Lechtal Valley

Valley Life: Lechtal

Irene Heisz

Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who... View author

The likes of us, grown up and enlightened beings, do not generally believe in monsters. If, however, the fearsome mythical creature named “Bluatschink” does actually live in the River Lech, you can be sure of one thing: he is one tough cookie! For even on the balmiest of days, the river temperature never exceeds 14 degrees Celsius.

The River Lech is one of the largest tributaries of the Danube and border-crossing waters. It springs in Steeg in the westernmost Austrian province of Vorarlberg, before flowing to Tirol and exiting the country in the form of a small waterfall at Füssen in Bavaria. Lechtal, or the Lech Valley, is located in the district of Reutte and called “das Ausserfern” by the locals. The name makes it sound somewhat remote, which it is actually – beyond the Fern Pass and far away from the provincial capital of Innsbruck. Deeming an area to be peripheral, however, is always a question of one’s own perspective.


„Lüftlmalerei“ (wall paintings) is the name of this extraordinary facade art, dating back to the 18th Century. Particularly beautiful examples can be found in Holzgau, in the Upper Lechtal.


The “Außerferner” are a special kind of folk, as assertive and self-confident as their river, one of the last wild rivers in Europe. The people orientate themselves more towards Füssen than Innsbruck, when shopping or pursuing cultural interests. And they speak a different vernacular to all other Tiroleans, especially in their pronunciation of the letter “a“ and have, even by local standards, a strong tendency to rasp their “k” s and the syllable of “ge” deep in the back of their throats. Most other Tirolean dialects turn the letter “a“ into „å“, in many words, which sounds almost like an “o“. In Ausserfern, Swabian Bavarian and Alemannic influences mingle together in a language all of its own.

Care for an example? Let’s assume we want to remove a branch from a tree trunk with the help of an axe – in German “abgehackt” – chopped off. This undertaking would be described in most Tirolean areas, depending on the region, as “oag’håckt“ or “og’håckt“… In Lechtal, however, you will have “achackhackt“ the branch. And now you can guess why other Tiroleans refer tongue in cheek to the “Außerferner” as “the Achackhackten“…

This summer, I wrote about the various Tirolean valleys and told stories of so much life in so little space in the series “Valley Life“. I want to introduce visitors from all over the world to Tirol and open local people’s eyes to the very special aspects of their otherwise familiar environment.

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