appétit: the Bengodi is a wine shop, espresso bar and deli
Half an hour later, Alexandra is standing in front of the town hall with the participants of her culinary tour and suddenly they’re right back in the middle of Feldkirch of the past. A painting that shows the town of Feldkirch during the Middle Ages hangs in the lobby. It shows the warren of streets that the participants just walked through. And, of course, the painting also depicts the strong city wall, a small piece of which has somehow survived down through the centuries, right next to the Montforthaus.