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A Winter Wander – Engadine and Berner Oberland

A Winter Wander – Engadine and Berner Oberland

Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 01:35 AM
  #41  
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Ingo -

We covered the village pretty well; if it was open, we missed it.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 01:36 AM
  #42  
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Great photos by the way...making me hungry.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 01:40 AM
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> making me hungry.

Me too. LOL

Btw, I ran into the lunch problem in Ardez, too, once. That hotel-restaurant was the only one open. And that was in summer season ...
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 08:27 AM
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Of the St. Moritz/Samedan/Pontresina/Celerina clump, I like Celerina best. It just clicks with me in a way the others don't. Sure, I'd like a suite at the Kronenhof in Pontresina for a week, but back on planet Earth...

Anyway, if we do a week cross-country skiing in the area next winter, this is where we plan to stay...I like that the kitchens (with dishwashers!) are nice enough to do some home cooking if we feel like it, but we're still an easy walk to some good restaurants.

http://www.petit-chalet.ch/en/concept.html
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 12:28 PM
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Looks fantastic, Weisser Tee. Out of these - Celerina for me, too. Although I must admit that I loved the two apartments where I stayed in Samedan. One right in the town, quiet location overlooking a small square with fountain, another high up, just below St. Peter church, with gorgeous views from Bernina massif to Piz Corvatsch ...

But my favourite in the Upper Engadine is still Sils-Maria.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 01:55 PM
  #46  
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Petit Chalet looks very nice WeisserTee - did you spend much time in each of St. Moritz/Samedan/Pontresina/Celerina?

We came very close to staying in Sils, found a great apartment option there, but were a bit worried about the limited bus schedules. Samedan worked out well for us, but next time (yes, there will be a next time) I think we'll stay further away from St Mortiz.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 02:26 PM
  #47  
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December 13: Ich wünschte, ich sprach Deutsch

Another early morning, another artery clogging fry-up, and we were out the door and on the 8:30 am bus to Sent. The plan was to spend the morning exploring Sent and Scuol, and then catch the 1:30 pm bus to Tarasp for the 2 pm castle tour. At this time of year there’s only one tour a week (Friday) and it’s conducted in German. We didn’t care, we wanted to see the castle and this was the only way to do it.

We spent an hour exploring the laneways and sgraffito decorated buildings of Sent. It was early, the sun hadn’t yet reached the village, making the -8c day feel even colder. It took us about 1:10 (2.3 miles) to reach Scuol via the walking track from Sent; the path was dry, the views gorgeous.

Back in Scuol, we poked around for a bit and warmed up with some nice cappuccino at Café Erni (reminded of what a deal we’d gotten in Tirano, as these were 4.30 CHF each). This looked like the perfect place for apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce, but I was told it wouldn’t be available until later in the season, when the skiing got underway.

We picked up groceries and once again made that knee crunching climb back to our apartment, the sun reaching the valley now, promising yet another beautiful afternoon.

We’d considered walking to Tarasp, but in hindsight we’re glad we didn’t; it would have been quite a trek from Scuol, all uphill, and best as we could tell, right alongside the road. As it was, the climb from the Tarasp bus stop up to the castle was challenging enough for my poor knees. And slow...the surrounding snow covered mountains were beautiful, I couldn’t help but stop for photos every two minutes.

Once at Schloss Tarasp we bought tickets for the tour (12 CHF each). Our tour guide realized early on that we didn’t speak German, so he lent us a brochure written in English, which helped somewhat, but I’m sure we missed more than we absorbed. We enjoyed it anyway, especially the fabulous views of the mountains and countryside from inside the castle. Schloss Tarasp was built in the first half of the 11th century and was controlled by Austria until 1803; a fascinating place, well worth a visit.

We took the bus back to Scuol and immediately hopped another bus to Ftan; the sun had disappeared from the valley, but we could see sunshine above in Ftan, so we decided to chase it.

We thought we’d made a mistake when the bus headed back into Scuol, but it eventually wound its way up to Ftan, just in time for the sun to disappear. The bus parked; it was scheduled to return to Scuol in 25 minutes, another not due for an hour. It was cold, the sun now a distant memory, not enough light for photos, so we had a quick roam of Ftan and then re-boarded the same bus back to Scuol.

The bus went into town first so we took the opportunity to revisit Mund Art for more ambiance and alcohol (34 CHF, beer, white gluhwein, Irish coffee, oh my!). We really liked this place.

Our big breakfasts and late lunches had thus far made dinner unnecessary, but today's gummy bears had left plenty of room. We were in the mood for pizza, so we dined at La Collina Restaurant, which is located on the main street of Scuol, at the foot of the alp that led up to our apartment. I thought I’d ordered a glass of merlot, but our waitress brought a small carafe and two glasses, so it was a boozy night (Quattro Stagione for Bill, salami for me, too much food, we should have shared, very good – 48 CHF with wine).

We climbed the mountain to our apartment for the second time that day, collapsing after a bit of star gazing and admiring the town’s massive Christmas tree from above. It’d been another beautiful day. For us, the Lower Engadine was easily outshining the Upper.

To be continued...
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 08:52 PM
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"did you spend much time in each of St. Moritz/Samedan/Pontresina/Celerina?"

Not Saturday, that was just a day trip. But I've been to the region about eight times in the past 18 months. My trip over the week-end was primarily for checking out potential XC ski bases for a week next winter.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 09:28 PM
  #49  
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Lucky you WeisserTee, I'd imagine you're getting to know the area pretty well.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2014, 11:41 PM
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Did you notice the special gables in Sent? Totally unlike elsewhere in the Engadine, emigrants brought that back from Italy.

The trail from Scuol to castle Tarasp is indeed all uphill - but very beautiful. Have done it in winter and summer, quite slippery/icy in winter, of course. No, it's not along the roadside, goes from Vulpera through several hamlets and pastures or through the woods. However, bus was the better option in your case ...

I am partial to castle Tarasp. An entrepreneur from my city (K. A. Lingner, invented Odol) bought it shortly after 1900, commissioned a thorough restoration (it was totally run down), bought old interior, even completely furnished rooms panelled with swiss pine wood all over canton Grisons and neighbouring Valtellina/Italy and had them built into castle Tarasp. Lingner died in 1916, a few months later the works were finished.

Mund Art looks good, must check it out next time.

> For us, the Lower Engadine was easily outshining the Upper.

Understandable. What I miss in the Lower Engadine are the lakes (between St. Moritz and Maloja, Sils right inbetween), the glaciers - which you would notice in summer only, I guess, and the easy excursions to Italian speaking Poschiavo and Bregaglia valleys. But with regards to picturesque villages and no crowds, the Lower Engadine wins.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 12:45 AM
  #51  
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Ingo -

Like this?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8/...57639541710016

A bottle of Odol was on display at the castle - I'd seen it referenced during my research. What a project that must have been, restoring a place like that.

The Lower Engadine just spoke us somehow, but the pizza in the Upper Engadine sure was good. Don't tell the West Aussies, but their pizza is shite
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 01:05 AM
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Yep, like this.

I am sure the guide also played the organ (or a recording of it). It was built by Jehmlich from Dresden. Quite an effort also.

I must admit I never ate pizza in the Upper Engadine. I came close to it once, when I stayed at Engadinerhof in Pontresina and they had a pizzeria in the same building. But half-board included the four-course dinner in their dining room, so I skipped the pizzeria ...

Instead - pizza right at the train station in Tirano was yummy and inexpensive.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 01:35 AM
  #53  
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No, no organ playing, sounds like we missed out.

Missed out on gelato in Tirano too, but it was a wee bit cold for ice cream (even for me).
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 04:32 AM
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Unterengadin Rocks! The locals are pleasant, the villages picturesque and people feel life streaming in the villages. My least favorite village is Guarda, only because it feels more like a museum.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 04:20 PM
  #55  
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The organ at the Castle Tarasp was amazing! I walked - in June - from the Castle Tarasp to Scuol. I was glad I chose to go in that direction!

"Did you notice the special gables in Sent? Totally unlike elsewhere in the Engadine, emigrants brought that back from Italy." -- I wondered about their origin -- thanks!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2014, 04:29 PM
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December 14: Baffled by butter

Ninety-six degrees in Perth today, 17 degrees in Scoul. I know where I’d rather be!

The Motta Naluns cable car was now officially open; once again our Swiss Passes were of no use offering no fare reduction, and it wasn’t clear to us if any walking tracks were accessible from the top, so we gave it a miss.

Ingo had suggested a visit to the duty free area of Samnaun; he said the bus ride alone was worth the trip. He hadn’t steered us wrong yet; we decided to give it a go.

It was still dark when we boarded the 7:30 am bus to Samnaun. Thirty minutes later we were in Martina for a bus change, surrounded by mountains and the Austrian border. We approached the waiting bus, but it didn’t look right, it wasn’t yellow like the others had been. We conferred with the driver, and sure enough, he was going to Austria. He told us where to wait and a few minutes later we were on another yellow bus pointed towards Samnaun.

We skirted the border crossing into Austria and noticed the price of petrol had dropped to 1.41 CHF a liter, which I assume is due to the area’s duty-free status. Prices were also posted in euro.

Within minutes we were winding through switchbacks enclosed by rugged mountains, jagged cliffs and some rather unsettling drop offs to the River Inn far below. Wow. The claustrophobically narrow, spiraling tunnels were so long that openings had been cut into their sides so drivers could see if there were any vehicles coming from the opposite direction. We held our breath and exchanged incredulous looks, expecting the bus to scrape the tunnel walls as the driver negotiated the impossibly tight corners. It felt as if we were suspended in air, perilously clinging to the mountainside.

Within an hour we were in Samnaun, unsure where to get off the bus. We disembarked at Samnaun Dorf, which was exactly where we needed to be; Bill has a knack for navigating, bless him. We wandered the streets for a bit in the toe-numbing cold. Although Sunday and not yet 9 am, the duty free shops were open for business, so we warmed up while perusing the goods. Bill was amazed at the incredible selection of single malt scotch; he said he hadn’t seen that many varieties outside of Scotland. If you want booze, perfume or cigarettes, Samnaun is the place for you; unbelievable selection, excellent prices. What threw me was the butter. Is butter highly taxed in Switzerland and/or Austria? Enquiring minds want to know.

Samnaun was the first town in Switzerland where we encountered pay toilets; 50 euro cents or one-half Swiss franc. The loos were scattered throughout town; free-standing automated compartments, which were power-washed from ceiling to floor between use.

We obtained an English printout of winter hiking paths from the tourist office and set out on the walk from Samnaun village to Val Motnaida. This trail leads through the woods and above the valley; the views are incredible, the view point above Val Motnaida just a bonus. I loved this walk (3.5 miles, 1:50 return), and we were blessed with blue sky and sunshine, perfect for photos. This track is also a toboggan run, but we had it to ourselves.

Back in town we explored some more, me loving Samnaun, which struck me as a smaller, gentler Zermatt with considerably more shopping.

We settled in for lunch on the terrace of Chasa Montana, but it was just too cold for alfresco dining once the sun dipped, so we moved indoors; excellent choice this, nice ambiance, massive menu, delicious food (51 CHF two pizzas and drinks, yes, pizza AGAIN).

We next walked the one mile Pargrond Fairytale Trail through the woods, alongside a meadow and then back to the village (via yet another ski piste).

Samnaun was quite busy now, lots of skiers zipping through the village, Christmas shoppers, and people just generally wandering about. The clouds moved in; we were glad we’d gotten an early start. We’d shown considerable restraint in the duty-free shops, buying only an assortment of liqueur-filled Lindt bars; Bill had been tempted by the scotch, but decided against it.

It began to snow as we left. I sat directly behind the bus driver, treated to some hair-raising views of the deep emptiness below, seemingly mere inches from the tires of the bus. Freaky. Ingo was right again, Samnaun was definitely worth the drive alone.

It’d been another great day, back to our digs in Scuol to chill.

To be continued...
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Old Feb 4th, 2014, 09:17 AM
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Schuler - good to hear from you! Cheers!

Melnq8 - Glad you enjoyed the day in Samnaun. Now imagine driving that road up yourself Every time I go to the Engadine I don't miss the detour to Samnaun, and if only for the cheap gas. I occasionally buy a bottle of whisky, cigars or perfume as gifts. Don't know about butter taxes, but did you noticed the price for butter in Switzerland? Made me gasp!

More pictures, please!
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Old Feb 4th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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I didn't notice the price of butter while we were there Ingo, but I've since found some references online to 'a cartel making butter too expensive in Switzerland'.

I think I'll leave that drive to Samnaun to the professionals, especially as my winter-mountain-right-side driving skills are a bit rusty after living in AUS.

More photos coming shortly.
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Old Feb 4th, 2014, 03:25 PM
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December 15: Navigating an Iceweg

Taking more Ingo advice, we’d set today aside for Hof Zuort. We didn’t know it at the time, but Hof Zuort is Switzerland’s most remote historic hotel; it’s located in the center of an alpine triangle consisting of Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

We caught the 8:30 am bus to Ramosch Fermada, where, thankfully, a small post bus was waiting at the foot of yet another steep hill to take us the remaining ~5 km to the tiny village perched above, Vna.

Vna lies in a remote side valley of the Lower Engadine and is home to some ~70 inhabitants, most of whom seemed to be hiding. It’s definitely not a place we’d have stumbled upon by accident.

We wandered through the village and located the track to Griosch and Hof Zuort, seeing only two people, a woman waiting for the sun to crest the mountains for photographs and a woman walking a horse through the village.

As we worked our way along the snow-free wanderweg we encountered the woman with the horse again, walking in the opposite direction. We reached the turnoff to Hof Zuort sooner than expected, so we continued walking straight ahead towards the settlement of Griosch, but turned back before we reached it. As we turned off the main track onto the trail that led to Hof Zuort we immediately encountered some serious ice, it was more than a bit treacherous, even with our Yak Trax. It was a very pretty walk though, leading through forest and alongside frozen waterfalls. We saw the woman and horse a third time; learning later that she’s an employee of the hotel; she walks their two horses up and down the track three days a week.

We settled in on the terrace of Hof Zuort, tucked into sheep skin chair warmers, bathed in sunshine and surrounded by incredible views. It was just the two of us and the hotel staff; our waitress a lovely young woman from Germany. We dallied over Irish coffees before moving on to salad and the best barley soup of the trip, followed by apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce (78 CHF, excellent). We enquired about the track to Val Sinestra, but were told it was closed.

The fickle winter sun disappeared behind a mountain, leaving us cold; it was time to move on. We were taken into the chapel for a brief look around and then led to the rear of the hotel, where our waitress showed us an alternate route back to Vna, via a snow-filled meadow and the settlement of Griosch. We picked our way uphill through the snow and rejoined the track, the mountains directly in front of us, me stopping for photos every other minute. Back on the track again we stepped up our pace, hoping to get to Vna in time for the 3 pm bus, but missing it by three minutes. We spent the next hour exploring what little there was to explore of this pungent little village (and I captured one of my favorite photos of the trip).

Back in Scuol, we visited Mund Art for drinks (30 CHF, incredible Irish coffee!) and made one final trudge up the hill to our apartment.

Some photos from our time in the Lower Engadine:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8/...7639541710016/

To be continued...
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Old Feb 4th, 2014, 10:22 PM
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more fabulous pics, melnq8. it's surprising that more people don't go to this area in the winter, given how lovely it is, but i suppose that they are all skiing or trudging around the Wengen/Grindelwald/Muerren triangle.

keep it coming...
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