Background information for those, who are interested in some background about Algovia


Name and Borders of the Algovia (Allgäu) Region

The name Algovia (ALLGÄU) is most probably derived from  "Alpen-Geäu", which means alpine alluvial soil area. If defined at that base, the land with leas, meadows, and fens (latin expression: Algovia) spreads at the high elevations and between the first alpine hills. The area consists of morraine based ground, created by the milling products from glaciers in several ice-ages. The glaciers have been up to 2 km thick, they rasped granite material from the alp mountains, milled it, mixed it with water and sand, and made molasses out of it, which is similar to fair-faced concrete (see below). There is a second definition, which says: Algovia is the area, where milk farming makes more than 90% of the whole agriculture, and the elevation is at least 700 m above sea level, with the exception of river valleys. Both definitions approximately lead to the same result.

The natural borders of the Allgäu

The eastern border of Algovia is the river Lech. In the south, the Lech valley near Reutte and the valley of Tannheim, even both are  located in Austria, in principal also belong to it. Towards the west, the natural  border runs  from Oberstdorf to the Bregenz area. But, before reaching Bregenz, it bends to the north over the Pfänder mountain. In Lindau and the whole Lake Constance (Bodensee) valley, all kinds of agriculture are realized, at a height of 400 m.  Therefore, that region does not belong to Algovia. North of the Pfänder mountain, the natural border is defined by the hills surrounding the Lake Constance (please see the Balzer Berg picture in the page "Surrounding"). Looking from the lake towards the east, the altitude steeply increases up to above 700 m, the beginning of Algovia region. Between Tettnang, Ravensburg (both do not belong to Algovia), and Wangen (in Algovia indeed), a hill back begins and stretches easterly. It is called the "Gate to Algovia" (Allgäuer Tor). The gate has a shallow sorthern descent, but a rather steep northern one, creating a real step in elevation. It is a residual from the glaciers in the different ice periods, and it is the natural border of Algovia towards  the north. It reaches further east to the river Lech, and is recognized easily from all directions. Several castles and monasteries have been erected in the Allgäuer Tor hillcrest. Visitors, travelling by car or train from Ulm to Kempten, notice the step easily. There is even a service and rest station at the Autobahn A7 with the name "Allgäuer Tor". But, as a consequence, nor Memmingen, neither Mindelheim, and the whole county of  "lower Algovia" (Unterallgäu), do not really belong to Algovia. The agriculture in the "lower Algovia" area is manyfold and diversified, an additional symptom, that that reagion is out. Anyway, for touristic and political reasons, they are counted, as they would belong to it. Why bother?


The County of Lindau

Weiler-Simmerberg is  part of Lindau county, which has 83,000 residents in total. The city of Lindau has about 25,000 people, followed by the city of Lindenberg with about 11,000, and Weiler-Simmerberg with almost 7,000 residents. The latter occupies the largest  area in the county.

map of Lindau county

Legend: green-dotted are the borders of Lindau county, fat-green: the border between Germany and Austria. Pink-dotted: watershed between the rivers Rhine and Danube, blue marked: rivers and lakes. Red: streets and Autobahn. The names of towns printed fat, notify county  cities.

Cars registred in Lindau county carry an "LI" on the ID plate. The green-dotted lines show the neighbour counties. In the north, we find the "Bodensee" county (in Friedrichshafden / FN), and Ravensburg / RV, in the east is the county of "Ober-Allgäukreis" (in Sonthofen / OA). The local center is Kempten (KE), a county of its own. The southern neighbour is the Austrian Bregenz county (ID "B" in Austria). The western limit of LI county is the lake Constance, where the borders of three countries meet: Austria, Switzerland, and Germany.

Near Lindau, the province of  Bavaria (Bayern) is "jammed" between the german province  Baden-Württemberg (BW), and the Austrian province of Vorarlberg. At the narrowest spot, near Sigmarszell between Lindau and Scheidegg, Bavaria is only  2 km wide. The reasons are historical, and follow later on this page.
The province border between Bavaria and BW roughly  follows the river Argen, which ends into the lake Constance near  Langenargen. West of Wangen, the Argen splits up into two forks, the Upper and the Lower Argen . The origin of the Upper fork is near Oberstaufen, that of the Lower Argen is more east, near MIssen.
Western Algovia is defined by the watershed between rivers heading to the Danube (north-east), and the Rhine (westward), respectively.  The watershed is marked pink in the graph. The natural border also has consequences from the view of culture and idiom. While the central, northern, and the eastern part of Algovia has Swabian roots, the area of lake Constance and the Rhine valley are Alemannic. Western Algovia has been acting as a melting  pot. Anyway, by the impacts of wars (modifications  of borders, dispelled immigrants), tourism, and modern mobility, the former borders have almost vanished.
Lindau county is an oddity. Until about 1200, the whole area around the lake Constance was controlled by the monestry of Saint Gallen, which is njear the lake in the east of the today´s Switzerland. Thereafter, shires and knighships formed, and free cities as well (including Lindau, Wangen, Isny, Kempten). The shire of Montfort, located in Brigantia, reached the most powerful position, and influenced the area of interest. As Montfort got weak around 1600, the chief of Habsburg, who was the imparator of Austria, purchased the whole area. Beginning 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte overcasted all of Europe with war, including our area. Elector Max of Wittelsbach, who contolled southern Bavaria and other areas, teamed up with Napoleon. He was rewarded by being named King of Bavaria, and he got control over the whole area, including Tyrolia and Vorarlberg. He dissolved the shires and free townships. But, in 1813, he realized, that Napoleaon would be a loser, so King Max hopped to the other side, and ended as one of the winners. Anyway, when Europe got a new order once again, he had to give away Tyrol, Vorarlberg and some northers parts of the western Algovia, but kept most of it as a part of Bavaria, which grew by a lot of other areas, like Frankonia, too.

Even more queer the situation appeared after WW2. The winners had lined out, that America would occupy and control the whole of Bavaria, while France should occupy the Austrian and German shore of lake Constance. Indeed, the county of Lindau fulfilled both conditions. The way out was, to put the county under protectorate of France, and install a "County President" who was in full charge, like a Governer. Thus, the west of Algovia was a free country until the end of occupation in 1956. At that point of time, it returned to Bavaria, and the county borders have been redefined.


The unique history of the township of Weiler-Simmerberg

When Habsburg took control over our area around 1600, the shires and knightships have been dissolved, and the villages became communities with own repsonsabilties. Weiler kept the postion of being a district court, at that time a powerful place. Simmerberg on the other hand was extremely prosperous in it´s position of being a major place of the salt business (see more at this page). While Weiler was strong in law and politics, Simmerberg purchased ground and villages. After Napoleon and with the new order installed, the King of Bavaria re-organized the structure of his country. In 1821, all changes have been fixed, and even today it is not possible to examine why almost all of Weiler´s surrounding belonged to Simmerberg, but that was the reality. Simmerberg not only had the overwhelming area, it also had more inhabitants.

The borders of Weiler-Simmerberg
Sources: Chronicle of  Weiler-Simmerberg-Ellhofen, Dr. Georg Wagner, Gerd Zimmer, 1994, Geodaten-Bayern, and Google Earth.
Scenery borders. On left are the different borders of the thee main parts of Weiler-Simmerberg, which are
Simmerberg (marked yellow), Weiler (marked red), and Ellhofen (marked blue).


The desperate situation has lead to several trials for solving that by kniting together what belongs together..All attempts before 1968 failed, buit at the time, the pressure on the political and the financial side was to much to deny. A basic election took place, more than 3/4 of the people entitled participated, and more the 3/4 of them voted positive. By the First of Semptember 1968, the Market of Weiler-Simmerberg was founded, and by the First day of 1972, Ellhofen entered by free will.



Geography and Geology

The elevation of Lindau is almost exactly 400 m above sea level, Memmingen is at about 600 m. South of  a thought line between both cities, the terrain´s  elevation will quickly increase to 700...900 m, bevor the alps erect. As the mountains reach directly to the lake Constance (Bodensee), rather steep rises occur there. On the other hand, when coming from  the north, the  altutide rises more moderate. In the midst of Algovia, we find the watershed between the rivers of Rhine and Danube, it is shown pink-dotted. In the western Algovia area, all water flows into the Lake Constance, through the counties of Lindau and Ravensburg. East of the watershed, a  lot of rivers deliver the water to the Danube in parallel fashion. The largest are Iller, Günz, Mindel, Wertach, and Lech. The Danube´s final target is the Black Sea.

In global history, the whole of the actual Algovia was  covered by the ocean. The Alps have been way shallower and began far more south. The rivers heading to the north, transported lots of gravel and boulders, which sedimented  into the ocean´s ground. Later the Alps elevated, and the northern plateau was inclined and tilted towards the bed  of the Danube. During the ice-ages of the last 250,000 years, the glaciers always moved towards north, and have been up to 2 km thick. The materials of stone, sand, water, being exposed to extreme pressures, created the molasses of today. Thus, we find a thick layer Molasses, covered by a thin layer of fertile soil. In the pre-alpine mountains, the Nagelfluh chain is the most renown part of the structure,  the Molasses lies free at many spots. As the structures remind on concrete, with stones embedded, they are called God´s Concrete. Often, it looks as if huge nail-heads  would  be looking out the hard concrete, so it is called "Nagelfluh". Nagel is the German word for "nail", while "Fluh" is an idiom for a mountain slope.


Information table about Molasses/Nagelfluh. The table is posted near the Scheidegg waterfalls, which are in easy reach from the highway B308 between Scheidegg and Lindau.

die Nagelfluh-Struktur

When exposed, the structure of Molasses/Nagelfluh, can be compared with concrete, filled with little boulders. On left, the stones are relatively small, the watch helps comparing. On right is a structure with rather big boulders, both photos taken at the Hochhäderich mountain,  the western-most hill in the Nagelfluh chain.


Near Sulzberg in the Austrian province Vorarlberg, another poster informs on the geological resort "Nagelfluhkette (Nagelfluh chain)", unfortunately only in German.

informative poster on the Nagelfluh chain



Because of the barren soils and the elevation, Algovia was sparsly  populated for long times, while the lake and Rhine areas where well occupied by man. It may be of interest, that the oldest proven settlings in Algovia are not  found  in valleys, but up on the hills, where the "Alps" (farming  meadows) are today. That means, the settlers of 2000 or more years ago, moved their cattle forth and back, depending on the season. They obviously knew  about the advantages of feeding the cattle with grass, including lots of spicy incrediance. All of that was drastically changed, when the Romans came over  the Alps, and built fortresses and commercial stations. Their most important foundations in the area are Kempten (the existence in the year zero is proven), and Lindau. Kempten´s roman name was "Cambodunum", which in fact was derived from the celtic name "Kambodounon". That means in turn, that Kempten did already exist, when the  Romans arrived. Whether Kempten or Augsburg, Colone, Mainz, or Trier are the oldest "cities" on German ground, is still under debate. The wide area settling in the Algovia area took place during the phase of emigration of nations (around 400), when the tribe of the Swabians moved from the Baltic to the south. They settled between Danube and Alps, and made their living on everything, which dealt with farming and wood, thus craftmanship became great. The political situation of Swabian always was between the millstones of the different powerful  groups surrounding. The kingdoms of Habsburg and Zollern, several dukes (like Wittelsbach in bavaria) and princes, monastries and convents, fought for power. In  addition, the free and self-contained  cities of Augsburg, Kempten, Lindau, and Constance, tried  to increase power. Almost the whole of Western Algovia was belonging to the Austrian province of the Habsburg king/imperator. In the early 1800`s, the French imperator Napoleon Bonaparte re-ruled Europe, the bavarian duke of Wittelsbbach followed and supported him. Together they occupied the whole fo western Austria (wich is Vorarlberg and Tyrol today), and Napoleon upgraded Bavaria to be a kingdom. After the despot had been overthrown, almost all occupied areas where given back to Austria by the peace of Vienna  in 1816, except  Western Algovia. The southern part, between Immenstadt, Oberstaufen, and Lindau, further belonged to the Bavarian king, while the king of Zollern (Württemberg) got the northern part around Wangen. After world war two, a funny situation took place. Bacause the four allied forces had agreed (in the plan of Jalta at the Crimea peninsula in 1944) that Germany was to split-up into four occupied zones, a conflict arose in our area: The French had occupied the whole shore of lake Constance (except Switzerland, of course), but he Americans where repsonsable for whole Bavaira. Lindau and surrounding is part of Bavaria AND located at the lake. To avoid struggle, an independent "High Commissioner" was installed to rule the area, which later became - and still is - Lindau county. The commissioner juggled the interests of the occupants and the people very successful, and to the advantage of the people. The situation went on until 1956, when a plebiscite decided, to tie the county to to Bavaria, in favour of Austria or Baden-Württemberg.


The Salt Business

From about the year of 1400 on, the salt mine of Hall in Tyrol (east of Innsbruck) began to export salt towards the north and the west. The lake Constance region, (also being a relay for Switzerland and the Black Forest region) was one of the main destinations. The total distance between Hall and Lindau is about 240 km, which was divided into 9 stages, according to the map below. Each of the intermediate destinations or relay towns, was called a "Factory", which offered services like distrubution, forwarding, and  re-loading of salt, overnight service, craftsmen stores, guesthouses, breweries, and so on. At the time of the tranportation business, those towns got very busy and rich. Almost alll of of them belonged to the Austrian empire (Habsburg), except Lindau - which was a free town. One of the relay stations was Simmerberg. Transportation happend by vehicles, each was powered by four horses, and operated by four to six men. Between 30 and 40 tons of salt have been transferred day by day. The salt was transported in vessels of 266 kg each, a vehicle was able to load up to three vessels, or less under bad conditions or over steep environment. Thus between 30 and 40 vehicles, about 200 men, and typically 120 horses, arrived in Simmerberg (and the other relay towns) every day. Each carrier vehicle always moved back and forth between two of the relay towns, carrying salt to the west, and all other kinds of trading goods towards the east. The business grew constantly until about 1850, even half of the path, and four of the relay towns belonged to Bavaria since 1806 (see History above). But, from 1830 on, also salt from the mine in Reichenhall was traded. About 1850, a selt mine was found in Sitzerland, and supported the western region of the lake Constance. In 1853, the railway between Immenstadt (see map below) and Lindau started, taking over the main transportation through our area, cutting the travel from two days into a few hours, and made it independent from the wheather. After the tunnel through the Arlberg mountain was done, and the raillroad through western Austria started to operate in 1884, the transportation of salt by horse vehicles and manpower (called the "Rod") finally became obsolete. Thus, the relay towns and the people involved  lost  their business within a few years.

 map of the old salt road

Map of the "Old Salt Road" from about 1400 on, still existing as historic road. It starts in Hall in Tyrol, passes the Fernpass to Reutte, further through the valley of Tannheim, touches the relays Hindelang, Immenstadt and Simmerberg toward the lake Constance, and ends in Lindau, a total of about 230 km in nine stages, which are marked by red darts. The Arlberg railroad connecting Innsbruck with Bregenz is added in dashed orange.

Three signs of the importance of the salt business to Simmerberg
The importance of the salt business for Simmerberg is demosntrated by several signs and places. Beside the monument at the highway roundabout a graph is mounted to an house at the center square and an information plate at the former salt factory, which is the local bank actually.
About the historic salt business, a lot of literature exists. By nature, in the overwhelming number ist is in German language. The tourist office in Weiler offers the free booklet "Zeitreise - auf Spurensuche an der oberen Salzstraße", containing 48 informative pages.


Economy, Farming, and Industry

Before 1830, grass farming and milk production in Algovia only was applied for the immediate and near-by use. Milk is a sensitive stuff, which at that time could almost not be transported and stored, Pateuerization was invented in 1864. Thus, Algovia appeared yellow and blue, because of the farming of grain and flax. Potatoes, herbs and beets have also been grown destpite the lean soils. Small industries, like weaveries, and textile factories had been established, while  manufacturing hats was extremely succesful. All of them  meanwhile have been replaced by modern industries, and hi-tech companies. In 1827, Mr. Aurel Stadler, produced the first Emmentaler type cheese in Weiler. Mr. Carl Hirnbein, citizen of Weitnau, just 12 km east of hear, also was trained in cheese-maiking. Both have been "native western algovians", and together they convinced people to learn the different types of cheese and cheese productions. Mr. Hirnbein also was the inventor iof the "Galtalp", which describes a model of alp-meadows, where cattle of several (not only one) owner spent all summer togehterh. After the season, the cattle is driven down to the valley, separated, ande given back to the owners again (please see the page "one-year-cycle" for details). By chesse-making, the milk became durable, ready for tranportation, and a sellable product. So, when cotton from the USA replaced the wool made from flax, the farmers were prepared. From 1850 on,  a network of railroads was established in this hardly accessible country side, making travelling and tranportation a lot easier. The railroad network massively supported the business of Stadler and Hirnbein. Step by step, Algovia turned to milk farming and cheese production, including "Alps" (mountain farming  meadows), as it still is today. To obtain the appearance of the landscape, it is important now, to keep milk farming going, and support the farmers. Otherwise the forest will re-capture the beautiful environment.

Actually, the Algovian economy is devided into producing industry: about 32% of the gross regional product (GRP). Service business (financing, insurance, private services) adss 21%; Trading, transportation, tourism, communication, etc. is about 20%; public services, communities, health care are 19%; building, construction, and house repair adds about 5%, and farming and forsting is 1% of the Algovian GRP.


 symbol of milk farming

The page "Good-to-know" ends here.