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Bregenz, Austria: a cultural city guide

On the shores of Lake Constance, the small city of Bregenz is best known for its summer music festival. But, even if you miss it, the sophisticated capital of the Vorarlberg province has culture aplenty, for modern as well as traditional tastes. Plus, there are medieval streets for strolling, cafés for lingering and the Pfänder mountain behind for oh-wow views. Austria TourismNowadays, music festivals are two-a-penny; but for sheer spectacle, nothing matches the opera productions on Bregenz’s enormous “floating stage” on the lake. Millions around the world would agree, thanks to Quantum of Solace, in which James Bond takes on the bad guys during a performance of Tosca. The Festspielhaus, the arts complex that hosts the annual jamboree, offers an impressive series of international concerts, musicals and dance throughout the year. But, where most opera houses are in city centres, this one stands beside the lake. From here, the city looks typically Austrian: an onion dome here, a neo-Gothic spire there, even a grandiose post office. But in the midst of this tradition there’s startling modernity. Glistening in the sunshine are the rectangular glass walls of the KUB, the Kunsthaus Bregenz art museum. There is always something edgy to see, with regularly changing exhibitions. Recent blockbusters have featured Antony Gormley, Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol. A few steps away is the vorarlberg museum , which opens this June. Or, rather, reopens. What was the Landesmuseum, the provincial museum, has been overhauled, extended and given a new lower-case name. I am looking forward to seeing engravings by Angelika Kauffmann. This Swiss-born painter was not only renowned across Europe in the late 18th century, she was also a founder-member of the Royal Academy. Right across from the museum is the Cuenstler Café-Bar, where coffee is a serious matter, the cheesecake is made by the owner’s mum and culture is provided by regional artists, whose works adorn the walls. Suitably fortified, I head up the steep, cobbled Stadtsteig street to the Oberstadt. In this medieval upper town, the massive half-timbered old town hall dates from 1662. Much older is the Martinsturm, or Martin’s Tower, the chapel of which is lined with 14th-century frescoes. Standing 125ft tall, this landmark is crowned with one of Europe’s largest onion domes. The view from its top floor is worth the climb, but for an even better one, I board a cable car in the heart of town to the 3,500ft summit of the Pfänder. Up a mountain valley some 10 miles away is the world’s largest assembly of Rolls-Royces, the personal collection of the Vonier family. Some 70 are on show; all are gleaming, glamorous and in perfect running order. Peter O’Toole drove the 1927 Phantom I in Lawrence of Arabia. Perhaps 007 should trade in his Aston. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/10046671/Bregenz-Austria-a-cultural-city-guide.html

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