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Irene Heisz

Valley Life: Paznaun

Updated on 16.07.2020 in Arts & Culture

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This summer, I wrote about the various Tirolean valleys and told stories of so much life in so little space in the series “Valley Life". I want to introduce visitors from all over the world to Tirol and open local people’s eyes to the very special aspects of their otherwise familiar environment. This time: The Paznaun.

Paznaun, where the word “Valley” is considered to be an explanatory suffix of unnecessary nature, offers an almost prototypical insight to the Tirolean way of life over the last few centuries – and how it functions today. Forced by topography alone to extreme frugality and conservative economics, social self-sufficiency was always considered a virtue in the valley. Even marrying to the next village was deemed an undesirable, if not scandalous, escapade. And those who moved to the village from another area could expect their children and even grandchildren to be given the stigma of being „zuagroast“ (newcomers).

Those who moved to the village from another area could expect their children and even grandchildren to be given the stigma of being „zuagroast“ (newcomers).Those who moved to the village from another area could expect their children and even grandchildren to be given the stigma of being „zuagroast“ (newcomers).

This form of distrust of the outside world was deeply engrained in the folk of many Tirolean valleys — the more remote and narrow the valley, the deeper the misgivings – and traces of this are still easy to find today. The world’s appetite for the spectacular, sometimes even threatening beauty of wild natural landscapes, adrenalin-charged adventures and exclusive possibilities for escape from everyday life has transformed the valley, its people, their expectations of life and viewpoint on the world.

Ort: Galtür
Ort: Galtür

What has not changed, of course, is that due to the subtle differences in dialect, those from the lower valley will always recognise their counterparts from the upper valley (nuances barely distinguishable by non-Panznaun dwellers). Grandmothers, for example, are affectionately called „Nala“ or „Nali“ in lower Paznaun, while in the upper valley region they are known as „Nona“, which is not the only surviving indicator of the fact that upper Paznaun was originally settled by Romansh folk from Engadine.

Ischgl offers the very best entertainment in both summer and winter. Top stars of the music scene such as Robbie Williams, Elton John or Rihanna have performed their latest hits in the midst of the ski resortIschgl offers the very best entertainment in both summer and winter. Top stars of the music scene such as Robbie Williams, Elton John or Rihanna have performed their latest hits in the midst of the ski resort

More obvious are the contrasts brought about by contemporary tourism, which is something visitors to the valley consciously seek. Ischgl at the fore, with its highly popular around-the-clock entertainment and countless hotels that dominate the village’s appearance and Galtür at the very rear, with its quieter, contemplative presence.

Galtür (pictured: chapel in the Tschafein district of Galtür) may be Ischgl’s quieter, more reserved “little sister”, but has no reason to hide. The village has been host to great thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway.Galtür (pictured: chapel in the Tschafein district of Galtür) may be Ischgl’s quieter, more reserved “little sister”, but has no reason to hide. The village has been host to great thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway.

Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities – and there are many of them!

Irene Heisz
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