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Weather gods and smugglers

The weather gods smiled on us and we managed to make it up
Piz Buin on Saturday.

Then came the rude surprise. We'd intended to spend the night in an emergency shelter right on the border. But when we opened the door at the end of a long day we immediately turned around and went way down to the Wiesbadener Hut far below. The shelter had a wet dirt floor with a few loose boards covering some of the mud. We'd expected something more like the great bivouac huts we've enjoyed elsewhere. So down we went, only to regain the altitude today.

Phone service has been extremely spotty and I don't even know when this will go out. But I want to share a great letter that just came in from Michael Kasper, the director of the Montafon Museum. I'd planned to meet him in the area of Schlappiner Pass in order to learn more about the way these passes were used by smugglers. Here is what he had to say about it:

“I'm sorry not to be able to join you in the area of Gargellen where most of the smuggling took place - especially at Sarottla Joch, Gafier Joch, and the main pass Schlappiner Joch.

There was an important trade route called Via Valtellina from Montafon (Schruns) to Veltlin (Tirano). The Austrians sold thousands of cows to Italy and bought lots of wine from Veltlin. They used the Schlappiner Joch because there they didn't have to pay a high amount of taxes. It was a "cheap" track and smuggling was relatively easy.

In the first half of the 20th century smuggling was a main income for many Austrians living at the border in Montafon. During WW2 they even smuggled people who tried to escape the Nazis to Switzerland. One - his name was Meinrad Juen - was said to have smuggled over 40 Jews to Switzerland. He was very famous and still old people can tell lots of stories about him.

But there were also some tragedies taking place at these passes. One German soldier who tried to desert was betrayed and shot directly at the border at Gafier Joch. Two Jewish women committed suicide in the prison in the small village of St. Gallenkirch after being caught by the border guards. Some Swiss border guards sent the refugees back...

In the Silvretta area during WW2 big water power stations were built and thousands of prisoners of war (esp. from the Soviet Union) had to work up there in the mountains. Many of them also tried to flee to Switzerland and many didn't succeed.”

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