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Published: October 22nd 2022
The view from our terrace
... towards Muottas Muragl and Piz Bernina.
When I was a girl, my parents and I would always spend three weeks during the summer holidays in Samedan in the Engadin region in Switzerland. Engadin is a valley at an altitude of 1,800 metres located in the canton of Graubünden in the southeast of Switzerland, about 2.5 hours from Zurich. The most famous town in the region is probably St. Moritz, where the rich and famous used to spend their holidays and still do. I can completely relate to why they picked this region for their holidays: The valley is surrounded by stunningly beautiful mountains, such as Piz Bernina, and glaciers, such as Morteratsch Glacier. There are four wonderful lakes in the valley: St. Moritz Lake, Silvaplana Lake, Champfèrer Lake, and Lake Sils. Silvaplana Lake is particularly popular with windsurfers. In general, the region favours all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, trail running, skiing, and snowboarding. The area is blessed with over 320 sunny days per year. Although temperatures hardly exceed 20 degrees Celsius in summer and although there can be snow in August, the climate is very favourable, and the region is a climatic health-resort. In addition, there are mineral springs. Due to its altitude,
Val Bever I
Walking along the river.
with the surrounding mountains being up to 4,000 metres high (Piz Bernina), the region is very popular with winter sports persons, but also with tourists who like to be active during the summer.
As I mentioned, my parents and I always went there during the summer holidays for hiking. To be precise, I went with them from the age of seven until the age of 13. Afterwards, of course, it was not so cool any more to spend the summer holidays with the parents, but my parents continued to go there, and I even joined them once more after finishing high school. When my dad died in 2005, my mum stopped going to Engadin, but she kept saying that she wanted to come back, and the only person she wanted to go with was me. So, a present of mine to her was a one-week holiday in Samedan from 27th
of June until 4th
of July. We even managed to book the same holiday flat that we used to book when we stayed there, Chesa Tschierva, beautifully overlooking the valley. Of course, the owner had died in the meantime as well, but he had bequeathed it to his son,
Val Bever II
and we were able to contact the new owner via a website. So, we were all set for a holiday full of memories.
From the direction of Chur, there are different routes via which one can access Engadin. We used the route via Albula Pass – for advanced drivers! The beginner’s route runs via Julier Pass, with wide roads and turns. Albula Pass, by contrast, has narrow roads and narrow turns – and is of course way much more fun to drive on.
We arrived in Samedan in the late afternoon, and while it had been quite hot back in Stuttgart where we had started, it was cool but sunny when we arrived. After unpacking the car, we followed an old tradition and walked over to the nearby church with its surrounding cemetery. When I was a girl, we would usually arrive in the evening. My dad had his own business, and there were usually so many things to organise before the holiday that we hardly ever departed from home before 4 in the afternoon. Remember, these days there was no internet and no mobile phones, and the only way he could be reached was via landline at
Morteratsch Glacier I
View from the valley - here it still looked majestic.
rather expensive tariffs, and he could not take a laptop with him that had all his work on it. So, everything needed to be well-organised before heading off. It is very hard to imagine this nowadays! Anyway, when we would arrive in the flat, after a four-hour drive, we would usually have a quick dinner and then walk to the church, and it usually it was dark already. There were bats in the air, and one could see the stars. My mum and I followed the tradition, just that this time we arrived in the afternoon and could go and see the church before dinner. The church and cemetery looked pretty much the same. In the flat, some things still looked the same, while a lot of others had changed. For example, in the bedroom, there had been a picture on the wall, the “Waterfall” by M. C. Escher. I loved the picture and went in there to look at it very often. I think this is how I came to love Escher’s works.
On Sunday, our first hiking tour took us into Val Bever. The tour starts in the village of Bever, and there are two routes that
Morteratsch Glacier II
When getting closer, the once majestic glacier looks like a dying creature.
one can take towards Spinas in the valley. This tour always used to be our first one because it is rather flat and an easy walk. On one side of the river, there is a footpath, and on the other, there is a paved road. We took the footpath that leads along the river through amazingly beautiful meadows and forests, with mountains on both sides. It is mostly flat, but does have some short but steep ascents. My mum did amazing. She is almost 78, and of course, she had to take it slowly, but with a few breaks we made it to the restaurant in Spinas within about 1.5 hours. We had a nice lunch on the huge terrace. To make things a bit easier for her, we took the paved road back to Bever.
On Monday, we walked up the valley of Morteratsch Glacier. The trail is easy to walk, gradually ascending along the river. There are signs along the trail showcasing where the glacier tongue used to be at different points in time in the past. When we arrived at the end of the trail, I experienced a bit of a shock. I remembered what the
St. Moritz Lake I
View towards St. Moritz from across the lake.
area looked like when I was there last time, in the late 1990s. At the end of the trail, there was the glacier tongue, a big wall of ice and snow, shimmering in white and blue, with the river coming out from underneath. What I could see now looked like the poor remains of a dying creature. The glacier had withdrawn into the mountain, and what was left was covered in rocks and dust and looked grey and thin instead of white and mighty. The slightly cloudy sky on the day contributed to the sad atmosphere, and I must confess I was glad when we started making our way back, facing the green valley with its trees and meadows. What a change within just a bit over 20 years. We cannot deny climate change, and we can see it in so many phenomena.
After our hike, we drove up to Bernina Pass, where the clouds opened up, fortunately. We enjoyed the view of the two lakes up there, high above the treeline, before making our way back to Samedan and taking a little walk there. The village is very pretty. The houses there are built in traditional style, with
St. Moritz Lake II
Another view of St. Moritz from across the lake.
very thick walls because of the cold winters. They are decorated with rich ornaments.
On Tuesday, we went for a walk around St. Moritz Lake. The trail around the lake offers beautiful views of the town of St. Moritz and the surrounding mountains, and there are meadows with an abundance of colourful flowers. Nowhere in the world have I seen meadows as beautiful as here. From the lake, there is nowadays a long escalator that one can take to access the city centre. We took it and went for a walk between plush hotels and exquisite shops and had coffee and cake in one of the cafés. There is Engadin nut cake, a very rich cake that has walnuts in its core. It must have around a million calories, but it is definitely worth the sin. After coffee, we caught the escalator down to the lake again and finished our loop around the lake.
Then we had our very late lunch at Silvaplana Lake, watching the windsurfers play with the elements. In the afternoon, we caught the mountain railway up to Muottas Muragl, a mountain at the Eastern end of the valley. From an altitude of 2,456 metres,
Muottas Muragl I
View into the Engadin valley towards Maloja Pass.
one has a beautiful view of the valley with its lakes, and one can almost see Maloja Pass at the other end of the valley.
Wednesday took us to Val Fex. I mentioned that Engadin has the most beautiful meadows I have ever seen, and within Engadin, Val Fex’s meadows are of supreme beauty. The ascent into the valley begins in the village of Sils, where the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche lived for a period in his life. It is a pretty and artsy village. At first, the ascent into the valley is rather steep and runs in a humid, woody and almost dark valley. But after some time, the valley opens up, and one walks between stunningly beautiful meadows and traditional farmhouses. Cars are not permitted in the valley, and the only means of “public transport” are horse carriages. We had lunch at a restaurant at the end of the valley before making our way back into Sils and having tasty Swiss coffee and a lovely piece of cake there and then heading back to our flat.
On Thursday, we drove to Soglio in Val Bregaglia. To get there, one has to cross Maloja Pass. On the side
Muottas Muragl II
Panoramic view with the mountain station of the mountain railway and restaurant in the foreground. The valley on the left leads past Morteratsch Glacier towards Bernina Pass, the one in front has the four lakes and leads towards Maloja Pass.
of Engadin, there is no ascent at all, but on the side of Val Bregaglia, there is a long descent, from an altitude of 1,800 to one of 1,090 metres ASL. It is a beautiful drive, through small villages and past pretty castles. When I was a child, we used to drive to the village of Stampa, hike to Soglio, have lunch there, and then hike back to Stampa. The hike would take not even two hours and reward us with beautiful views of the valley and the surrounding mountains. This time, however, we drove straight into Soglio. The village is very pretty, located above the valley, with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. It has some traditional houses, built closely together so that there are narrow alleys, and one can even see the washing place where the villagers used to do their laundry in the old days. There is also a beautiful church with a bell tower that one can see from afar. In the middle of the village, there is a wonderful garden with redwood trees.
The weather was almost hot compared to where we had come from, and so we took it slowly. After a walk
Val Fex I
Most beautiful flowers next to the river.
around the village, we walked out on one side of it and enjoyed the view from a bench. Then we had a nice lunch in the garden in the centre of the village, underneath the trees. The village is well-known for its chestnut trees, so we had gnocchi with chestnut sauce. After lunch, we took the footpath leading out of the village on the other side, enjoying more of the beautiful views. Before heading back to Samedan, we made a stopover in Bondo, in the valley right below Soglio. The village is very pretty as well, but I remember that it was hit very badly by a debris avalanche many years ago. Fortunately, nothing of this is to be seen any more.
On Friday, we walked from Sils to Maloja. The road from Sils to Maloja runs on one side of Lake Sils, and there is a footpath on the other. We walked the footpath, enjoying beautiful views of the lake and the mountains on our way. Halfway, there is a small village where we had lunch. Then we continued, through forests and past alpine roses, to Maloja. Maloja is located right on top of the Maloja Pass, and
Val Fex II
The valley has the most beatiful meadows one can imagine.
very often, there are chilly winds. In a sense, the atmosphere in the village reflects these chilly winds. It is very beautiful, though, with richly decorated houses and beautiful churches and chapels. In an old wooden house with richly carved walls, there is a traditional hotel and restaurant, “Schweizerhaus”. This is where we had coffee and cake before catching the bus back to Sils and driving back to Samedan.
And then it was Saturday again, time to leave beautiful Engadin. We drove across Albula Pass again and made a stop for lunch in Bergün on the other side of the pass. Then we drove back to Stuttgart, full of old and new memories of one of the most beautiful places in the world.
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