Reutte is a market town of some 6,000 people but it can be called a tourist paradise as it has two seasons - winter and summer thanks to its Alpine location as well as a rich historical past which is shown in the buildings in the town as well as its 'highlights' which are located on the ancient Via Claudia Augusta, a Roman road leading from Italy to Germany and once protected by three fortresses, the remains of which one can see today and which are linked by the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world! Essential sightseeing includes the Ehrenberg complex with the Highline 179 bridge and Klause museum, the Alpentherme Ehrenberg spa, the bare foot walking trail, the old town and of course hiking in the mountains all around!
Where to stay
Finding somewhere suitable to stay is a bit more difficult. I was at the excellent Camping Jungholz and whereas it is connected to Reutte by bus - which is free - it is around 50km and there is a long time between connections so that is not altogether suitable. There is a campsite at Plansee but that is open only certain times of the year and also not particularly close to Reutte. There is a campsite in town, however the owner told me that he did not want motorhomes as he prefers caravans which stay for a long time. However there is a convenient and interesting solution. There is a spa in town called Alpentherme Ehrenberg which has space for around twelve motorhomes.. Whereas there is no hook up or any other facilities, if one uses the spa then one can park there. The cost of using the excellent facilities there are somewhat less than what a campsite would be - so why not? As well as swimming pools, the spa offers around nine saunas as well as a heated outdoor pool from where one can admire the Alps. It rained whilst I was in the pool, an experience I found quite pleasant. Apart from that, after spending a couple of hours in the sauna you will be too tired to drive anywhere! And once you have been climbing up and down the Ehrenberg fortresses you will be ready for the sauna anyway. So it all works out nicely!
The Tyrolean Salt Road from Hall in Tirol to Lake Constance crossed the entire district of Außerfern, including the narrow valley of Ehrenberg through the Via Claudia Augusta. To defend this point, over the period of 600 years four strong point were built : Klause in the valley which was a fort, toll and taxation point with facilities for travellers to rest, Ehrenberg Castle built in the twelvth century, Schlosskopf Fortress built above Ehrenberg Castle and Fort Claudia from the seventeenth century.
Today at Klause one finds the museum and remains of the transit buildings. . The museum shows the story of the Middle Ages from the point of view of life at the castle and that of a pilgrim who writes back to the love of his life. He has gone off to the Holy Land but keeps regular correspondence over the course of ten years. Different rooms tell different stories including that of the Black Death and alchemy. There are also medieval helmets to try on and one can hold various swords and feel how heavy they are.
From the museum, we can walk up to Ehrenberg Castle which was completed towards the end of the thirteenth century. It is today a ruin but one can imagine how life was like there. The castle did not have a permenent garrison, at times there may have only been a dozen people there to maintain it. This in itself was a weakness and required good intelligence in order to garrison it quickly before an enemy appeared. This may explain why it was captured on two occasions despite its seemingly impregnable position. In 1546, the Protestant Schmalkalden occupied the fortress. In 1552, it was taken by the Elector Moritz of Saxony. In 1632 the Swedes were stopped at its walls. In 1703, Ehrenberg fell into the hands of the Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession.
When the castle no longer had a military purpose it was sold and quickly became a ruin. Fortunately in 1971, Fridolin Schennach from Reutte took over the condemned ruin and initiated a rescue operation with numerous other idealists.
At the other side of the valley we find Fort Claudia which was completed in 1645. Since 2014 the visitor can communicate with Ehrenberg and Fort Claudia easily via the Highline 179 bridge. It was built after the siege by the Swedes in 1632. In 1703 Fort Claudia was taken by the Bavarians, who then went on to capture Ehrenberg. After Ehrenberg was recaptured it was realised that another fortress was needed further up. In 1782 the fortress ceased to function as such although it was used as accommodation for at least a century afterwards.
Above Ehrenberg we find the Fortress at the Schlosskopf. It was completed in 1741 when it was realised that Ehrenberg had a fatal weakness - anyone controlling the heights above would control the castle. It is quite difficult to get up to the top unless one takes the path - the 'quick' way up took me almost thirty minutes and was quite tiring. Although it must have been very
expensive to build, it was abandoned after only 41 years. In 1782 the troops were withdrawn and it fell into decay.
The Highline 179 is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. It connects Ehrenberg Castle ruins to Fort Claudia, spanning the strategically important pass that these fortresses once guarded. The length of the bridge is 403 meters and it stands 113 metres above the ground. The ticket to cross it costs EUR8 and tickets are available from vending machines and the museum below. Without a doubt there is a certain element of fear in crossing it, many older people need to hang onto the railing - something I believe related to balance as we get older. Others may have a fear of heights and when one can see through the slatted bridge floor to the ground below this is understandable. The bridge moves with the wind and with the force of people walking on it. Personally, I found it quite excillerating, however I understand that this is not something for everyone!
Reutte was declared a market town by Duke Sigmund in 1489 and this is still celebrated today with an annual festival on the first Saturday in August.
The salt trade above all brought great wealth to Reutte and this is evident in the style of the buildings with their ornate murals. From 1692 the painter Paul Zeiller had a workshop in Reutte that later became an art school. His son Johann Jakob Zeiller and cousin Franz Anton Zeiller both received their first lessons here and we can see their works in the many murals throughout the town.