Emil Zangerl, 85, is the face of Paznaun’s smuggling past. For decades he smuggled goods over from Switzerland into the valley. On skis, too, and mostly when it was really dark. He tells Trisanna some of his best stories. Today: the trick with the man in Gföllhaus.
phOTOS: NIKO HAVRANEK
“We had one big advantage over the customs officials: quite simply, we could ski better. Whereas they often didn’t dare to ski down certain routes, we went more or less everywhere in the valley. Back then, a quaint old man lived down in old Gföllhaus. He was a kind of intermediary. So he also had his customers. And he had a really good trick to pass on the goods.
There were a couple of women there who worked with him. They pretended to be pregnant and just tied the goods, such as cigarettes, around their stomachs so they wouldn’t be caught. The man mostly ordered coffee and sugar from us.
The women were an important part of the smuggling in general. Our women and theirs often met up to knit, and then they tried to find out which customs officer was on duty. Then we knew whether the following day would maybe work – or whether it would be better to leave it.”
More interesting anecdotes from Emil’s smuggling past will be coming soon here in Trisanna.
For hundreds of years, when times were hard, the people of Paznaun brought their products into Samnaun in Switzerland, and bartered them there against other goods. But they had to watch out: it was a cat and mouse game with the customs officers. And where people used to smuggle in the past, there are today three ski routes crossing the border.
Would you like to follow Emil Zangerl’s path into Switzerland? Have a look here: the smuggler route