Rural Alps in Austria′s Wild West
The Montafon is an region in the western-most province of Austria, Vorarlberg. To be precise, it is the area in the southern tip of Vorarlberg and comprises of a 39 kilometres long valley, which starts at Bludenz. At the base of the Montafon, the river Ill runs along the valley. To the north of the Montafon, you will find the Verwallgruppe mountain range, to its south the Rätikon and the Silvretta (known from the Silvretta Hochalpenstraße) mountain ranges. The highest peak in the area is the 3,312 metre high Piz Buin, which is part of the Silvretta mountain range.
In the Montafon, there are several municipalities: Gaschurn, St. Gallenkirch, Schruns, Tschagguns, Silbertal, Bartholomäberg, Vandans, St. Anton im Montafon, Lorüns and Stallehr. If some or all of these names sound funny to you - don′t worry. I am Austrian and still find them bizarre. Most of them are derived from Alemannic words and other local dialects - thus, they sound strange to everybody that did not grow up in this area.
Tourism is by far the most important economic factor in the Montafon. It is a bi-seasonal region. During the summer months, tourists come to cross the Silvretta Hochalpenstraße as well as for hiking and mountaineering. Other summer sports, such as mountain biking, are also very popular. The winter season follows the same patterns as other parts of Vorarlberg: The Montafon is a top-notch skiing area with more than 60 ski lifts and cable cars.
A Bit of History of the Montafon Region & Vorarlberg
The oldest records for settlements in the Montafon are 5,000 years old. During the Bronze Age, a significant castle and town could be found here, about 3,500 years ago. Later, the Montafon was populated by Raetoroman people, a blend of local tribes and Roman immigrants. This has added to the strangeness of the local names. Ever since the Bronze Age, mining was important in the Montafon. This continued throughout the Roman time and the Middle Ages. Iron, copper and silver ore were mined here. Particularly silver mining became an important economic factor after approximately 1300 and drew many people from the Walsertal to the Montafon.
The administration of the Montafon was done in Bludenz for centuries. Since the 15th century, most of today′s Vorarlberg belonged to the Habsburg Empire, including the Montafon. Through the chaos of the Napoleonic Wars, the Montafon went under Bavarian rule in 1805 and remained there until 1814. Since 1814, the Montafon is part of Austria. In 1905, the Montafonerbahn railway was built and opened the door for the emergence of tourism in the Montafon. This has continued until today.
The Montafon is accessible either from Bludenz, if you are coming from the Vorarlberg side; or via the Silvretta Hochalpenstraße if you are coming from the Paznaun in Tyrol and approaching the valley from Galtür. Note that there is even a bus link between Landeck and Bludenz that goes via the Silvretta Hochalpenstraße and through much of the Montafon during the main season in summer.
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