Frau Keutschegger / Border stones / Austria / Post shirt

Guten Morgen!

Congratulations to my friend Albert Hahn, who won a spot on the Canadian team at the upcoming World Scrabble Championship this November in London, England. A qualifying tournament was held this past weekend in Toronto and Albert was the victor. I hope to play the international Scrabble game, SOWPODS, with Albert sometime before November.

On Saturday I bought a Liechtenstein weekly bus pass for only ten francs and it has saved me so much money. One pays either 2.40 CHF or 3.60 CHF for each bus ride, depending on the number of zones one crosses. A pass entitles you to cross any number of zones for an unlimited number of trips. Although I am only in this small country for a grand total of 49 hours, I have saved plenty of money already with this bus pass.

Yesterday I took the bus to Triesenberg. From 1978-1983 I had a pen pal who lived in Triesenberg. We lost touch over twenty years ago, yet I had never forgotten her. When I finalized my plans to go to Switzerland, I contacted her again. Her parents still lived at the same Triesenberg address yet Bettina Keutschegger, my pen pal, had since married and moved to Thun, Switzerland.

We wrote E-mails to each other, after a gap of twenty-two years, yet unfortunately could not arrange to visit. I nonetheless wanted to see her childhood home and town.

When the bus stopped at the Triesenberg post office, I noticed the visitor centre was open so I went in and got a map. I found the Keutschegger house easily and noticed that the front door was open. I took a photo of the house, and sat on the steps of the house across the street, mulling over whether or not I should knock on the door. I knew that someone was home, yet was afraid of the reaction I would receive when I introduced myself. I mean, whoever answered the door wouldn’t know me from Adam.

Someone shut the front door, so I knew that the person was going to be staying home, as opposed to being on the verge of stepping out. After a few minutes I walked up and knocked. I can’t have travelled this far, only to chicken out now. A sixtyish woman answered, and I introduced myself. We talked for about three minutes on the doorstep before she invited me in.

In all these years I had never forgotten Bettina or the names of her parents or her siblings, and I asked Frau Keutschegger how everyone was doing. Frau Keutschegger spoke only German and fortunately she spoke High German to me, as I have difficulty with the local Alemmanic dialect.

She showed me baby pictures of Bettina’s twins, Luca and Laura (boy and girl) and Bettina’s wedding photos. She even called Bettina in Thun, yet she was not home. She left a message, and I could barely make out what Frau Keutschegger said. I took some photos and we chatted over coffee and chocolate. After about 45 minutes Frau Keutschegger called Bettina again, and this time she was home. She handed the phone to me and I got to speak to my pen friend for the third time in twenty-seven years. (I did call Bettina once in 1980 or 1981, and in 1982.)

Bettina spoke High German to me and we chatted for about ten minutes. I promised to send her a recent photo of myself, so thank-you Sherrie Saint John for snapping a picture of me at the Canadian National Scrabble Championship. I can direct Bettina to that photo.

I left after an hour, and was smiling and even laughing to myself as I headed to the centre of town. Finally, after so long, I made it to Liechtenstein and Triesenberg where Bettina had lived.

After the visit I headed back to Vaduz Post and transferred to a bus bound for Balzers in the south of the country. Ever since I first saw a huge map of Liechtenstein in a Zürich travel store I was curious about a needle-like appendage of land that sticks into Switzerland like a flu shot.

In the southwestern corner of Liechtenstein, a needle of land, no wider than a road, pokes Switzerland. I had to venture down there and explore the area and see if I could find any boundary points, or border markers between the two nations. I waited until I arrived in Liechtenstein before I purchased this same map and I could see that this needle was not private land, so I could safely walk to it.

I got off the bus at the nearest Balzers stop, Rheinstrasse, and walked down a residential street called Gärten before I got to a cornfield then a recycling centre. Finally I found the zigzag of footpaths that would lead me to the needle.

I found three border stones, each a rectangular prism with L and a number on two sides, and S and 1949 on the other two sides. On the top of the prism was a red dividing line showing where Liechtenstein’s and Switzerland’s borders lay. I took photos of these stones, including one of me standing on one, with one foot literally in Liechtenstein and the other in Switzerland.

I then headed for the north and Austria. I had to take two buses, transferring at Schaan Post. It was raining and I did not want to walk across. Although that was my plan, I did not want to have soaking clothes for the rest of my trip (because even with an umbrella, one’s legs and back still get drenched). I was the only passenger on the bus as we crossed the Liechtenstein-Austria border. Swiss customs staffed the border and it even said so at the crossing. I can’t recall exactly what it said, but in English it translated to (paraphrasing) “Swiss Border Control for the Principality of Liechtenstein”. My bus was simply waved through. The bus stopped at Feldkirch railway station and I got off and explored the arcaded, cobblestoned street in the downpour. As it was Sunday the shops and restaurants weren’t open; I had been hoping to have dinner in the old town. Only bars were open, and some people were sitting outside at umbrellaed tables in the patios.

On the bus ride back, however, when the bus arrived at customs there were nine passengers on board. A customs agent entered and checked all our passports. I always have my passport with me, so I took it out when I saw the agent come on board yet I did not have to open it. I just showed him the cover. One of the advantages of having a Canadian passport, perhaps.

Today, at 10.00, I bought a Liechtenstein Post T-shirt at the large post office downtown. It’s yellow with blue trim around the neck, with on the back and the post office’s snazzy red, blue and yellow logo on one sleeve.

I must leave the National Library now and take some last photos of Vaduz. I have a 12.01 train to catch to Sargans, CH then I transfer to Schaffhausen. Later today I will explore the German enclave city of Büsingen.


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