Bezau in the Bregenzerwald Forest
The small town of Bezau is the main community and administrative centre of the Bregenzerwald Forest (in Germany spelled "Bregenzer Wald"). The market town has some 2,000 residents and is situated not far from Vorarlberg′s capital Bregenz. Like most of the Bregenzerwald, Bezau is known as a summer holiday destination due to the natural beauty and scenery of the area.
With tourism as a major industry, the Bregenzerwald has preserved a remarkable number of old houses, customs, traditions and cultural achievements that go far beyond the natural blessings of the area.
Most of the Bregenzerwald was first populated just after 100 AD. The area around today′s Bezau was an exception to this: Oldest records for settlements date back to the Iron Age. Documents from the Middle Ages refer to Bezau as a proper village - the oldest one dates back to 1249. In this one, Bezau is called "Baezenowe". Further evidence for the prospering of Bezau is provided by a document from the 14th century, which describes a chapel built in the village. With the construction of a proper church in 1497, Bezau finally turned into an own parish.
Family-friendly Bezau: Things to do in the Bregenzerwald
In 1656, a Capuchin monastery is founded in Bezau, which transforms the community into a spiritual and intellectual centre for the entire Bregenzerwald Forest area. Due to the confusion that followed the Napoleonic Wars, Bezau briefly turned Bavarian between 1805 and 1815.
There is an anecdote from this period that the people of Bezau still like to tell visitors to underline the patriotism of the town: In order to protest against the military service for the Bavarian army, the women of Bezau held a meeting in 1807. The gathering turned turbulent and the women started a riot that finally led to the devastation of the local courthouse.
After a few more peaceful - and economically difficult - decades, the railway and the blooming Alpine tourism helped to ensure prosperity for Bezau. In 1902, the "Bregenzerwaldbahn", a narrow-gauge railway, was opened. It connected Bezau with the provincial capital Bregenz. The railway was closed in 1980, but a small section of approximately five kilometres is still maintained for nostalgic railway aficionados and other tourists. It is one of the main attractions of Bezau and popular especially with children.
Proper Sightseeing in Bezau & Surroundings
In terms of sightseeing, Bezau offers little beyond that - it is just a generally pretty town with pretty surroundings. Try to go to the Heimathaus, the town museum in a traditional 18th century farmhouse. Here you can learn more about Bezau and its history.
Otherwise, you can use the dense network of cable cars and paths for hiking in the summer and some skiing in the winter. If you stay for longer than three nights, you can get the "Bregenzerwald Card" for free - it is a discount card that grants free use of public transportation and access to various attractions in the Bregenzerwald Forest.
Other sights and pleasant spots nearby include Schwarzenberg; the previously mentioned capital Bregenz; other towns in Vorarlberg, such as Hohenems, Bludenz and Dornbirn; and the skiing towns of the Arlberg region: Pettneu, Lech, Stuben, St. Anton, St. Christoph and Zürs.
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