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125 YEARS OF FLEXEN ROAD

1897 - 2022

In the most glorious sunshine, at half past 12 midday at the height of the pass, the Flexen Road was opened by the governor [...].

Vorarlberger Volksblatt, 12 October 1897

The first section of the Flexen Road was opened 125 years ago on 11 October, 1897. An exhibition in Stuben am Arlberg was created in recognition of this anniversary. The exhibition conveyed information on the history of the region virtually. The opening of the Flexen Road and its further extension to the Lech Valley were undoubtedly important milestones in the development of tourism in the Arlberg region.

The exhibition explored the history of the traffic routes in the Flexen Pass area as well as important developments in the history of the Flexen Road. Important personages who contributed to the success of the construction project are acknowledged and honoured throughout the exhibition.

It was shown in Stuben am Arlberg - and now, of course, you can also read about it online.

 

     

An exhibition of the Foundation Friends of Hannes Schneider
Concept: Martin Rhomberg, Christof Thöny
Graphic design: Marcus Raos
With the kind support of the Tourist Board Stuben am Arlberg

 

Rast vor der Flexenstraße, ca. 1963, Foto: Franz Beer, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek
  • Image 1: Postcard, around 1900, Vorarlberg State Library
  • Image 2: Rest in front of Flexenstrasse, around 1963, photo: Franz Beer, Vorarlberg State Library
  • Image 3: Photo: State of Vorarlberg - data.vorarlberg.gv.at
Blasius-Huber-Karte, 1783, Vorarlberger Landesarchiv

Early tracks

It can be assumed that the various paths over the Arlberg and Flexen Passes were already being used in prehistoric and Roman times, even though the references to the supposed existence of Roman or Rhaetian paths lack a scientific basis. Archaeological sites...

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Stuben vor dem Bau der Flexenstrasse ca. 1895, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek

Paths to the Flexenpass

When in winter there is a lot of snow on the Arlberg, which usually happens, the people of Tannberg have a much more comfortable and safer way to the Wegmacherhaus at Rautz on the Arlberg than over the Flexen to Stuben. The snow then fills all the gorges and depressions...

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Alter Flexenweg 1897 links im Bild und neue Flexenstraße Foto: Otto Hämmerle, Stadtarchiv Dornbirn

Dangerous mule track

The use of the mule track from Stuben am Arlberg in the direction to the Flexen Pass was dangerous, especially during the winter season. The death registry from the Stuben parish repeatedly reports of accidents along the route. For example, in 1670, Matthäus Matt...

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Ex voto Franz-Josef Mathies, Pfarrkirche Stuben, Foto: FOHS

The Avalanche Franz-Josef

The biography of Franz Josef Mathies (1864-1937), who went down in regional history as Avalanche Franz Josef, is undoubtedly one of the best-known stories about the Flexen Road. Generations of Vorarlberg schoolchildren were familiarized with it in local history classes...

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Flexenstraße undatiert, Foto: Risch-Lau, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek

Planning of a new road

The avalanche events of 1886 and 1891 contributed significantly to the calls for an avalanche-proof access road. In 1892, the Lech and Warth communities submitted a joint request to the Province of Vorarlberg Road Committee asking for the construction of a safe road...

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Johann Bertolini 1896 auf der Baustelle (links auf der Leiter), Bild: Familie Bertolini

The construction of the Flexen Road

After the completion of the planning work in the summer of 1895, the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Flexen Road took place on 3 August of that year. The master builder Johann (Giovanni) Bertolini, from Trentino, was entrusted with the implementation...

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Bertolini 1896 (links), Foto: Hans Bertolini

Master builder Johann Bertolini

"I was sent to the construction site with a half-filled demijohn of Teroldego, at that time I was four years old. When my granddad saw me, sitting on his folding chair, he said to me: Wow, Hansile has come..." (said in an Italian- German dialect)

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11. Oktober 1897 Ankunft der Festgäste im Gasthof zur Post, Stadtarchiv Dornbirn

Ceremonial openinig

11 October, 1897 was a day of celebration for Stuben am Arlberg and the Tannberg communities, Lech and Warth. With the opening of the first section of the Flexen Road, a new connection was put into operation after only two years of construction...

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Oktober 1909, Eröffnung der Flexen-Lechtaler Straße, Foto: Stadtarchiv Dornbirn

Extension of the road

After several delays, in 1909 the road connection to Warth and the Lech Valley was finally opened. The governor of Vorarlberg, Adolf Rhomberg, travelled there in his automobile, which was a minor sensation...

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Fotos: Risch-Lau (Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek) und Erika Groth

Winter traffic

Until the 1920s it was assumed that the Arlberg and Flexen Roads were closed to car traffic in winter. Transport was provided by horse-drawn carts on the winding, twisting road from Stuben am Arlberg to the Flexen Gallery. Where the road was buried by avalanche snow...

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Hölltobel Brücke, Foto: Norbert Bertolini (Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek)

Hölltobel | The Ravine from Hell

One of the greatest challenges during the construction of the Flexen Road was overcoming the Hölltobel (the ravine from hell), which had been given its name because of the fierce landformations. These landforms originated in the geological structure of the Arlberg strata...

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Heuwirtschaft auf den Bergmähdern am Arlberg und Hochtannberg, Fotos: Risch-Lau (Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek)

Hay farming

In the vicinity of the old Flexen path and the new Flexen Road there are numerous mountain pastures that were once an important basis for Stuben's agriculture. About 80 years ago there were still around 70 head of cattle in the village...

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Drei-Pässe Rundfahrt Fernpass-Arlbergpass-Flexenpass, 1925, Foto: Eugen Heimhuber

Tourist impact

The winter traffic over the Flexen Road became increasingly better managed during the interwar period. This development significantly contributed to the formation of tourism in the Arlberg region as it is known today...

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Diverse Ansichtskarten und Bildmotive zur Flexenstraße, Fotos: Risch-Lau, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, Hans Trüol, FOHS

The Flexen Road as a photo and film motif

Shortly after its opening in 1897, the Flexen Road became a popular motif for postcards, which at the turn of the century were sold en masse. The galleries, tunnels and the Hölltobel viaduct were appropriately captured, also at times the opposite view of the old route...

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Postcards are a matter of personal opinion

The postcard was and remains a means of open, brief information.The great breakthrough of picture postcards occurred around 1896, at about the same time as the opening of the Flexen Road.The illustrated picture postcard was pioneering in the steady development of tourism...

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