I arrived in Schaffhausen yesterday afternoon at 14.50 with the intention of spending the rest of the afternoon in the German enclave town of Büsingen. However, I was so tired from lugging my baggage around Liechtenstein to the buses, to three different trains, that by the time I got on the third transfer to Schaffhausen I was dripping sweat down my face and my shirt was totally drenched, front and back. It was a grey T-shirt that took on a darker hue by the time my luggage-schlepping was through. I was totally wasted! By the time I arrived in Schaffhausen it was pouring rain anyway, so I blended right in with those who were umbrellaless.
I went to the travel information office and got a bus schedule for Büsingen. There were only two buses an hour and I would not have had much time to see the enclave and the post office if I got the next bus at 16.21, so I decided to pass on seeing the town yesterday and hoped for a sunny day tomorrow. Besides, it was a better idea to see the town today anyway, when I’d have the whole day there instead of a few hours.
Today I left the hostel in Schaffhausen, stored my baggage at the railway station and got the 10.01 bus to Büsingen. Büsingen is a small town of 1400 people occupying a small square on the northern shore of the Rhine, and it is totally surrounded by Switzerland.
There were signs marking the international border. I did not get off the bus at the border, however. I chose to disembark at the town hall since I figured that would be the centre of town. I made the right decision, as the post office was there and I went right in and started asking questions.
One must use German stamps in this enclave, however almost everyone pays for things in Swiss francs, not euros. I did not find out if one has to pay for German stamps only in euros (I would think so). There are two postal codes for Büsingen, one under the German system and one under the Swiss. I got a German postal pen, and then headed out to the point three kilometres west to the border. Outside the post office are two adjacent phone booths, one for each phone system.
I was on a hunt for border stones or boundary points marking the two nations. During my trip to the frontier a car pulled up and the driver and passenger both leaned out and asked me, quite perplexed in German “Sind wir noch in Deutschland?” (“Are we still in Germany?”). I got the feeling that they suddenly realized they had been driving through Switzerland and feared they might have taken a wrong turn at the Autobahn. I gave them directions to continue driving, and pretty soon they would reenter German territory proper. What a hoot! I’m sure this happens often.
The German-Swiss border is marked with a series of boundary stones divided either D/S or GB/CS (the former for Deutschland/Schweiz and the latter I am presuming Gemeinde Büsingen/Confederation Suisse). I took photos of every stone on a long, three-hour trip up the western, then northern, border. Be prepared for a long series of photos of stones. Interesting for border freaks like me, but the rest of you might think I overdid it.
On three occasions I asked people what country they lived in; their houses were snug up to the border and I wanted to make sure whether they lived in Switzerland or Germany. In one photo, the international border cuts a driveway in half. I got a map of the town and followed its border like a spy, crawling through forests (and, yes, sitting in trees!) to get the photos of each side of the stones.
In the north, where the border cuts across fields, a vast sunflower field is shared between nations. In others, the border stones stood alone in an expanse of harvested fields. Solitary stones in the middle of a wide field. Sometimes it was very obvious where the stones would be placed because different coloured crops meant different countries.
In one irregular, curved part of the border, a cornfield delineated the boundary and the corn stretched right to the end of the Swiss frontier. The Swiss crammed in as much as they could without infringing on German crop space.
When the border headed through the forest I decided to head back and see more of the town. I had been walking for three hours already and was interested in meeting the people.
At a variety store I picked up the only postcards of this enclave and bought a book, in German, about the town. When I presented the book to the cash, the woman proudly told me that her father wrote the book, and we talked about her job as a shopkeeper in the enclave. She had two currencies in her cash register, and all the prices in the store were in Swiss francs. Only rarely does someone pay in euros. She even had a small Canadian connection, as one of her friends moved to Red Deer, Alberta.
I headed back to the bus stop at the town hall and when I arrived back in Schaffhausen I caught the 16.09 train to Zürich.
I am at the hostel now, paying through the teeth to use their Internet services. (I mean, I can’t really send a mail about Büsingen after I’ve arrived home, can I?) My flight leaves 11.20 tomorrow, and I have booked a taxi at the hostel because there’s no way I can make it on the tram and train with these bags. I have one bag with wheels yet did not bring my wheeled cart for my larger suitcase (because it’s broken and I did not get around to buying a new one before I left, or since arriving here. Big mistake!). My right hand is blistered from carrying it. So I am a fool. Well I am at least a fool who can speak Romansch 🙂
I will see my Scrabble friends at the Club on Thursday and my friends at work on Friday. Next year I hope to continue my studies in Romansch and take in the other Swiss enclave, Campione d’Italia.
The computer time is ticking and I have less than two minutes left. This gets sent off, un-proofread. Sorry!