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In the summer of 2017, Georg and artist Christian Piffrader were allowed to carry a door to its destination at the Green Ring. We still talk a lot about this special day. Last summer, Christian and his wife Johanna returned to Hotel Austria to visit the Festival in Bregenz with us. Upon their visit, they brought us a very special work of art. On a board about 1.5 metres high, symbolising the mountain, two tiny little people, standing 2 cm tall at maximum, carry a door up the mountain. The clothes of the small wooden figures have the same colour as the clothes of Georg and Christian back then, and the door has 100 small dots, the spies – we were speechless. A work of art with history. Thank you so much, dear Christian. Our joy about this special gift will last forever.
Our church tower has a new shingle roof which, thanks to the beautiful larch wood shingles, still shines. The new roof was financed by locals and guests who could buy a “time capsule”. The time capsules could be filled with stories, wishes, visions, objects and so on, and were then well welded. During a joint celebration on 8th August, the capsules were pulled up the tower where they will remain until the next roofing action in approximately 60 to 70 years. This was a highlight on its own; in addition, Georg and two other locals from Lech were chosen to install the restored cross with a golden globe on the top of the onion dome. A great honour and a wonderful memory whenever Georg looks at our beautiful church tower.
In addition to the wonderful golf rounds during our Golf Challenge Week, we also had two exceptional afternoons of golf in Lech. On the one hand, we were invited to the Dirndl and Lederhosen Tournament of the President in Lech. Since we are not too eager when it comes to tournaments, we especially welcome such “fun tournaments”. Even Aurel was persuaded to participate and, together with his friend Philip Strolz, played as a original couple with traditional costumes. We had so much fun and, therefore, decided to organise a tournament with traditional costumes also for our guests in summer 2019. The golf season 2018 ended brilliantly with Aurel’s 3-club-tournament accompanied by whisky sour. Together with Martin Prodinger from Hotel Sandhof, our son organized this tournament, which breaks all rules, for the second time already. A tournament with loud music and drinks on the golf course can be held only on a quiet September afternoon in Lech when there are not so many golf players on the course anymore. After all, when Martin Prodinger drives around in his converted golf cart with smoke machine, sound box and mobile cocktail bar, you can see the one or the other astonished hiker on the hiking trail opposite the golf course, considering whether they should start playing golf, too.
As our summer guests know, we are enthusiastic about hiking. And with every new hike, we thank the Lord for living in such a wonderful world. Although the mountains are right on our doorstep, we can still marvel at their beauty. We particularly remember two hikes from last summer. For a long period of time, we had promised our friend Hannes to visit the Great Walser Valley. This valley is right next to where we live but it is a long way by car. We therefore decided to hike there. First, we took the Panorama Bus to Lake Formarin – our first trip with Panorama Bus. We were quite impressed seeing the Zugertal from high up. At the bottom of the Rote Wand mountain we started walking towards the Göppinger Hut and then proceeded to the Alpe Klesenza Hut where Hannes was impatiently waiting for us. The second highlight of our hiking season was our hike to the Glongspitze summit. We had hoped to see some impressive ibex, but our hope was destroyed by the construction of the avalanche barrier on the subsidiary summit. No ibex in sight. Our guide Jürgen had shown us photos of dozens of ibexes in the past few years. We were disappointed and continued to walk towards the summit. And suddenly there it was right above us – a ibex right from the picture book. It posed for us and we were able to take great pictures. The most beautiful images, however, are the memories in our hearts following this very special hike.
During a cross-country skiing lap at the end of December, our chef Markus and our regular guest Patrick Donner talked about the hobby they have in common: bicycle racing. Markus told Patrick about his favourite race, the Highlander, which made Patrick feel warm all over, despite the icy winter temperature. So, everything was clear when Patrick visited again in February. Together with Markus, Patrick signed up for the Bicycle Marathon which goes from Hohenems through the Bödele recreational area to the Bregenz Forest, and then back to Hohenems via Lech, Bludenz, the Faschinajoch Pass, and the Furkajoch Pass. An absolute novelty – after all, where do a chef and a guest participate in a bicycle race together? Patrick had to get up early on the day of the race because it started in Hohenems at 6.00 a.m. already. We were absolutely astonished when the family, which cheered on Patrick when he was driving through Lech, was at the breakfast table as early as 8.30 a.m. Yes, Patrick raced already through Lech by that time and completed the race on the sensational 42nd place by then. Markus was also very satisfied with his result; however, he had unfortunately not been able to keep up with former professional cyclist Patrick. Congratulations to both of them!
Many years ago, our senior Othmar Strolz laid the foundation stone of a nice cooperation when he registered Hotel Austria as founding hotel at the Golf Club in Bludenz-Braz. He also introduced his grandchildren to golf. When the Golf Club Lech was founded, the two golf clubs merged to become one and not only we, as a family, benefit from the partnerships but also do our guests. Hotel Austria guests are always very much welcome in the Golf Club, just like friends. So, it happened that our regular golfer Annemarie, who supports us in the competition for the Hotel’s golf trophy every year, was met with a particularly warm welcome by Hemma, the office employee from Bludenz-Braz, during a golf fair in Stuttgart. We are glad that our partners focus on personal relationships just like we do.
We had a particularly nice visitor at the last weekend of the season. Gerhard, the ski instructor for English-speaking guests for many years, comes to join us as a ski guide in Lech for 1 week in January and 1 week in March every winter. He has been doing so for many years. The father of three was sceptical at first when he heard of Claudia’s spontaneous idea. Since women can be persistent, however, Claudia did not give up but instead turned on her charm. Ultimately, the young family accepted our invitation and spent a night in Lech with their 3 lovely daughters. Although all of them had certainly spent many days on their skis already, they brought their skis along and enjoyed gliding down the terrific spring slope on the other side of Arlberg mountain. The SEER concert at the Spring Festival in Oberlech rounded off their Lech weekend.
We heard in many conversations with our guests how impressive a concert in the large hall of the Elbphilharmonie is. This is why Claudia insisted on a special Christmas present for Georg: two tickets for a concert at the end of the winter season. We spent 3 wonderful days with our friends in Hamburg, with magnificent spring weather and almost summery temperatures. If you have not made it to the Elbphilharmonie yet: We highly recommend it – it is great.
Since we do not have many opportunities to spend a lot of time as a family or to go on a holiday during the winter season, we enjoy it even more when the offseason provides us with some time for a short trip with the whole family. The milestone birthday of Georg’s brother was a good occasion for the whole family to visit Upper Bavaria. Aurel could get rid of being homesick for Elmau and we were able to sit on the Obama/Merkel bench to take a special family photo.
Nothing characterises Lech more than its church tower. With the “Church Tower 2080” project, the church in Lech has come up with a special fund-raising campaign. 111 time capsules in the size of a thermos flask were up for sale and could be filled individually, with written thoughts, memories or tasks. After welding, the capsules were put into a large time capsule which was placed directly in the dome of the tower. At Christmas 2017, Georg gave his friend Peter one of the time capsules and Peter filled it with memories of 50 years of Hotel Austria. After all, Peter was the first guest at Hotel Austria and has spent every Christmas with us since then. We hope that our children and grandchildren will attend the opening of the capsule approximately in the year 2080, smiling and marvelling at the capsule’s content!
Aurel was absolutely enthusiastic when he heard that global super star DJ Tiesto would give a concert in Zürs. He is one of the world’s most popular DJs, a successful music producer and Grammy award winner! Aurel was all the more appalled when he learned that his mother, Claudia, had never heard of this super star. After all, DJ Tiesto deejays in the hippest clubs and even fills whole stadiums with his House and Trance music. On 5th April 2018, the day had come: Our guests, including Aurel of course, had the unique opportunity to visit the exclusive and unique performance of Tiesto in Zürs! Tiesto did not disappoint his audience: He enthralled everybody with his mega show and great sound.
There is no better reason to come home than Dad’s birthday, right? That was Johanna’s thought when she left Vienna in early April to surprise her Dad. In splendid weather, we spent 3 unforgettable days at the music festival Tanz-Café Arlberg, with a barbecue on the terrace and a day of skiing with après ski; a day none of us will ever forget.
It is almost a tradition that we invite our team to a joint dinner in Gitti’s dining room at the end of the winter season. The warm welcome, the great fondue, and the nice service are always a special highlight. And we also have a reason to celebrate after we spent the winter season together.
We were delighted when the former secretary of state John Kerry announced his visit to Lech last winter after his term of office. We were even more pleased when Aurel was asked to accompany him for one day through the Lech ski area — just like his grandfather 60 years ago. A special friendship was quickly established. After a private dinner, it was also a great honor for Aurel to accompany John for a drink at the Krone Bar — much to the resentment of the security guards — It was nice nevertheless.
Exquisite wines, award-winning cuisine and fine patisserie at the premiere of the Event „High Foodie – Connecting World Chefs“. 60 internationally renowned chefs and winery owners met at the Robinson Club Alpenrose in Zürs. Aside from Dieter Koshina, Jörg Sackmann and Bernd Siebert, our master chef Markus Mathis also hosted a gourmet booth. Claudia and Georg together with Jörg were guests that evening and could see for themselves that Markus impressed numerous visitors with his legendary Lammbeuschel. Some renowned winegrowers were also at the event and Jörg could make some important connections and acquaintances for his own wine trade.
In 1991, Jagoda and Dragan arrived in Austria as refugees from the Yugoslavian war. Looking for a job, they contacted their relatives. At that time, Jagodas’ Aunt Josipa and one of their cousins worked for us. Initially there were no jobs available, but after one of the room maids was injured in a skiing accident, Jagoda was employed at short notice. After a few winter seasons, Jagoda and Dragan decided to stay in Lech during the summer. When Jagodas Aunt Josipa and Uncle Marko moved to Carinthia, Jagoda was able to fill the governess position and Dragan took over the house master job. Since then, Jagoda knows how to guess the special wishes of our long-standing regular guests and Dragan is especially loved by the children. He always brings them safely to the ski school and picks them up with the Teddy-Express.
We can no longer imagine a team without Jörg. He also was with us in Austria for the first time in the Winter 1997. Although Jörg does not live directly in the house, we see him regularly in the off-seasons and it feels like he is a member of family — which he actually is. When Family Gass heard about the anniversary, Ms. Gass (who sadly enough could not ski because of an injury) handcrafted the „Silver Cork Cross at the Ribbon“ (“silberne Korkenverdienstkreuz am Bande”). Such a special honor is certainly only awarded a few sommeliers.
Our „godchild“ Hannes is a very special child. Shortly before Georg’s 50th birthday, the then two-year old Hannes, son of two mountain rescue colleagues, lost both of his parents in an avalanche accident. For his birthday, Georg asked not just for gifts, but for donations. This is when we met Hannes’ grandparents and his extended family. Since then we have enjoyed a very special friendship. And this year, after much practice at the Children’s’ lift, Hannes came for the first time with his grandparents to visit us at the „Big Mountain“. We enjoyed the day with him so infinitely much that it became our highlight of the winter.
Good things are worth waiting for - and so in December Georg worked feverishly on our own curling track. It almost took two weeks before we could use it for the first time. In the middle of January, it was finally fit for our team. We invited for the First Austria Team Bavarian Curling. Four teams played divided into the categories Kitchen – Restaurant – Room Maids and Reception/Spa/ Kindergarten/House Master. It was an exciting tournament and up to the last shot, it was not clear who the winners would be. Nevertheless, in the end it became obvious who the worthy winners were — they were our room maids and until the next tournament, the big team cup has a special place in the laundry room. Not only the team had great fun playing at our new curling track, some of our guests also enjoyed the new curling track already in January.
For the third time the Lecher Gastronomy invited their guests to the game around the Golf Cup. Two guests and a host play as a team in a Texas Scramble tournament for the trophy. The trophy may then be engraved and presented in the host hotel, for one year. Anja Chini and Richard Liebe did not have to be asked twice – they came to Lech especially for this golf event. On Saturday, the weather unfortunately did not allow a game. However, on Sunday it was dry, and consequently the competition could start with a common brunch at the clubhouse. 9 holes were played, 3 tee shots each had to be noted from each player. In the end, our three players walked away as the winners, both in the gross standings as well as in the net rating. Everybody at the Austria congratulated the winners wholeheartedly.
Our guests have already enjoyed the excellent Greek olive oil from Theodoro Fudas at the dinner table for many years; and since our spring vacation took us to the Peloponnese last year, we of course visited Theodoro. First, he took us on a small excursion and showed us “his trees” from high up of the hillside. What a Sight! He then led us to the oldest trees on his estate, and at the end of the visit, we were invited to his parents’ house for a delicious lamb roast. We were greatly impressed and touched by the warm welcome. It will be an honor to pass on Fudas superb olive oil also to our guests in the future.
On August 20, the president of the Golf Clubs Lech, Clemens Walch, invited a second time to a Dirndl and Lederhosen Tournament. Eligible to play were all golfers in a dirndl or in leather pants. As we headed for the tee off, we were already met with strange looks. Some guests were not so sure if Golf in Lech is not always played in traditional costumes (Trachten). At a Chapman Foursome, every ball was fought for and so it happened that Claudia and Georg stood like Hansel and Gretel in the deep forest. It was a lot of fun and we are thinking about offering this type of tournament to our hotel guests in the future.
At the end of the summer season 2017, We invited our employees to a dinner at the restaurant Klösterle – the first to open in the summer. The hotel staff was quite astonished to see our taxi to Zug. The vintage bus from Arlberg Express drove up. On top of that, the vintage bus from Arlberg Express drove up. And so we ended a great summer season in an incredibly good mood, with one or the other glass of good wine or beer and a delicious meal.
On July 22, there was a special Vernissage in Lech 9 doors were installed as an art display along the green Rings (a summer hiking tour around Lech). 9 doors which are suddenly encountered during a hiking stage and which prompt one to walk through and to reflect. Georg and Claudia were asked to take over a sponsorship for one such door and to accompany the artist Christian Piffrader from South Tyrol at the installing of the doors. Since the door needed to be carried to its place of destination, good teamwork was necessary. Quite a challenge, but Christian and Georg mastered it perfectly! Our door can now be admired during the summer months on the way under the Madlochbahn. 100 door spies provide a free view into all directions. Seen from a distance, the door reminds of a blue sky with many sparkling stars.
We were delighted so many of our regular guests were here between July 8 and July 14. Whether at the Käsknöpfle- Dinner on the terrace, a hiking tour in the rain, the gala evening at the festival tent or at the aperitif in Elisabeth’s garden, these were always very special hours talking about today and reminiscing about yesterday. We even were given a great photo book from Karla Marquart reflecting those days. The photo book is now part of our photo album collection in the lounge and all guests can see how beautiful our days together have been. Thank you Karla!
On July 15 and 16, it looked like Lech was once again in a state of emergency. As part of the 67th Arlberg Music Festival everybody was on the move on Saturday to watch the spectacular parade in which about 1000 people showed off a vast variety of folk costumes. As a festival leader of the Trachten- and Schuhplattler Group Mellau, we were able to enjoy two dance performances on stage in the Festival tent. Later we accompanied our group into the Austria since there had been a private show planned for our guests in front of the hotel. The dance performances were great, and the “dashing” Schuhplattler will be well remembered by our guests for many years to come. It was quite an experience! On July 16, Lech was covered in a brass band haze of sound early in the morning. We were pleased to welcome our musicians from the music society Bizau for the morning pint in front of the hotel and our guest enjoyed a morning concert before lunch. At 2:00 pm in the afternoon and in fabulous weather, more than 60 brass bands paraded through Lech at the monster concert, at which close to 2000 musicians performed three marches, everybody in the audience had goose bumps. We already look forward to the next music festival in the Lech. Unfortunately not until the Summer 2021.
How quickly time goes by! After Aurel had spent the winter season 2014 at Vail-Beaver Creek, he decided to go to Schloss Elmau for a trainee year. Although the G7 Summit had just finished, when he began his work, he met many interesting guests from politics, business, television and sports. However, Aurel was most pleased when unexpectedly guests from the Hotel Austria sat with him in one of the numerous restaurants. Sincere thanks to the Müller-Elmau family and the employees of Hotel Schloss Elmau for an instructive and interesting time. As guests, we will surely once again walk through the entrance hall.
Our daughter Johanna goes quite different ways. After the matriculation in June 2014, she first got her first taste of the hotel business and supported during that summer at the reception. Then she moved to Ecuador for six months as a volunteer in an aid project. Helping to assist women and children in need often brought them to their limits. Nevertheless, she still thinks back lovingly about the children she worked with. After her overseas experience in Ecuador, it was clear that she would move to our Vienna to start her university studies. Since September, she has been at the WU in Vienna and studying commercial law. In the summer, she will start her internship to gain more insight into the professional world.
Each year during the first part of April, Lech celebrates the Tanzcafé Arlberg with an international Music Festival Lech Zürs. Top-class musicians will give at the sun terraces and cozy hotel halls or in the local bars. Johanna could convince her mom to accompany her to the Milow concert at the Hotel Krone's Ice Bar. It was a unique experience, since experiencing such a great artist as Milow so close up is something very special. In fact, our guests should take the opportunity to enjoy such a unique "private concert". The new program for the summer season will be available on the website of the Lech Zürs Tourism. Maybe there is something in the program for you?
A new machine had almost been like a child’s dream - a tractor that would be more comfortable and not only usable during the winter months. Would his dream ever become reality? Well, Georg is a step further. During an excursion with his brother Marcell and his cousin Bernd, he found someone in Switzerland who builds the machine he wants. Georg was not only fascinated by the machine, but also excited to meet a person, who focused just on the needs George specified. Many parallels to the Hotel Austria make this trade a pleasant one. Now we are in the phase of price negotiations and perhaps Georg is on the road with the new tractor already this winter. We hope for a lot of snow, because the new machine is also suitable for "major operations". What is even more exciting is that the new tractor has a comfortable passenger seat.
Our last year's team for winter season managed again to provide excellent care and services to our guests so that they could return home relaxed and happy. Most all guests have again made reservations for next winter. We are already looking forward to spoiling them when they return. Such a successful season would of course not be possible without our great team - a warm thank you to each of our team members!
The last winter season was really a special one. We were able to start the ski operation in December, but then we had to interrupt the skiing because of a sudden excessive snowfall. Nevertheless, our Christmas guests could not be deterred from coming to Lech, and skiing became possible again. Our guests were richly rewarded with a lot of sunshine and even a walk together with Georg and Claudia to the picturesque Walser settlement Bürstegg - one of the highlights in the Christmas season.
Many of our regular guests are already familiar with Jörg’s Wine Delivery Tour. After the season, Jörg supplies "his wine customers" with select wines, pearl wines, prosecco and champagne. This year he started his delivery trip as always in the far North, because most of his regular customers live in Hamburg. The city not only has great food but also many wonderful sights and a lively and fun loving atmosphere - just the right thing after the season! After Jörg and Kitti were already that far up in the north, they decided to deliver their wine directly to the home of their regular Finnish customer in Helsinki, and to "experience" Scandinavia. They drove across Denmark, the Oresund Bridge, Malmo, and Stockholm taking the ferry Silja Tallink (which Jörg since then warmly recommends) to Turku. The route from Turku to Helsinki was then only a short hop. According to Joerg, Helsinki is a beautiful city, very cozy and has the best Bouillabaisse that he has ever tasted (Jörg's recommendation: the indoor market at the port). Big thanks to the family Rosenlew and Grönblom for their great hospitality. After the return from the north they repacked - this time for the trip to Belgium were they delivered their wines to the Restaurant Roosenberg in the village of Waasemunster. This is after all the restaurant with the best wine list in Belgium. Great thanks also to Bruno De Wilde for his trust and his outstanding hospitality.
He has been waiting for it for a long time - for his new tractor. Now it is finally here! Claudia must admit, "It is really great and it even has a passenger seat, and a huge snow blower". Now we only hope for lots of snow in the upcoming winter, so that the tractor will not just be useful during the summer. Nevertheless, George has a new love again. During a short vacation to Florence, he fell in love.
At the end of the winter season 2016 it became clear for Claudia and Georg. They had to schedule a golf training week, because the Golf Challenge came up quicker than thought. They decided to book a golfing holiday on Majorca. In a small Finca-Hotel in the east of the island that had a small Golf course, they brought their swing up to par, and even mastered the slopes (those that at the golf game In Braz are so important). Well, surprise. It worked! The coveted Golf Cup may stay for another year in Austria. It seems that our golf guests had been practicing also diligently during the spring.
Just a good hour’s drive from Lech away, near Ravensburg, is a great play country (recommendable for children up to 12 years) with roller coasters, cars, bull riding, magic and much more. Since our niece Emilia was spending a few nights with us, we decided to spend one day at the Spieleland. It was worth it. The day was wonderful and an absolute highlight was a homemade chocolate we then sent to Aurel and Johanna in Vienna.
Every 2 years at the end of a summer season, we plan a long team excursion. With some of the employees, who will also be on board again next season, last summer we made a small trip as a thank you for their work and their loyalty. In September 2016, Claudia and Georg had splendid idea. They took their core team into the direction to Italy. After a nice lunch stop in Lazise, they went on Verona. Some people in the team did not know this beautiful city at all and so they were allowed to stroll on their own through the narrow streets of the old town. The highlight of the excursion was the evening in the Arena di Verona. We had been able to reserve good seats for the Zucchero Concert at the Arena di Verona. Zucchero gave a fantastic three-hour concert – needless to say, we were all very happy. Once again, we want to thank our Super Team! We are already looking forward to one another great season with you.
At the beginning of September 2016 Aurel was invited as a guest chef for the annual Oktoberfest Beaver Creek in Colorado. On his menu card for the weekend were Gröstl and Coleslaw for about 1000 guests per day. Also visiting a delegation of the Trachtenkapelle Lech, to enhance the atmosphere of the Oktoberfest. The journey took them from Innsbruck over Frankfurt to Denver. Shortly before the Departure in Innsbruck, the passengers were informed that the safety alarm had been triggered in Frankfurt and A continuation could not be guaranteed. It was a blessing that the plane was still on the ground in Frankfurt. However, the plane left without crew and passengers! They were not allowed to take any passengers from Frankfurt, yet they had to pick up return passengers. Aurel and the Trachtenkappelle were forced to spend the night at the airport in Frankfurt, just for the next surprise on Monday. The plane to Denver was completely overbooked and consequently, the Arlberg Delegation was still not able to fly. Yet, another night in Frankfurt. Finally, the plane took off on the third day! Surprise – more bad news! Shortly before Iceland engine damage, fuel had to be drained – back to Frankfurt. This is how Aurel came to spend the 3rd day of his trip still sitting in Frankfurt. Somehow, the Lecher eventually reached Denver, just in time for Oktoberfest. Aurel was festively announced as a guest chef, and as always, he felt quite at home Beaver Creek gave interviews.
In mid-October our baker Clemens Walch invited us to a special afternoon. With mountain hay from Pazüel (below the Stuttgart Cottage) in the backpack, we walked to Rankweil. Harald Keckeis from the distillery Keckeis expected us already. With a first glass of Gin-Tonic in his hand, he explained to us the art of distilling gin. The purpose of our afternoon trip was to learn how to distil our own Mountain Hay Gin. After three hours, a great dinner and countless gin samples, we finally could sample our own gin. We were thrilled, to say the least. The first Mountain Hay Gin from the Distillery Keckeis, can from now on be ordered at the Austria-Bar.