• Umgang Bregenzerwald

    Growing up in the Wood Shingle Paradise Schwarzenberg

    Peter Fetz is a true Schwarzenberg native. He has worked in Paris, London and Vienna. Then he started to miss his beloved mountains and the genuine appreciation of nature and wood.

    by Marsa Kindl-Omuse and Katja Guttmann

    Interview with Peter Fetz

    In 2017, he took over the management of the family business from his father, becoming the tenth generation to lead the Hotel Hirschen in Schwarzenberg, which is a prime example of the magnificent local building tradition with wooden shingles.

    As a child, I thought it was normal that one builds houses with wood. 
    Peter Fetz You grew up in Schwarzenberg. What are your favorite childhood memories from this idyllic village?
    Peter Fetz: At the village square around the church, we were ten kids of the same age, and we roamed the area like a band of little rascals. My mother loves to tell the story of the mysteriously disappearing apple strudel: I used to secretly invite my friends to help themselves to the apple strudel, which was really intended for our guests (laughs). Why did you come back to Schwarzenberg? What was it that lured you back home?
    Peter Fetz: I have wanted to run a hotel ever since I was four. This job is very exciting because it is so incredibly versatile. A hotel owner is everything and does everything at once: marketing, customer service, renovations, cooking and much more. Of course, the Hirschen is special, with its history and its wood architecture. In addition, it has been in our family for so long. I have always known that I will return here after my studies. I also love the mountains. They are also good for me. They give you perspective. I am a trail runner, which brings me immense joy in the summer months. In winter, I love to do ski tours. The versatility of my profession can of course be very draining as well. And I know: When you are up there on the top of the mountains, all the problems and challenges seem much smaller. That is a lovely effect. Which are your favorite spots in Schwarzenberg? What did you miss?
    Peter Fetz: In Schwarzenberg, I generally enjoy that everything is within the distance of a short walk. When you have lived in large cities, that is a huge increase in quality. I also love the Bregenzer Ache, the river that flows through Schwarzenberg. From the end of March until the End of October, I take a dip in it almost every day. We are also very lucky that there are a lot of places to eat here, even though the village is small. Café Angelikahöhe, for example, is the perfect place to enjoy an excellent cup of coffee in the afternoon sun. Berghof Fetz at the Bödele has the most beautiful sun terrace anywhere. Lots of great destinations when you don’t want to stay at home. The Bregenzerwald is famous for its tradition of building with wood. What does this tradition mean for you? Where do you find elements of this tradition in the Hirschen?
    Peter Fetz: As a child, I thought everyone builds with wood. Today, I see that wooden houses not only grace the village of Schwarzenberg but many regions in Vorarlberg. Both in the old style, as well in the new. This coexistence, and this high quality standard here is almost kitschy but also really beautiful. Stefan Sagmeister (a graphic designer and typographer from Vorarlberg who lives in New York City) spent one of his Sabbaticals in Schwarzenberg. The statement „If you live in a place that lacks beauty, you become an asshole,“ is his. I think it is very inspiring. The beauty is that building with wood comes naturally here. That is why there is so much know-how. Every electrician, every carpenter has a highly developed sense for beautiful things. All these puzzle pieces make up an ecosystem that in turn nourishes things of quality and beauty. Does the wood shingle facade also date back to 1755? Does it need much care?
    Peter Fetz: My father always says that the Hirschen has one Million shingles (laughs). I think there are not quite as many, but they still number in the hundred thousands. The wood shingle facade is expensive, but it has excellent insulating qualities, is very long lasting and ages very beautifully. This technology lends a very special character to the entire valley. The shingles last 50, 60, 70 years. You don’t often replace all shingles at once, mostly you just exchange a few. Ours are painted, so they don’t look like new wood, this helps with the weather. I don’t think that there are still shingles from 1755, but the beams behind them might be that old. Maintaining everything is definitely a lot of work, but it is also worth it. The Hirschen is over 265 years old - what lies behind its success?
    Peter Fetz: After a fire in the village of Schwarzenberg in 1755, these mansions were built with wood shingles. The Hirschen has been an inn since then. At certain times it was even known internationally. The Bavarian king Max stayed with us. I am now the tenth generation leading the Hirschen. We have a veritable arsenal of stories. Not long ago we renovated room number 7 - that is the König Max Suite. As we sanded the ceiling, we found an entire painting hidden under seven layers of paint. It was painted in 1812. Those are things you will never experience in a new building. Which important international personalities have already stayed at the Hirschen?
    Peter Fetz: Among the top VIPs are King Max of Bavaria and the Saxon King. The German poet Eduard Mörike spent his honeymoon with us. The family of classicist painter Angelika Kauffmann comes from Schwarzenberg and my great grandfather six times removed was her banker. We still have the whole correspondence. As for recent years, I want to be a bit more discreet. Let’s just say that the Hirschen has always attracted interesting personalities. That does not necessarily mean that many people who come here are famous, but that they have fascinating stories. This is my privilege as host, that I can live and work here and get to meet all these interesting people.
    Umgang Bregenzerwald

    Peter Fetz’s suggestions on what to experience in Schwarzenberg

    • A dip in the Bregenzer Ache, the local river, is an absolute highlight.
    • At the Café Angelikahöhe one can enjoy excellent coffee in the afternoon sun.
    • The Berghof Fetz am Bödele has the most beautiful sun terrace with magnificent mountain views.
    • A visit to the Angelika-Kauffmann-Museum, which showcases our painting prodigy, is a must.
    • In September, the Almabtrieb am Dorfplatz, when the cows come home from the grazing grounds in the high Alps, is an annual village highlight.
    • And in December, the Christmas Market on the village square offers outstanding local crafts.
    Read more on Schwarzenberg
    Holzschindeln, typisch für den Bregenzerwald

    Wood Shingles in the Bregenzerwald

    • Wood shingles have always been used for the traditional Bregenzerwald house as an economical, resource-friendly, long-lasting building technique that helps protect the building from the elements.
    • A wood shingle is a small, thin wooden plate made from local firs or spruces to cover roofs or walls. 
    • Wood shingles last 50 - 70 years if they have not been painted or varnished.
    • Wood shingles are still being made by hand, a result of hundreds of years of wood crafting tradition. 
    • Wood shingles today are used for wooden buildings, even inside for staircases, roof slopes and bathrooms.

    Interesting facts on the Hotel Hirschen

    • Schwarzenberg Village with Church and the Hirschen Inn
    • Umgang Bregenzerwald
    • Hotel Gasthof Hirschen: Unterhaltungsabend
    • Restaurant at the Hotel Hirschen in Vorarlberg
    • Gastraum vom Hotel Gasthof Hirschen in Schwarzenberg
    • Hotel Hirschen_ Schwarzenberg _ open fire place
    • Hotel Gasthof Hirschen am Dorfplatz in Schwarzenberg
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