Style icon of Lake Constance
The Oesterreich was put into service in 1928 and ushered in the era of motor ships on Lake Constance. To this day, the first large motor ship on Lake Constance still transports the same flair and luxury of that era. The pride of the Austrian fleet at that time, it was was known as the "luxury liner". Like so many historic ships, the Oesterreich was due to be scrapped in 2012. However, the beautiful Art Deco motor ship was recently repaired with great effort and is now back in operation alongside the historic Hohentwiel steam ship.
A symbol of a new era
When the ship was put into service in 1928, this marked the start of a new era. It was a moment of great relief. After the First World War, people longed for air, life and beauty. The eight-hour working day and standard holiday regulations were introduced. Leisure time was democratised. The luxurious appearance of the Oesterreich excited the adventure-hungry public right from the start.
A fresh start with an Ö
In the summer of 1945, the Directorate-General of the Austrian state railways went into operation, which now once again included the Austrian ships. The Oesterreich was almost completely demolished after years of war. On 25 July 1953, the 25-year-old ship set off on its second maiden voyage, freshly renovated and restored. The ship was completely changed and from now on bore the name "Österreich" ("Austria") – with an "Ö" –on its bow.
The supposed last hour
From autumn 2009, the Oesterreich was out of service in the Fussach shipyard. A major inspection revealed devastating results. The entire electrical system needed to be replaced, the hull panels were too thin in many places, the engines no longer met the applicable emissions standards, and adequate fire protection could not be guaranteed. As a result, the owners at that time decided to decommission and scrap the ship. But this was met with resistance.
The ship is saved
A growing group of ship lovers all agreed – the first large motor ship on Lake Constance had to be preserved. The first step was to get financial support so that the owner could maintain and renovate the historic ship. However, these attempts were largely unsuccessful.
The MS OESTERREICH and its circle of friends
There had been several ideas for renovating the Oesterreich. Some wanted to make a luxurious hotel ship out of it. There was also talk of turning it into a cruise ship. The project was supported by around 25 people. In 2014 the private initiative surrounding Jürgen Zimmermann founded an association - the "Freundeskreis MS OESTERREICH e.V." (The MS OESTERREICH circle of friends).
The symbolic price
An ultimatum was issued to the association in early 2015: If the ship does not have a new owner by 31 March 2015, it will be scrapped immediately. The association traded and acquired the ship for the symbolic amount of one euro.
A third life
In an incredible tour de force and with the participation of countless fellow campaigners, private individuals and companies, the Oesterreich was restored to its original state of 1928 within three years. It was also extensively renovated and renewed. For instance, it now features a winter-proof design and has been equipped with all the convenient facilities we've come to expect in modern times. On 18 April 2019, the ship celebrated its third maiden voyage. The Oesterreich, the first large ship with a diesel engine on the Swabian Sea, is back dazzling the public with its Art Deco style, as it did so many years ago.
2 eras – 2 ships
On 20 April 2019, the two historic ships the Oesterreich and the Hohentwiel went on a joint "journey through time" for the very first time. Beautifully restored and polished to perfection, both ships have a joint age of almost 200 years. Both ships meet on the lake for this unique voyage and sail together to the next port, where the guests switch ships. Within a very short time, this voyage with two ships became a major attraction.