WHEN THE NEW ROAD INTO PAZNAUN WAS BUILT

First of all, the bridge over the Trisanna was built, and Emperor Franz Joseph himself paid a visit to the new construction in September 1884. Then the municipalities of Paznaun agreed that a new road should be built into the valley. Here is the exciting story of a building project that launched a new era.

The state Chief Engineer, Anton Geppert, had already planned the new road at the beginning of the 1880s. The new road was to lead from Wiesberg to Galtür, but would only follow the traces of the old path in Gföll and Obertal. Between See and Ulmich, the road would be moved down from the sunny side to the valley bottom.

The municipality of Kappl did not like this proposal. They felt cheated, and brought an action against the road’s new route in the Higher Administrative Court. The complaint was rejected, however. The community was obliged by court order to contribute to the costs.

Photo from the year 1900. The Trisanna viaduct with a view out of the valley.

The pros and cons were deliberated in the newspapers, often with bizarre arguments. In the “Tiroler Stimmen” (Voices of Tyrol), an opponent of the road argued for example that “Both superintendents of the upper valley say that one of the principal reasons for building the new road is that the influx of tourists would be directed into Paznaun – Merely wanting to make Paznaun into a tourist valley is exactly the same as wanting to puff up a spring, which includes five thousandth parts of sulphur and three thousandth parts of iron oxide amongst the usual components of good drinking water, into a famous spa. Paznaun remains an Alpine valley and should insist on improving its Alpine economy, which would be more productive for it than a handful of tourists.”

This would turn out to be, as we know, a major miscalculation.

The inn “At the new road” opened in 1886 in Weiler Ebene
The “Trisanna Bridge Inn” was built in 1890. You can just see the first tollbooth in the background

At the same time, more far-sighted powers in Galtür and Ischgl were pushing for a better connection between their municipalities and the Inn valley. They petitioned the Imperial Council in Vienna to support the road to the same extent as the Tyrolean State Government.

In the end, financing, albeit not very generous, was provided. The royal and imperial administration in Vienna paid 12 000 guilders, as did the Tyrolean state parliament. The Agricultural Ministry, the Forestry Exchequer and the Alpine Club also contributed subsidies. In 1885, the building work began.

An Alpine Association – Section Asch party at the Gföll inn on the new valley road
The Gfüll bridge over the Trisanna. It collapsed shortly before the completion of the road and had to be rebuilt.

The municipalities themselves, however, were responsible for the lion’s share of the road construction budget. All four valley municipalities had to take out loans and mortgage practically all municipal assets to cover the cost of the new road. Municipal contributions were raised. The road builders had to face hostility from opponents of this major project more than once.

In addition, there were many setbacks. An Italian construction worker was killed by a falling rock. The bridge downriver from the Gföll inn collapsed shortly after it had been completed and had to be rebuilt.

At the end of the 1886, the road was more or less complete. A postal service was installed. But the road was only officially opened on 25 September, 1887. 40 official guests drove in nine cars along the new road to Galtür, where a special evening was celebrated with fireworks.

To recoup the high costs of construction, a tollbooth was erected downstream from Wiesberg Castle. All living creatures which wanted to go up the valley on the road had to pay for its use. Small animals such as sheep, goats, pigs and dogs were charged 4 crowns per head. Larger animals such as horses, donkeys, cattle and calves were charged 10 crowns. One-horsed carts had to pay 20 crowns, two-horse carts 40 crowns. Two-horse carts carrying people had to provide 60 crowns.

Only people could travel cheaply, irrespective of whether they were locals or strangers. They only had to pay 2 crowns. “Dead animals, cats, deer and poultry” did not have to pay the toll, incidentally.

The new road was repeatedly damaged by debris, avalanches and landslides which made expensive repairs necessary. But it soon became clear that the daring construction project had changed conditions for the better. At the edge of the new valley road, new houses, settlements and inns sprang up.

In 1888 the “Tiroler Stimmen”, which had earlier been so critical, reported: “The Paznaun valley has been visited in recent years by tourists and summer visitors from near and far in ever-increasing numbers. What makes the visit so appealing is above all the new, comfortable post road, which has led since just last year from the station in Pians to Galtür, so that the traveller, whether he prefers to drive or walk, has no grounds for complaint about the way.”

Post master Ignaz Heiß’s mail coach drove every day now from Ischgl to Pians and back. “Ischgl,” wrote the newspaper, “is a splendid, pleasantly located town. In terms of the guesthouses, no visitor today has any grounds for complaint anymore.”