Why yes, it is mountain cheese, of course. When my Swabian friend, Sybille, recently asked me to try some special Bergkase (Alpine Cheese), I couldn’t refuse. I have a love/hate relationship with cheese. I love it, but my hips… well that’s a different story.
This special cheese is creamy, distinctly flavored and organic and it literally melted in my mouth. Next, she invited me and my crew on a trip to Bregenzerwald, Austria to visit the factory and town where she has vacationed since she was 4 months old.
The Bregenzerwald Alpenkäse is located in Bezau, Austria. It was about 2 1/2 hours to travel here from Stuttgart. We knew it would be a long day but a day filled with cheese, lunch and probably some coffee and cake along the way. All of these elements make it worthwhile.
Sybille set up our English tour and we were able to see the processing of this very special cheese from the early beginnings. Now a Co-op of over 420 farmers, they all work together to produce this Alpine cheese primarily in the winter. During the summer, the cows (Kuh) are in the Alps eating only hill grass. Meanwhile, the farmers are harvesting as much spring and summer grass to feed over the long winter. These cows never have received any “silo” or silage or supplements.
During the winter, the Co-op receives about 40,000 liters of milk per day. However, during the summer it drops to about 10,000. All is not wasted with the milk; there are several products the factory creates including butter, un-clarified butter (great for baking and roasting) and whey. For all the jocks out there, this whey is the protein in your shakes.
After our tour, we were able to have a taste test for €5 per person. I think my favorite was the Blümlekäs or Flower Cheese because I like the blossoms in my cheese. After sampling several different varieties, we made our purchases. I bought over 1,000g of cheese, butter and Schmalz (lard) and it was right at €30.
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Driving Down the Cattle Fest
Believe it or not “Driving Down the Cattle” is the literal translation for the name of this fest. Typically during the first or second weekend of September, the historical annual fest is celebrated with much fanfare. For the village it is a successful year if no cows or herders are lost. Click here to find out more about this Bregenzerwald regional fest. I will most certainly be planning a trip for next year’s fest especially since Austria is one of my favorite countries to visit.
While we were in the Bregenzerwald, we stopped at the Käsehaus (cheese house) for traditional Alpine cheese dishes, a quaint gift shop and every cheese accessory imaginable. The wait staff was very friendly and happy to hear we were from America.
I had Käsespatzle and salad. I know I sound like a broken record, but I wouldn’t go to Texas and ask for sushi? No, it would be a steak. Fabulous is all I can say.
Some people had the cheese soup, but I’m also about the presentation and I found out the Käsespatzle was served in cool cheese dishes.
So What is It… the Bodensee or Lake Constanz?
The Bregenzerwald is very close to the Bodensee or Lake Constanz. To the Austrians and Swiss, it is known as Lake Constanz; however, to our Deutschlander friends it is the Bodensee. Either way, this lake is just a beautiful area with breathtaking views and rolling steep hills. If you are stationed anywhere in Germany, you must have heard of this “heaven on earth” location.
If you chose to stay overnight, there are many hotels (Gasthaus, Fremdenhaus and Bed & Breakfast) all over the valley of Schwarzenberg in the Bregenzerwald. Not only is this a summer fun area, the Bregenzerwald is also notable for its skiing, hiking and hand-gliding tourism.
We chose to drive through the Allgäu on the way home, which was absolutely worth it and had incredible views. A tourist destination for all nationalities, you may decide this is the next stop for your family.
For train information, click on DB Bahn.
Author’s Profile: Wendy Payne is a military spouse and lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. She also enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga and sharing Europe with people.
Featured Image Photo Credit: © Wendy Payne