Mountain Blogging: Schönberg

Confession — when I began blogging about 4.5 years ago, I quite honestly thought I might be out of material in 6 months’ time. In fact, the opposite has happened — the ‘to do’ list just keeps getting longer. Recent discoveries (for me) have included a lot of points south of here, in the Wipp and Stubai Valleys. Above, the length of the Stubaital, ending at the Stubai Glacier (yet another thing I need to see, especially before it melts for good.)

Today I went to Schönberg on a couple of leads, and learned more there than I had expected to. In all honesty, I didn’t know a thing about this small town, as it’s not on the rail line and doesn’t seem to have any tourist industry — perhaps it’s really an insider thing. Anyway, I had read that there is a segment of the old Roman Road (Via Raetia) on display in Schönberg, and here it is.

Note the grooves left in the stones by centuries of wagon wheels.

The Via Raetia ran from Italy over the Brenner Pass to Augsburg. The primary Roman road, known as the Via Claudia Augusta, went west over the Reschen Pass (near Graun, home of the sunken village belltower), along the Inn and then over the Fern Pass.
In any event, although the road did indeed pass right through these parts, it was not right here in this exact spot — these stones were dug up and laid out here — next to a large Autobahn rest stop, of all places. And that has a certain logic, the old next to the new.

Two things about Schönberg called to mind George Washington. The first was that Goethe was here, and fortunately the small town of Schönberg has a quote to prove it. (“Goethe visited here” is the German parallel to “Washington slept here.”) On his travels to Italy in 1786 (“The Italian Journey”), the great writer penned, Up on the Brenner I saw the first larch trees, at Schönberg the first Swiss pine. This little chapel is on a spot called Goetheruhe (Goethe’s Rest) and there is indeed a Swiss pine tree on the site. The road that runs by it is called Römerstrasse, and is very likely the old road. This route through Raetia had its own alternative “bypass” route, which branched off near here and followed the upper plateau on the eastern side of the valley (and there is a “Römerstrasse” up there today too.)

The second reason that Washington comes to mind is Schönberg’s relationship to Andreas Hofer, who had friends here and used a local hotel as headquarters during the fighting — which makes it a bit like the 1809 Tirolean Valley Forge.

Schönberg, like much of the higher plateau lands above the rivers, has offered up archaeological evidence pointing to pre-historic settlement. Armed with GPS coordinates from the internet and a google map print-out (yeah, I need a smartphone), I went to search for this area which has been designated as a protected historic monument — and only found this flat-topped hill on private, apparently inaccessible ground, so I can’t say. Then again, the high ground is absolutely lousy with archaeological finds all up and down the valley, so we might as well assume that every hill and dale were inhabited since the end of the last ice age.

To see the Via Raetia road segment without a car: ST Bus from Innsbruck Train Station to Schönberg Ortsmitte. Follow “Römerstrasse” signs to the Autobahn underpass. It’s at the far end of the rest stop, which includes a McDonalds with the best views I have ever seen.

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