Feldkirch: A Historic Gem Surrounded By Lush Greenery
Located in the far western federal state of Austria, is Feldkirch, the most well-preserved and scenic of Vorarlberg’s cities, nestled in a picturesque place where three valleys meet.
This small colorful Medieval town, painted with calmness and happiness, and surrounded by mountains and greenery, won me with its fairy-tale appearance, as well as the locals’ hospitality. I’ll be always happy to come back here, visit the local bakery called Bäckerei Mangold, and have the best Linzer cake in the world! And a cup of Mélange coffee, natürlich!
The first documents mentioning the town dating back to 860 AD. City status was gained in 1218 and since then Feldkirch was known throughout Austria primarily for its Jesuit school. (What is so special about this school in Feldkirch, I’ll explain you below.)
Feldkirch’s biggest attraction is Schattenburg Castle, once the residence of the Dukes of Monfort, and today a museum. The view over the town from this site is astonishing. The panorama takes your breath away for a moment. Finally, you realize that you are losing your sight in a sea of mountain peaks. And it is wonderful.
The Medieval appearance of the town in regard with its numerous towers and gates, sits prettily in the valley of vineyards under a castle-crowned hill, guarded by wonderful snow-capped peaks in the background. This makes Feldkirch look like a city from a postcard — vintage, colourful, & cute. So magical!
Among the several towers, the most famous is the bell tower — Katzentrum. It is a historical landmark in Feldkirch dating back to 1507 AD. The name probably comes after the canons (cats) which were kept in the tower, since in the old days it used to be a watch tower within the town fortifications. It is where Vorarlberg’s biggest bell still dongs. Beside the tower, there is the Church of St. Nicholas, one of the most popular attractions in Feldkirch, as well.
I find it great that the majority of the streets in Feldkirch are pedestri- anised. The centre of the old town is entered through the Churertor gate via Marktgasse, main and widest street in Feldkirch. Once in, this small historic beauty shows you its full glory. The town is packed with charming buildings, vintage restaurants, artisan shops, hipster cafes, and markets.
Although it is a small town, when wondering the streets around you can spot many charming and wonderful sights — pretty pastel-colored townhouses, greenery and flowers, cute handmade decor pieces on houses and in gardens, and the similar little things that make everyday life more beautiful.
The old town centre rolls down to the shores of the turquoise Ill river. And right at that spot is The Vorarlberg State Conservatory – Landesmusik-konservatorium. So we come to the amusing story about this school in Feldkirch, which I’ve mentioned you above. The music conservatory building is used to be a Jesuit College establish in 1649, internationally known as the elite grammar school of Stella Matutina (Morgenstern, in German).
The Jesuit College contributed to the town’s international reputation between 1856 and 1979. Its most famous pupil is Arthur Conan Doyle, (the Scottish physician and writer, author of the detective fiction novel featuring the character Sherlock Holmes). In 1875 Doyle studied German here.
Just right to the State Conservatory building, steeply from the Ill river rises the Margarethenkapf Park. It is a historic place. Surrounded with nothing but the greenery, you find yourself lost in thoughts, yet you feel wonderful. Students from the former Jesuit College and nowadays State Conservatory spend their time here. Sometimes is a discussion on the program, I assume, and sometimes pure hedonism. Thomas Mann wrote about the park in one of his books:
“It was at that time, right after his mother left, that Leo made the acquaintance of Padre Unterpertinger. The sixteen-year-old was sitting alone on a bench in Margarethenkapf park, a hill to the west of the small city, on the banks of the Ill, from where you could enjoy a sweeping, serene view over the Rhine Valley – sitting there, lost in gloomy, bitter thoughts about his ability and his future, when a member of the teaching staff at the Gesellschaft Jesu boarding school, called ‘Morgenstern’, who was out for a walk, sat down next to him, placed his hat beside him, crossed one leg over the other under his clerical clothing and, after reading some of his Breviary, struck up a conversation, which turned out to be extremely lively and would decide Leo’s fate.”– The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) / Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955)
I have visited Feldkirch three times over the past few years. I have even found a store selling my favourite Editions des Correspondances cards! In the spring and fall this cutie-pie is really spectacular. The old town wings you back to Late Medieval times with its Gothic appearance, cobbled, arcade lanes, and dreamy houses. When I look through my photos I rediscover its charm again. Thus, I bet that it looks even more magical during the winter months, and snowy days. It must be a winter-tale like experience, don’t you think? This is why I am planning to visit Feldkirch once more during the Christmas holidays. If you ever have a possibility to visit this small town, don’t miss your chance!
I just remembered one interesting story in regard with Feldkirch. Are you familiar with the story of James Joyce’s infamous event in Feldkirch? Namely, in 1915, Joyse (a famous Irish novelist, short story writer, and poet) have visited a friend here and almost got arrested at the Feldkirch Railway Station, as he had been considered an enemy during the World War I in Austria-Hungary. He allegedly said to his friend in Feldkirch the following: “Over there, on those tracks, the fate of Ulysses was decided in 1915.” Thanks to friends he managed to organise safe travel for his family and himself to Zurich, Switzerland. The quote has been displayed in German translation in the station since 1994.
Lots of Love,