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The Arlberg Pass, at 1793 metres above sea level, separates Vorarlberg from Tyrol. In the 14th century it was just a mule track for the salt trade, but the development of the textile industry and postal services necessitated the opening of a road in 1824, which became insufficient in the 20th century. Since 1978, a 14km long road tunnel connects Klösterle to Sankt Anton am Arlberg for a fee, making it possible to avoid the pass.
Bad Hopfreben
A short stop at a deserted place named Bad Hopfreben, above Schoppernau, to taste the atmosphere of the Austrian Pre-Alps. Unfortunately, as we will see everywhere we go, spring is an off-season in western Austria, with very capricious weather and nobody around.
Above Dornbirn, a road climbs towards the Austrian Pre-Alps through bucolic landscapes. Here we are in Bödele, on a stormy day in late May when the cloud cover gave a dramatic atmosphere to the pastures. As Vorarlberg is separated from the rest of Austria by mountain ranges, we are going to climb higher and higher, until we reach the Arlberg Pass, which marks the border with Tyrol.
Dornbirn, the largest town in Vorarlberg, is not much of a tourist town, but its large market square, surrounded by old buildings, is very picturesque, with inviting restaurant terraces and, in the adjacent streets, everything you need for a bit of urban tourism.
We are here at the Flexenpass, a pass at 1773m altitude where the watershed between the North Sea and the Black Sea is located. The small stream of water that flows on this rock divides in two and flows on one side to the Rhine, which flows into the North Sea, and on the other to the Danube, which flows into the Black Sea.
In winter, the Arlberg massif is a ski paradise, as here in Salober near Hochtannberg Pass (alt. 1660m), at the departure of the Schröcken Strolz ski lifts. In summer, the huge car park may be a hiker's paradise, but in spring it is a surreal desert in a very picturesque landscape.
The hamlet of Lafairs lies in the valley of the Inn ("En" in Romansh), a 517km long river which originates in Graubünden, Switzerland, and which gave its name to the Engadine (with an imaginary etymology of "Garden of the Inn"). Downstream, the Inn flows through the Tyrol and its capital Innsbruck (whose name means "Inn Bridge") before flowing into the Danube at Passau in Bavaria. Upstream, the Inn receives a tributary, the Stillebach, which has carved out the valley leading up to the Resia Pass (Reschenpass) and the Italian Tyrol.
We are here at the bottom station of the Zirmbahn cable car, just above the village of Nauders. In winter the region is a ski resort, but from spring onwards it is a paradise for mountain bikers and hikers. When we passed here at the end of May 2022, the Green Days, a large mountain bike event, was taking place. Further up, we will pass the Reschenpass (Resia Pass) and continue our "Switzerland Tour outside Switzerland" into Italian territory.
We are here in a place lost in the mountains between Schröcken and Nesslegg, at an altitude of just over 1300m. This region was first settled around 1300 by Walsers from the Bernese Oberland, a people who speak Walsertitsch, an archaic Alemannic dialect, which can be found in various Alpine regions such as the Goms valley in Valais and the village of Bosco-Gurin in Ticino.
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