Cafe Seiwald | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Stefan Heim

18 May. 2017 · Culture
Stefan Heim

The coffee brewer of Riezlern

The café in Riezlern that is now called Café Amely opened shortly before the Second World War. The café’s own success story can be retold by tracing the development of tourism in Kleinwalsertal.

The café in Riezlern that is now called Café Amely opened shortly before the Second World War. The café’s own success story can be retold by tracing the development of tourism in Kleinwalsertal. Stefan Heim recounts how much more than just the aroma of coffee and baked goods drifted in the air in this establishment during the early years of its existence.

Seiwald Plakat  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Stefan Heim

A Café for Riezlern

This advertising placard for the Café Seiwald, which also shows the Pfarrkirche Mariä Opferung (Church of the Virgin Mary Parish Church) in Riezlern and the Hoher Ifen in the background, dates back from the time between 1936 and 1940. It was discovered by chance in 2016 in the shop window of an antique shop in Innsbruck and it now belongs to the Walser Museum. Retelling the history of the café and the family is an excellent way to understand the rapid development of the tourism industry in Kleinwalsertal during the 1930s.

Hans and Amalie Seiwald were a married couple and hoteliers. They arrived in Kleinwalsertal from Garmisch in 1936 and they immediately built a house during the same year in Riezlern (now number 36 Walserstrasse). By the 20th December 1936, they had already opened the cake shop and the Café Seiwald. Café Seiwald was an extremely well-run business and was even regarded as ‘something of a sensation’. Frau Amely dedicated her heart and soul to the business and would always refer to herself as the Kaffeesiederin (the coffee shop owner).

Dancing & Cabaret After the War Years
In 1944, a part of Riezlern primary school was housed in the café because the schoolhouse was being used as a military hospital. The occupying French military forces chose the building to serve as the mess for non-commissioned officers from 1945.
In 1950, the building was extended to include the Mocca Stube bar and the business acquired the name Café Amely. As well as the celebrated cake shop, tea dances and evening dances were also held here. The café hosted an number of events, including a fashion show entitled Die Wahl der Blumenkönigin (the Queen of the Flowers’ Range) with Heinz Östergard, a cabaret called Die Stachelschweine (the porcupines) with Dieter Hildebrandt and appearances by Swiss actor and singer Vico Torriani.

Winter im Kleinwalsertal - Früher | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Stefan Heim

Hunting, Climbing, Bathing – Tourism until 1930

The earliest tourists are said to have used the Schwefelquelle (sulphur springs) in the village of Baad for bathing as far back as 1434. This spring was still used for bathing up to 1860 but was sealed up following a small landslide.
The first tourist to be known by name was the travel writer Ludwig Steub who visited in 1843. In 1846, he published his travel journals in the first edition of the book Drei Sommer in Tirol (Three Summers in the Tyrol) in a chapter entitled Die beiden Walsertäler (The Two Walser Valleys). From the middle of the nineteenth century, the main visitors to Kleinwalsertal were mountaineers and royal visitors, who came here to enjoy hunting expeditions.

The railway line that ran to Oberstdorf /Allgäu was opened in 1889 and offered holidaymakers an affordable way to reach the valley. Visitors would continue their journeys from Oberstdorf by foot or horse-drawn vehicles and in 1930 the omnibus service was started from Oberstdorf to Mittelberg.
Tourism developed rapidly in the 1920s. Large numbers of people would especially visit from Baden Württemberg. It is assumed that the valley became so well known in this area of Germany due to the  Württembergische Snowshoe Company No. 1. This was located in the ski huts around the Melköde during the First World War to provide ski training courses. During this time, an influx of German citizens had already started to arrive who consequently also ended up playing a major role in the development of tourism in the valley.

Sommer im Kleinwalsertal - Früher | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Stefan Heim

One Thousand Marks for a Holiday in Kleinwalsertal? Not with us!

A significant factor that contributed towards the boom in tourism was the Tausend-Mark-Sperre (the one thousand mark restriction) which was introduced on 1 June 1933. Anyone travelling from Germany to Austria would have to pay a visa fee of 1,000 marks. Kleinwalsertal was initially included in this injunction. On 10 June 1933, a delegation from the valley travelled to Berlin and manged to have the visa requirements lifted by invoking the customs treaty of 1890. German visitors could then travel to the valley without any restrictions.

The advertising placards from the 1930s also reveal some remarkable facts. Until 1938, each village, namely Mittelberg, Hirschegg and Riezlern, had its own tourist information office. These offices promoted their locations completely independently from each other. It was only when the National Socialists came to power in 1938 that advertising was carried out under one banner for the whole valley.

Just Like Mushrooms Springing out of the Ground
The following years saw a frenzy of building activity, including the construction of Café Seiwald  as we can deduce from this police report written on the 27th January 1937:
‘From 1936 to the autumn of 1937, the Sportcafe-Fischer (Alpina), the Siegfried Walker Pharmacy building, the bank building, the Württemberg sports club and the fire station were built in Hirschegg. A further 13 private houses were built in Hirschegg. A fully equipped clinic run by Dr. Backer was built in the most modern style of the day in Riezlern during this time of rapid change. Approximately 100 new patients were registered at the clinic. The clinic is continually used by patients. In addition, two customs houses were built in Riezlern which were governed by what was then Imperial Germany (reichsdeutsch), followed by the Köberle carpenter’s workshop, the Lingenhöl installation building, the Café-Seywald, the Hotel-Walserschanz and a further 7 new private homes. In addition, in Mittelberg the Sporthotel-Dreher and in Baad, the Bruno Schuster carpenter’s workshop, 3 reichsdeutsch (imperial German) customs houses and 12 private homes were built. The commercial businesses in the valley were almost completely rebuilt and expanded. Many private homes were also redeveloped and equipped to accommodate tourism
Stefan Heim is the Director of Walser Museum and chronicler of life in the municipality of Mittelberg. Along with other interested parties, he is currently coordinating and developing a new concept for the Walser Museum. 
To find out more about the changes that are being made to the museum, please refer here to the article BAUSTELLE: Museum and the Museum: Please click here to go to the article GUCKLOCH (looking through the peephole).

Alphorn player in the bandstand in Mittelberg | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

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