Pontresina: Aug. 1 - 7

Switzerland's flag
Europe » Switzerland
August 1st 2015
Published: July 6th 2017
Edit Blog Post

Geo: 46.4945, 9.90103

Wearing our rain gear, we left Andermatt in a light rain heading east again over the Oberalpass, into the clouds. Eventually, we picked up the Autobahn at Tamins, riding through several more of Switzerland's long tunnels. We crossed over the Julier Pass, a relatively barren moonscape of rocks and dirt, not enhanced by the gray skies and damp weather. Eventually, we made our way down to St. Moritz, where we stopped for lunch while we waited for the rental agents to return from their lunch break. We arrived at our guest house overlooking the charming town of Pontresina, six kilometers away, just as the clouds started to break. We took it as a nice omen and settled in for another week of adventures.

More cloudy, threatening skies motivated us to take Sunday to explore the neighborhood. A walk around town found all the stores in Pontresina closed, except for a nearby café and bakery, which we had to visit. As the weather started to improve, we decided to jump on the bike for the short ride into St. Moritz and explore the downtown. The core area was closed to traffic due to a number of outdoor concerts, brunches, and other festivities related to the Swiss national holiday that was celebrated the previous day. We did a walking tour of what appeared to be the “Rodeo Drive” of St. Moritz, with every conceivable high-end apparel and jewelry store conveniently located within a four-block area. Nearby, we walked past the beautiful Palace Hotel, where the “common folk” in their Sunday best were enjoying an expensive outdoor Sunday jazz/champagne brunch, featuring a fruit tart that had to be twenty feet long. We settled for an ice tea and a brat from one of the street vendors. All in all, it was a fun day of exploring the area amid some amazing examples of opulence and exquisite architecture.

On Monday the 3rd, the girls decided it would be fun to take a trip into Italy, visiting the lakeside town of Riva Del Garda. We decided to do a loop, heading south over the Bernina Pass, crossing the border into Italy at Tirano. After a coffee stop in Edolo, we continued south to Breno, climbing a tiny mountain road over our first Italian pass, Croce Domini. Our decent to Ponte Caffaro through a spectacular valley followed the road not much wider that a golf cart path. A nice, winding two-lane took us through breathtaking valleys, past Lake Di Ledro, and then through two long tunnels before seeing Lake Garda below. We played tourist along the marina and public beach and enjoyed a great lunch at roughly half the price of what we would have spent in Switzerland. The lake was covered with sailboats and windsurfers on this beautiful day. Our return route north took us over Passo Balline, and eventually along the edge of the Dolomites at the Campo Carlo Magno Summit. The wonderful vistas continued all the way to Dimaro when we turned west again and headed over the Passo del Tonale, passing a number ski areas on the way back through Edolo. We re-crossed Bernina Pass just after sunset and rolled into Pontresina a little after 9 pm, a thirteen hour day. Needless to say, we all slept well that night.

After the previous day's “Iron Butt” ride, we decided to kick back on Tuesday and have a relaxing day around town. Janet and Dave took a short ride to a little village south of St. Moritz, Sils/Segal Baselgia, a quaint area dating back to 1650, now a popular vacation spot for hikers, bikers, wind and parasail surfers. Debbie and Gunther explored the shops of Pontresina and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at one of the nice local hotels.

Wednesday, August 5 was our “Village Road Show,” exploring several of the delightful villages along a 40 km stretch of the Engadin Valley – characterized by deep-set windows, stenciled stucco and cobblestone streets. We drove along highway 27, through La Punt, Madulain, Zuoz, and Susch, around Guarda and Ardez, finally stopping at the hillside village of Tarasp, in the shadow of the Tarasp Castle. We had coffee on the patio of the Schloss (castle) Hotel, maintained in all its architectural splendor by the same family for 24 generations. From there we rode back to Guarda, climbing scenic switchbacks to the parking area outside the medieval village, which is closed to traffic. We enjoyed lunch under a warm, sunny sky on the patio of the Hotel Meisser, savoring the stunning view of the valley below and Alps beyond. On our return ride, we stopped to visit Zuoz, another pristine village. All in all, it was a pleasant, relaxing day, enjoying the simple sights and savoring the beauty of these quaint villages of the Engadin Valley. That evening, the gang celebrated Dave and Janet's anniversary at one of the local Pension Hotel restaurants. Thursday was another full day of riding, back along the Engadin Valley, north from Zernez, over Fluela Pass, this time, dropping down to the town of Davos, site of G-8 summits and another playground for the rich and famous. Gun stopped to get a photo of our gang for the Tahoe Donner newsletter showing a Davos landmark. Then we had a relaxing ride through more long tunnels northeast the Landquart River to the town of the same name. Our major stop on the trip was the BMW dealer in the city of Chur. After determining that Gunther needed a new rear, Dave and Janet set off on a route back to Pontresina that would take them east from Tiefencastel to Filisur, then picking up the narrow winding road that took them up to the Albula Pass, another popular motorcycle destination, before a quick descent down to La Punt, 20 km from base. Debbie and Gun were back on the road in record time after the tire change and returned home, retracing the road that brought them over the Julier Pass to St. Moritz on Saturday. Everyone arrived back safe within five minutes of each other. No motorcycle tour of the Italian Alps would be complete without a visit to Stelvio Pass, (called Stilfser Joch by the Germans). On Friday the 7th, Dave and Janet set out for a visit; Deb and Gun taking a rest from the switchbacks for a while to rest Deb's shoulder. It was another ride down to the Italian border town of Tirano, then east to Bormio through several long tunnels, including one 7.9 km long. After Bormio, the ascent began along the valley wall, eventually culminating in a set of 40 switchbacks (each numbered), and a series of very narrow tunnels carved from the stone of the mountain. The ride was complicated still further by the plethora of bicyclists (a good reason to avoid the Alps during August holiday.) Stopping first at Umbrial Pass a short distance away, we finally arrived at the village of Stelvio at the summit, a frantic collection of food vendors, shops, hotels, and ski lifts taking hikers to the higher elevations. The congestion added to the carnival atmosphere and the locales charm. Dave & Janet choose to return back down the mountain on an easy, fast ride towards Bormio, taking a bypass route west to Livigno, over the Passo d' Fosgagno and Passo d' Elira on the way. After a quick visit the duty-free shops of Livigno, they crossed the Livigno Pass with its spectacular views of the high glacier, arriving at the border crossing just below Bernina pass, which they crossed for the second time that day. They returned to the garage just as the first raindrops of an afternoon shower began.

Additional photos below
Photos: 67, Displayed: 27


Tot: 0.114s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 9; qc: 25; dbt: 0.022s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb