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The Mayor on his tractor

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The Mayor on his tractor

This time around, a school reunion led Armin Thurnher to Krumbach, where he and his former colleagues learned a valuable lesson.

Recently we celebrated our 50th school reunion. We returned to Bregenz from all directions, a good dozen of us men aged about 68. We’re older now: Like a child hiding behind a tree, our more senior visages are merely shadows of our younger selves. Nevertheless, we recognised each other instantly. The plan was to spend an entire day together, without our wives, though this time around that was clear without having to mention it explicitly. Just why this meeting of silver-haired friends is receiving notice in a magazine such as this one will be revealed soon.

I won’t bore you with the details of our obligatory visit to our former school, which has long since been split in two meaning that our visit was actually two for one. During our stay, we came to the conclusion that the problems attributed to education these days cannot be traced back to a lack of equipment or to the cleverness of the school director. What a relief!Later, we found ourselves singing songs on the roof of our old school, aided in no small part by the fact that a chamber singer was among us, a powerful bass, who would otherwise have felt at home on the grandest of opera stages.

Next stop, lunch: The task of opening the proceedings fell to me (The Man of Many Word), and so I didn’t hesitate to read a self-composed poem, written in my preferred form of verse, namely lazy hexameter, which reminded us all of our collective efforts to understand Ovid and Homer. With great effort I waxed poetic about the town as it once was, with its bakeries, books stores and bars. I sang on about how everything was much better back then, and I lamented our inability to meet up at our favourite haunt, the Heidelberger Fass, which has now been transformed into a pizzeria instead.

Following our meal, the cultural programme began: It was entitled Krumbach. “Bus stops?” asked the uninitiated with a sigh. “Not the bus stops again,” called some who’d heard this story a hundred times. But what came next was a surprise for all. As it turned out, the nephew of one of our school comrades was one of the architects who worked closely with the international stars in planning the now famous bus stops. This gentleman led us from one bus stop to another, providing information about the smallest details of each concept. Suddenly, the whole affair became far more interesting!It was especially interesting to learn just what effect the functionality of the individual bus stop ‘houses’ had on the local population. The buses are punctual and so everyone knows how long it takes to reach each individual stop. When the weather is poor, the bus stops not only provide protection from the elements, but also serve as a visual representation of where exactly the buses stop. In any event, an umbrella is always necessary because the journey from the bus stop to one’s doorstep is not covered.

Before we went on the tour with the well-informed architect who provided us details, we found ourselves guests of the mayor! The mayor of Krumbach had to put his work as farmer on hold, he explained. One aspect of his new responsibilities of course was the now famous bus stops, in which he played a key role. Krumbach had long been plagued by rural flight to the towns of the Rheintal valley but the community took a series of important steps under the mayor’s direction. We also discovered that one of our school colleagues had sold a few inherited pieces of land in the centre of Krumbach, where the town planned to build attractive multi-purposes buildings (stores, doctor’s office, living spaces). This step proved to be instrumental.The mayor further explained to us just how important it is to pay attention to detail when it came to the optimally planned parish community centre. For instance, the communal kitchen there was kept purposefully small so as not to discourage people from visiting the local inns and restaurants.This allowed the municipality to keep seven inns in business, two of which cook well above average food. Planning efforts were all well thought out; from the ecologically sound energy planning measures to the architecture.

After taking all this information in, we came to see the bus stops in a new light. They were no longer symbols of artificial advertising but expressed the modernity of the entire community and the very success of the bus stops has proven such ideals correct. Rural flight has stopped, the number of people living in the community has risen above 1,000 again for the first time in decades. We found ourselves impressed and congratulated our fellow colleague, who instead of only paying attention to the increasing profitability of his real estate was able to facilitate a part of this miracle in Krumbach. As we returned from the tour into the city centre, we passed by the mayor once more, who sat upon his tractor and made hay. He winked at us and a dozen old fogies winked back, having learned something new.

Author: Armin Thurnher