Posted by: Nazausgraben | July 4, 2009


A mere 48 hours following a traditional Navy retirement ceremony, and I am sitting before you on this, my first full day as a expatriate. After almost 59 years, I am about to begin life anew in the magnificence of the Austrian countryside. It is the first step in a long-held dream about to be fulfilled.

The whirr of the Airbus mainmounts as they retreated into their fuselage bays made it clear that this was the last time I was to be on the soil of my birth for some time. Some thousands of miles ahead were my children, grandbabies, friends and a lovely century old home deftly restored by my Austrian wife, Susi, over these past 9 years. 

There are so many stories to be told about the transforming of this humble family holiday house sitting alongside the ancient Via Claudia Augustus at the far edge of a verdant lush valley beneath towering alpine foothills. I hope to impart some impressions of this process during the course of this ongoing composition. Perhaps the best way to proceed is to introduce you to the place; to Austria’s less-known north-western regions.

My new Heimat (home), Pinswang, is a quiet, lovely village located in the northern-most region of the Austrian Tirol known as the Ausserfern. With a population of around 480, Pinswang sits in a lush verdant Alpine valley mid-way between two major marketing towns; Reutte, located about 5 miles to the south in Austria and Füssen lying about the same distance to the northeast in Germany. Pinswang is divided into two sections, Oberpinswang and Unterpinswang. The village government, school and Church are located in Unterpinswang.

Pinswang is one of the most ancient settlements of the Ausserfern. Extensive archeological exploration by scientists from the University of Innsbruck has revealed evidence that Pinswang was inhabited as early as 1700 BC. It is also known that Pinswang was home to Celts at around 200 BC. Later, the Romans, in their march to the North, eventually reached Pinswang, and used the surrounding mountains as a stone quarry. Their Via Claudia Augustus, better known as the “Roman Road”, is still used today in Pinswang as a path for pilgrims to the Ulrichskirche, the way leading to the Schloß im Loch fortification and Celtic excavation site, the starting point to the mountain route to King Ludwig’s nearby castles, and as the path for visitors strolling around the town.

Written records describing Pinswang date back to the 11th century. During the Middle Ages, Pinswang functioned as a strategic control point on the border between the Tirol and Bavaria. This is evidenced by the numerous remains of fortifications that abound in this region. An example of this can be found on the Burgschrofen where one sees what has become known as the Schloß im Loch, a Festung dating from the mid-13th century that was built directly into the face of the mountain. It and the fortress that stood along the nearby Kniepass (built later during the 30 Years War) were the only major fortifications used as outposts of Castle Ehrenberg near Reutte. It is interesting to note that Ehrenberg and the other fortresses in the area were later abandoned and sold by Kaiser Joseph II in 1782.

After changing ownership several times, Pinswang was finally incorporated into the Tirol in 1313. From the 16th ’til as late as the 19th century, Pinswang was also known as a toll station; a waypoint between Austria and Germany. There were two major toll collection points, one at the Weisshaus near Füssen and the bridge over the Lech River, the other on the fortified Kniepass. There were two types of tolls collected; one toll to cross the border and the other to travel along the roads, akin to modern highway tolls.

Pinswang today remains a thriving agrarian community; a wonderful place to use as a base for exploration of the entire Ausserfern and nearby German Allgaü region. Its quiet, warm and quintessentially Tirolean Gemütlichkeit make Pinswang a much-beloved travel destination. (Quoted from the article I authored for Wikitravel (ref:

We arrived in Pinswang after a very long day of many airborne miles, cramped into sardine-class, replete with left-over meals (the many rows ahead had all selected the best of two choices), the seats of those immediately in front of us cranked without pity back into our laps, the incessant screams of Fratzerkinder yielding an 8-hour deafness-like auditory threshold shift and the chaffed upper arms resulting from those of wider girth attempting to hurridly navigate the decreasingly thin paths  on their way to the restrooms, presumably to dispose of the unwished left-overs so hastily devoured moments before.

All of this and more that characterized the state of our cramped and sleepless in-flight selves were happliy forgotten as we were greeted at Munich’s airport by our children and grandbabies! What a wonderful welcome to our new home it was!!! 

As we drove toward Austria, we stopped to briefly enjoy a midday meal (the main meal of the day) at a local Rasthaus. Watching the babies play on the grass, I reflected on how wonderful the years ahead will be…a house filled with family to celebrate every occasion; a chance for us to have roots in this very beautiful part of our world, to be where we have always wished, dreamt and planned to be.

And now….. we are finally here.


  1. Andy,
    You write beautifully–I can see every detail! We miss you already and it was difficult to say goodbye last Wednesday. May God bless you and Susi in your new life. Don’t forget us back in here Colorful Colorado.

  2. Andy and Susi,
    So glad you had a safe trip home, though apparently not a comfortable plane ride. The town sounds picturesque. If possible, I would enjoy seeing pictures posted on your blog. I know your busy, so until later. Your shipmate, Bill.

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