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Switzerland Trip Report - Engadine, Val Bregaglia and Valposchiavo

Switzerland Trip Report - Engadine, Val Bregaglia and Valposchiavo

Sep 16th, 2002, 11:42 AM
  #1  
Ingo
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Switzerland Trip Report - Engadine, Val Bregaglia and Valposchiavo

For those who are interested in the Swiss Alps, here is a trip report (as promised) about my Engadine vacation September 7 to 14. A week ahead I booked an apartment in Silvaplana (28 m2) and got a last minute rate: 283 Sfr. per week. A short note in advance: I like to use the local names of mountains, villages etc. Piz = Peak, Val = Valley.

Saturday, Sept 7. I drove via Munich, Garmisch, Fernpass, Landeck to the Swiss border. As usual I did a detour to Samnaun for cheap gas and some duty-free shopping. The road is adventurous: narrow, windy, with some one-way tunnels. It is a funny drive, though. Back down in the Inn valley I continued via Martina (Swiss border) to Scuol. As usual I had a short break in this beautiful village to get some mineral water from the public fountains. From Scuol it is still an hour driving to the Upper Engadine. I enjoyed the drive because of the fantastic scenery and the sunny weather.

I stopped at COOP in St. Moritz to buy some typical Swiss food: dried meat, Salsiz (salami), cheese etc., not to forget some chocolate! I also stopped at the railway station to purchase a Graubünden regional pass (140 SFr.): 3 days free travel, 7 days 50 % reduction on the fares (railway, postal bus, Engadine bus, cable cars).

Silvaplana is a small village, located between the lakes of Champfer and Silvaplana 6 km away from St. Moritz on the foot of the Julier Pass road. I had stayed at the apartment house before, so I knew that the apartments to the front side (with great views of Piz Corvatsch) are quite noisy. Luckily an apartment to the back side was available! After parking the car in the underground garage and unpacking I walked down to the lake and enjoyed watching the surfers.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:43 AM
  #2  
Ingo
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Sunday, Sept 8. A cloudy morning, but fortunately no rain. I planned to go to Val Fex. Because of the weather forecast (rain) I decided to do only a short hike. I took the bus to Sils – Furtschellas, from there the cable car. I hiked from the cable car top station (2312 m) via Marmore (2199 m, splendid views of Lake Sils and Val Fex with the glaciers in the background) to Val Fex.

I reached the valley floor at the hamlet Fex Curtins (1973 m). From there it is only a few steps to the Hotel Fex. Time to enjoy a barley soup (“Bündner Gerstensuppe”) in the cosy “Stüva”. Surprisingly some guests started singing and yodeling – a perfect atmosphere. For the way to Sils I chose the path on the left side of the creek, winding through a beautiful larch wood. 30 minutes later I arrived at the small hamlet Fex Crasta (1951 m). I did not miss to pay a visit to the old little church with its cemetery – an intimate locality. And, as usual, I had a break at the Pension Fex to have a piece of the delicious blueberry cake and a cappuccino. The sun peeked through the clouds and gave me the opportunity to take some nice photos.

An hour later I arrived in Sils. I visited the Nietzsche Museum and strolled through the village. By accident I entered the church - and luckily found a seat to enjoy the weekly classical concert. Back by bus to Silvaplana.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:44 AM
  #3  
Ingo
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Monday, Sept 9. The weather forecast: Rain in the southern Alps, still sunny (“Föhn”) in the northern Alps. So I decided to do an excursion to Scuol in the Lower Engadine, hoping that it would be far enough in the north. I calculated the fares and came to the conclusion that it had to be the first of the free days of the Regional Pass.

I arrived in Scuol (1290 m) by train at 10:26 am and took the gondola to Motta Naluns (2142 m). It took me about an hour (too scenic, I had to take photos and soak up the views while sitting on benches next to Swiss Pine trees) to walk to Prui (2068 m), a cosy mountain restaurant with sunny terrace. Time for a hot chocolate. Then down to Ftan (1633 m) by chair-lift. From my earlier visits I knew the fantastic food served at Hotel Engiadina (12 Pts. Gault Millau). Exactly what I needed at this time. I found a seat on the sunny terrace and enjoyed a fantastic lunch with salad, deer and dessert for 36 Sfr.! The Postal bus took me back to the railway station from where I took another Postal bus to Tarasp (1402 m). I walked up to the picturesque hamlet Sparsels (1450 m). Unfortunately the café/terrace of Schlosshotel Chaste was closed, so I walked back to the Postal bus stop. In the meantime the sky turned from blue to dark grey. There was still enough time to visit the Baroque church of Tarasp and to have an nut cake plus cappuccino in the “Stüva” of Hotel Tarasp. Back by bus to the railway station, by train to St. Moritz and bus to Silvaplana.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:48 AM
  #4  
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Tuesday, Sept 10. Paying regard to the weather forecast I planned an excursion to Soglio. Starting with dark clouds in Silvaplana the sky turned blue after passing the Maloja Pass. The road from Maloja (1815 m) down to the Val Bregaglia is spectacular with its countless hairpin curves.

I left the Postal bus at Stampa (994 m) and walked the “Sentiero storico” via the hamlet Coltura (with picturesque castle “Palazzo Castelmur”) up to Soglio. A short detour to the church San Pietro with a painting by Augusto Giacometti was very enjoyable. Later the path turn into a steep stairway. Lots of shy lizards enjoyed the warm sun on the stones. The higher I got, the more scenic the views became. Finally Soglio (1097 m) came into view. This quaint village is settled on a sunny terrace 400 meters above the valley floor. I strolled through the narrow lanes. Finally every visitor arrives at the four Baroque Palazzi Salis, of which Casa Battista is a hotel for about 100 years. Its Baroque garden is a MUST. I enjoyed a delicious salad with sliced deer and mushrooms. I spent another hour sightseeing and shopping (chestnut “marroni” jam) in the village. The ride by Postal bus through the chestnut forest down to Promontogno (821 m, change for Postal bus back to Silvaplana) was again very enjoyable.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:50 AM
  #5  
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Wednesday, Sept 11. After a rainy night with snow down to 2800 m I decided to head for a southern valley again: by Bernina Express train to Valposchiavo. I planned to hike from Viano (1281 m) via Alpe San Romerio (1735 m) to Poschiavo (1021 m).

The bus took me to Pontresina (1775 m), where I went aboard the Bernina Express train. The weather was on my side; only a few clouds. After passing Hotel Morteratsch (1896 m) Piz Bernina (4049 m) and the Morteratsch glacier dominated the scenery. A short while later the train stopped at the Diavolezza cable car station (2093m). The landscape became more rough; almost no trees, two lakes with glaciers and Piz Cambrena (3604 m) above. At the station Ospizio Bernina (2253 m) the train reached the highest point. Only a few minutes later the first views of Valposchiavo came into sight. The train winded down via Alp Grüm (2091 m) with gorgeous views of a bluish lake, Piz Palü (3905 m) and its glacier, Cavaglia (1693 m) and Cadera down to the valley floor to the little town Poschiavo (1021 m). Most impressive were the views of the green valley and the blue Lake Poschiavo. The Bernina Express train went on via Le Prese along the beautiful Lake Poschiavo, Miralago to Brusio (821 m).

I left the train at Brusio, where I took a Postal mini bus to the village Viano (1281 m). The narrow and windy road with countless hairpin curves was adventurous! I felt hungry and strolled through the nice (but not comparable to Soglio or Guarda) little village looking for a restaurant. Finally I found one with extremely friendly staff and had salad, risotto with mushrooms and 2 dl of the inevitable red wine. I realised that it was too late for my hike, so I took the next bus down to Brusio and hopped on the next train to Tirano/Italy (408 m). I had seen the well known pilgrim church before, so I turned toward the old centre of the town. I found it to be rather shabby and IMO it lacks of charming atmosphere. Not worth a visit IMO. Unfriendly people in addition.

So I hurried to catch the next train back home. I left it in Le Prese, where I enjoyed a cappuccino on the wonderful terrace (right on the lake) of the Hotel Le Prese, before I hopped on the next train back home. After passing the Bernina Pass I realised that Valposchiavo was the right decision for this day; dark clouds bustled up in the Engadine.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:50 AM
  #6  
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Thursday, Sept 12. Still clouds in the early morning. However, I decided to hike in the Val Roseg. The free shuttle bus took me to the Corvatsch cable car station in Silvaplana-Surlej (1890 m). Since the Regional Pass gave me a reduction of 50 % I decided to take both sections of the cable car to Piz Corvatsch (3303 m). 400 metres above the valley floor the cable car broke through the clouds – pure sun. Although I had been on top of Piz Corvatsch many times before in both summer and winter I did not regret the expense – the views were gorgeous again. The glacier was covered by fresh snow and glistened in the sun. I took the cable car back to the middle station Murtel (2702 m), from where I hiked – rather walked - to Fuorcla Surlej (2755 m, mountain hut).

I enjoyed a barley soup and some red wine on the sunny terrace with breathtaking views of the famous mountains and glaciers: Piz Bernina, Piz Scerscen (3971 m), Piz Roseg (3963 m), Tschierva glacier etc. I hiked toward the Coaz mountain hut (2610 m), but did not go all the way to the hut. I took the path down via Margun da l’Alp Ota (2257 m) to the Hotel Roseggletscher (1999 m) – all the time with gorgeous views as from Fuorcla Surlej plus the Roseg glacier with its lake and the mountains above.

Hotel Roseggletscher is famous for its dessert/cake buffet. It is indeed delicious but IMO overpriced. So I decided to hop on the horse-drawn carriage, which took me to the Pontresina railway station. Still enough time to have a cappuccino at Hanselmann’s café in St. Moritz!
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:51 AM
  #7  
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Friday, Sept 13. Sunny, but quite cold in the morning (3 C). A great hike was planned for the final day: from Muottas Muragl via Segantini hut to Alp Languard. The third of the free days of the Regional Pass saved a lot of money for me.

The bus took me to Punt Muragl (1735 m), from where the funicular to Muottas Muragl (2453 m) starts. A lot of people had the same idea … The hike from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard is very popular, but most people do the easier version via Unterer Schafberg. However, 30 minutes later I reached the top station and enjoyed the beautiful views of the many lakes, mountains and glaciers. I hiked to the Val Muragl (2368 m), and arrived at the Segantini hut (2731 m) after mastering a steep ascent with countless hairpin curves. Very exhausting! The friendly hut-keepers told me that they carry all the food etc. themselves by foot up to the hut … sometimes twice a day. I had an excellent minestrone, sausages, bread and a piece of cake with a cup of tea there. Needless to say that the views were breathtaking.

The descent down to Alp Languard (2326 m) was a little adventurous; steep and partly a little slippery. A nice surprise then at the Alp Languard restaurant: two locals played Alphorn. The chair-lift took me down to Pontresina (1805 m). I revisited the old Romanesque-Gothic church above the village to see the famous frescos again. After a stroll through the village with lots of beautiful old houses in local style I had a delicious nut cake and cappuccino at Kochendörfer’s Hotel Albris. Back by bus to Silvaplana.
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:52 AM
  #8  
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Saturday, Sept 14. Time to say goodbye, but not w/o revisiting the beautiful village Guarda (1653 m) in the Lower Engadine. It’s a 45 minutes drive from Silvaplana, right on the route back home to Germany. I spent about 2 hours there, strolling through the narrow streets which are paved with cobblestones. I made inquiries for accommodation for the future and found several options. Finally I enjoyed an excellent lunch in the garden (with stunning views) of Hotel Meisser.

Eight hours later I was at home. Writing this trip report might help me to overcome my post trip blues – I wish I could go back immediately.

Happy travels to all!

Ingo
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 04:11 PM
  #9  
Judi
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Thank you very much, Ingo. You are a wealth of information!

I am leaving for Switzerland in eight days and this has added fuel to the fire!
I have printed it and put it with my "stuff". I am staying three nights in Pontresina so will have time to follow some of your paths. Well, for the food anyway. ;-)
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:37 PM
  #10  
xxx
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Ingo - all I can say is: hats-off to a salivating, descriptive report. I've done much of the same itinerary: hiked above Sils Maria in the Val Fex (is the Hotel Fex the same as the Hotel Sonne? It was somewhere near Chasta if I'm right...); I actually made it up to the Piz Chuen, then down along the upper valley toward Furtschellas. Then of course the Alp Languard - Muottas Muragl route near Pontresina; would say the lower route option is great for going toward Alp Languard, since you constantly have the snow-capped Alps in front of you. And reaching the Segantini Hütte was an absolute pleasure, not just for the warm soup, but to share some respite with all the other walkers and hikers at a very simple, rustic location.

Anyone who goes to the region MUST make it to the Fuorclaz Surlej outlook; the panorama is "in-your-face", including from the Piz Paluz to the Biancograt. I had a tea and soup at the restaurant/hut on top, will always remember the large, golden sun ornament hanging over the doorway, it was the true embodiment of all the positive vibes you get when you're in the Alps. Can also recommend walking along the upper valley from there toward Furtschellas, with a constant view of the Engadine Valley that will knock your socks off.

I latched onto a sight-see of the lower Morteratsch glacier (between Pontresina and Bernina), can recommend this to anyone who wants some education about glaciers. We walked right up to the glacier's "tongue", as I like to call it, the end of line for an incredible expanse of ice, rock, dirt and snow. And we learned all about the "Pioneerblumen", the small and colorful Alpine flowers that sprout up at a glacier's end...

Have got to make it once to Soglio, have heard too much about it not to head there.

Anyway, hope your efforts at "promoting" the Engadine will lead to more readers taking the trip, because they will not be disappointed!
 
Sep 16th, 2002, 11:47 PM
  #11  
xxx
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Judi - if you get this message before you leave: if you're looking for a hotel, can highly recommend the Hotel La Collina (4-star), it sits very slightly above the town, a matter of 50 meters from the main street. The service, food, rooms are excellent. Almost stayed at the Sporthotel in the middle of town, but the Collina is smaller and has more charm. Suggest you avoid 5-star "trendy" hotels like the Hotel Sarratz - it's interesting to visit once, for the reception area etc., but the rooms are very coldly decorated, and, moreover, having eaten there in their high-ceiling dining room, the food was very good but the service was the absolute pits (disorganized; lacking attention; brusque...).

Anyway, have a great time. P.S. After going for walks, hiking or biking, take advantage of the local indoor swimming pool - it was the perfect way to relax muscles at the end of the day
 
Sep 17th, 2002, 01:38 AM
  #12  
Jan
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Ingo,
Great trip report. It defintely made me want to go back. Is the lower hike from Muottas Muragl to Alplangard good for children? How far is it and what kind of altitude gain does it have?

I agree about your observations about Poschiavo. I found it interesting to see the contrast between the architecture in Valposchiavo and the Lower Engadine. Also, totally agree with Tirano. I found it a definite miss! Not worth the time.
Cheers and here's to planning your next trip!
Jan
 
Sep 17th, 2002, 04:41 AM
  #13  
s
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Ingo,

My heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your tremendous trip report! Your descriptions of the food are so very enticing (!!) and your images of the views and hikes are nothing less than breathtaking. I know it’ll take me the rest of my life to know all the best corners of Switzerland in such intimate detail, but I’m sure the effort will be worth it! Thanks for the inspiring post.

By the way, on one of your last posts on the SG thread you said you may be willing to post your photos, and I wonder if you’ve tried cartogra.com (I’ve used them) or igougo.com? Although the latter doesn’t allow a whole lot of room for text and photos (500 words & four photos per chapter I think), you can easily break down your trip into many chapters to give full details. Anyway, it’s a thought.

I hope you have an easy week at work because I know you’ll be preoccupied with visions of Engadin dancing in your head!!

Great thanks again!

s
 
Sep 17th, 2002, 08:58 AM
  #14  
xxx
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Judi - Ingo may know the exact altitudes, but if I remember correctly, going from Muottas M. to Alp Languard has a very slight downhill tendency (it's probably at around 2'300 meters altitude or so). If you aren't used to being "high" up, there may be an initial, short "acclimation" to the drop of the landscape falling away to your right down to Pontresina, but after a few minutes or so it shouldn't be a big deal (it's nothing like experiencing vertigo. The higher route to the Segantini Hütte may take a bit more of a stomach at times...).
 
Sep 17th, 2002, 01:15 PM
  #15  
Ingo
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xxx: nice to meet another fan of the Engadine!

Hotel Fex is not the same as Hotel Sonne. Hotel Sonne is located right beside the little church in the hamlet Fex Crasta. Hotel Fex is about 30 min toward the glaciers – the last bigger building in the valley, a few meters away from the hamlet Fex Curtins. I did the hike via Piz Chüern before (via Lake Sgrischus) – what a wonderful panoramic view from the top of this relatively low mountain!

Fuorcla Surlej is indeed a must. But as I described, the views are still getting better if you are hiking into the Roseg valley toward the Coaz mountain hut. In addition of Piz Bernina, Piz Scerscen, Piz Roseg etc. the Roseg glacier with Piz Sella, Piz Glüschaint etc. come into sight.

I am not sure about the path to the tongue of the Morteratsch glacier. I did a hike to the Boval hut via Chünetta a couple of years ago – always beside the glacier. Very enjoyable, but quite exhausting, though.

Jan, the lower hike from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard is rather a promenade walk than a hike – very good for children. There is no altitude gain. You start at 2453 m (Muottas Muragl) and arrive at 2326 m (Alp L.). Almost no ascents, mostly slightly down.

S, thanks for your appreciation and for your good advice. I tried cartogra.com and am working furiously on an album. I already posted some pictures there. I will post on the SG – thread after the work is done, but you might want to have a short look at the album before. Do a search for Engadine.

Have a nice week!

Ingo
 
Sep 17th, 2002, 01:27 PM
  #16  
Ingo
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hm, a search on "Engadine" doesn't work. You better search for a member with name "german_"+ my username on the other forum.

I.
 
Sep 18th, 2002, 12:00 AM
  #17  
xxx
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Just a tip for Judy or anyone else, who may be looking for more information on the Engadine on the internet: one of the best travel sites in my opinion is www.engadinferien.ch. Believe you can switch it to English as well...

 
Sep 18th, 2002, 01:09 PM
  #18  
Judi
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Ingo, I just saw your fabulous photos at cartoga.com. I haven't even left yet and I realize I will have to return one day soon! I may opt for exploring towns rather than hiking while in Pontresina.

The photos of Tirano looked rather gloomy. Would you suggest that I get off the Bernina Express at Valposchiavo instead and have lunch there before returning to Pontresina? Or do you have another suggestion?

xxx, thank you for your tips as well.
 
Sep 18th, 2002, 04:50 PM
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jw
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Hi. Only have a minute, but I took a quick look at your photographs at cartogra.com, Ingo, and they are wonderful. I can hardly wait for the weekend to come so I can spend more time in a virtual visit. I have to ask what kind of camera you use, because the pattern of cool light and shadows is just the kind of imagery I wish I could capture when I take pictures, but never do. Later, y'all. J.
 
Sep 19th, 2002, 12:34 AM
  #20  
Ingo
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I am glad to hear you enjoyed the photos. I am working on a second album with name: Engadine vacation 2002 – the landscape. Hopefully it will be completed till weekend.

Judi, wait till you see the landscape pictures! You will switch your choice to hike instead of exploring towns.

You will definitely not miss a lot if not going to Tirano. I suggest you get off the Bernina Express at Poschiavo, which is a nice little town. Stroll along the narrow cobbled streets and have a lunch, maybe at the well known Hotel Suisse. Café Semadeni on the main square has great icecream J. Have a look at the churches (one has a “Beinhaus”, don’t know the English word, with stacked up skulls) and the quarter which locals built up after their return from emigration to Spain. A few minutes walk south of Poschiavo you find the Baroque church Sta. Maria with a great fresco inside (key at the little nearby convent if not open). My recommendation is to return to the railway station and take one of the frequent trains to Le Prese. You saw my photos of the terrace of Hotel Le Prese right on the lake – the perfect place to enjoy a café and relax. I am assuming there are rowboat to rent.

Jw, as mentioned I hope you can have a look at the landscape, too, at the weekend.

I recently bought a digital camera, a Panasonic DMC-LC 40 with a Leica lens. The pictures are made with a middle quality and a size of approx. 40 x 52 cm. For posting on cartogra I had to downsize them because of long download time – you can imagine how they look like in real size on my screen! I must admit that fall is a great time to take photos – even because of the pattern of cool light and shadows. You probably don’t achieve such results in summer (June), when the sun is high on the sky (or you take pictures in the morning/evening).

Because of the work on the photo albums the posting of the detailed trip report on the SG – thread will take a week or two.

Ingo
 

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