>What was I thinking? I hopped on the regional train to the Italian border at Brenner, to take in a little Italian atmosphere and maybe some shopping at the new-ish designer outlet mall there. But this is winter, and the border is at the continental divide, and it’s high up there (over a thousand meters above sea level), so it shouldn’t have surprised me to arrive during a snowstorm.
For those not up on the geopolitical history of Austria and Italy — basically, after the first world war, Tirol was carved in two and the southern half was annexed to northern Italy, leading to all sorts of changes for the area: an encouraged influx of Italian speakers, the German-speaking minority fighting for autonomy, some terrorism during the 70s, and the recurring argument, a favorite of right-wingers, that South Tirol be given back to Austria. Since Austria joined the EU and the passing of the Schengen Agreement (which began to open the borders between many EU countries), those old arguments don’t seem to be getting serious traction. The Wikipedia entry on the region has good information on the most recent polls for independence, re-joining Austria or remaining with Italy. For now, it ain’t gonna happen.
This monument is right on platform 6. The Brenner Railway was built in 1867, and opened transport and travel opportunities over the alpine pass and to points south. As of now, this is the main rail route from southern Germany (and all countries north of it) into Italy. However, construction for the Brenner Base Tunnel is already underway, and is scheduled to open in 2020 — this tunnel will bore straight under the pass as well as most of the valley leading to Innsbruck so that trains will travel straight from Fortezza/Franzenfeste* to Innsbruck underground, cutting the travel time from Innsbruck to Bolzano/Bozen in half. This will pose no danger to the Brennerbahn, which services stops all along the way for commuters and students. In fact, it will leave the railway to the regional trains, and put all the long-haul trains (and the freight trains) underground. Win-win.
*All municipalities in South Tirol have names in both Italian and German, both languages being official.