Franz Fetz Has Seen It All in Bregenzerwald
I had dinner at the fine restaurant at my hotel, the Gastof Hirschen Schwarzenberg, and I ordered the chef surprise. No idea what was going to be served, I left the four courses up to the chef. And a good choice it was! They set four forks in front of me as I awaited what would arrive.
After course two, endive sleeves filled with homemade ricotta, raspberry and egg, a friendly older gentleman sat down next to me, as I dined solo, taking in the ambiance of the outdoor setting and eavesdropping on the conversation at the next table.
I welcomed the company.
“I am the ninth generation owner of the place,” he said. “Last November my son Peter took over for me here. Our family started this hotel in 1755!”
We discussed the hotel business and I asked him what had changed since he ran the place starting back in 1975. “Well, the drinking used to be unbelievable! People drank so much more back then, and they drove!” Things are much different now, they now have a glass or two, but nothing like I remember in those days. Now I can’t imagine losing my license. You need a license out here in the country!”
What else has changed? “Trip Advisor, and everything is different. But you have to live with that. People are always surprised when they come to this part of Austria. Ten years ago, Austria was discovered and this area, and now it’s a very popular getaway for people from Switzerland, 20 km away, Germany, right on the other side of the Bodensee, and Vienna, eight hours by car.”
He cited the hotel’s affiliation with White Line Hotels, a London-based hotel group that brings affluent customers looking for historic and luxurious hotels. Business has never been better, he said, and his son Peter is “crazy about food. He’ll go to Copenhagen just to check out a new restaurant.”
Franz said he’s not fast enough for this generation of being a hotel owner, and he’s glad to be retired. “In Austria, we have a good life,” he said. “People are satisfied with their quality of life here, and they are more prosperous now than five years ago.”
I was glad to trust the chef, as everything they brought out was delicious. I’m glad too, to learn about this hotel’s storied history from father Franz.