Exasperated hotel owner saws off own roof to resolve border dispute

Dietmar Hehenberger, photo: CTK

A curious international dispute was finally resolved this week - in a rather unusual fashion. The Austrian owner of a hotel located right on the Czech border resorted to trimming the roof of his hotel, which was hanging over the Czech Republic.

It all started in 2004, when Dietmar Hehenberger, owner of a luxury hotel in the village of Guglwald on the Czech-Austrian border, decided to add another wing. The new wing - or so he thought - would be located 200 metres from the border. When the extension was finished, however, Czech mapmakers informed him that the Austrian map used to determine the hotel's location was wrong. The roof of the hotel was actually hanging over Czech territory, and therefore violating international law.

Dietmar Hehenberger, photo: CTK
For the next two years Mr Hehenberger fought a legal battle with both the Austrian and Czech authorities. On Tuesday, unable to bear any more paperwork, he gave up. He sent workers up onto the roof with chainsaws, and they trimmed off 30 cm, bringing the hotel back into Austrian territory.

The incident has embarrassed senior officials on both sides of the border. Jan Zahradnik is the Governor of South Bohemia:

"I was at the hotel about eighteen months ago, when I and the governor of Upper Austria, Josef Puhringer, organised a meeting there with EU Commissioner Danita Hubner. Mr Hehenburger showed me the roof and explained the problem. I took it as something of a curiosity, a tourist attraction even.

Photo: CTK
I never thought it would end like this - that after two years of traipsing from one office to the next, the owner has taken the matter into his own hands and cut off a piece of his building rather than deal with the authorities any longer. It think that's just terrible."

Mr Hehenberger told reporters the alterations had cost him about 5,000 euros. But it was the principle, not the money, which was at stake. It was ridiculous, he said, to argue about 30 centimetres when the whole of Europe was uniting. But rather than risk being forced to demolish the entire wing, he came up with this most unusual solution.

In August the latest team of local officials will arrive in Guglwald to check the situation. Mr Hehenberger must be hoping this visit to his hotel will be their last.