Lech fly away!
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Lech fly away!

Lucy Daltroff enjoys the thrills and spills of a summer car rally around one of Austria’s most famous ski regions

Koerber Lake in the Vorarlberg  area near the famous village of Lech, the most beautiful spot in AustriaTirol, Austrian Alps
Koerber Lake in the Vorarlberg area near the famous village of Lech, the most beautiful spot in AustriaTirol, Austrian Alps

During the winter months, Lech is the place to be. This charming Austrian village is synonymous with skiing and luxury, attracting a well-heeled clientele, including royals and celebrities who come here for their winter sports.

Lech is very well-connected to its surroundings, with mechanical lifts and groomed pistes transporting visitors to the neighbouring villages of Zürs, St Christoph, St Anton, Stuben, and Warth – so it was interesting to hear that until the end of the 19th century, the village actually used to spend its coldest months isolated and completely cut off from the outside world.

But it’s not just a destination for winter. The stunning scenery makes it a great place to visit outside ski season.

Lech is in the Vorarlberg region of Austria, where a fellow guest at the Gasthof Post Hotel tells me that even in the warmer months, the high altitude means hayfever symptoms are lessened and there are no mosquitoes either.  I loved it immediately.

The five-star hotel from Relais & Chateaux has been run by the same family since 1937 and Florian Moosbrugger and his wife Sandra continue it as a personal enterprise, with their young daughters helping out at reception and Florian’s brother’s estate providing the wines.

Inside the luxurious rooms at Gasthof Post Hotel in Lech

The décor is traditional, complete with wooden panelling and antiques, all in contrast with the three-storey modern Badehaus spa that offers a large menu of treatments and a 15-metre long heated outdoor pool with unrestricted views of the Omeshorn Mountain.

Each morning, while eating breakfast in the dining room, the scene outside seems so perfect that it’s almost like a theatrical backdrop, rather than the view from the window.

In the foreground is Lech: an Austrian village surrounded by lush green mountains, the highest topped with liberal lashings of snow.

The prosperity of this whole region of Austria is mainly down to the engineer Rudolf Gomperz (1878-1942), the son of an aristocratic Viennese Jewish family and pioneer of winter sports tourism.

Rudolf studied railway engineering in Berlin and later worked on the Baghdad railway. While there, he contracted malaria and was sent to St Anton to recuperate, where he settled and stayed.

He soon devoted his energy to skiing, developing and producing equipment both for civilian and military use.

After Hitler took power in 1933, Gomperz had to resign from the German Ski Association and then following the annexation of Austria, was fired from the tourist bureau and required to wear the Star of David.

Tragically, Rudolf was deported to the Maly Trostinets extermination camp in Belarus and shot on 26 May 1942. But his legacy lives on, as thousands flock to to explore the beauty of this region every year.

One novel way to do that is to take part in the annual Arlberg Classic Car Rally, which marked its 10th anniversary this year and sees treasured vehicles compete on the scenic mountain roads between Lech and Warth.

Lucy at the classic car rally

Bundling into a 1970s Volkswagen Beetle was fun, but in sharp contrast to the vintage Porsches and Maseratis on either side. Although no motor head, I felt the palpable excitement of seeing the black and white starter flag comes down in front of the windscreen – then off on starter orders.  The drive was stunning, especially around the Lech Canyon.

Spectators along the route cheered us through. Of course we didn’t win, but the event was so invigorating it didn’t really matter.

Apart from the rally, every summer there are many sporting options to choose from, while enjoying the scenery.

The best value way to explore the region is with a Lech Card, which costs 22 Euros for two days and enables free entry and free transport to virtually everything, including E-biking tours.

I opted to see more of this stunning landscape by hiking from Oberlech to Wanderweg.

It was an easy start, travelling in the cable car, with stunning views from every angle.

Then the walk began and although the weather was warm, it was made a little more challenging as the mountain was punctuated by dips filled with snow, which were quite difficult to cross.

Afterwards it was good to descend to the Boden Alpe restaurant, open just during the summer months, to relax and enjoy a delicious lunch.

As an alternative to hiking, Zugertal near to Lech is the highest golf course in Austria at 1,500 metres above sea level, on what is probably the only flat area of land in the whole region.

Straddling the Lech River, I wondered if the perfect setting ever caused players to lose their concentration, but I suppose like all things, even amazing views can become the norm.

Travel tips 

Lucy stayed at the Gasthof Post Hotel in Lech, where rooms start from £258.95 per night, www.postlech.com. For more information about Lech, visit www.lechzuers.com, and for the Lech Card, visit www.mylechcard.at/en 

 

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