This weekend, Joern, Marcel, and I went to Switzerland to visit a friend Joern`s friend Fabio. Joern, Marcel, and Fabio all grew up together, and Fabio has recently moved. I think he is missing Neckartailfingen, and the Neckartailfingen gang is missing him.
So, Friday morning, Joern, Marcel, and I all piled in the car to go to work with Joern. Tee hee hee, I guess that`s really a perk of Joern`s job. His region extends all the way to the Swiss border. All Joern did was to plan to visit his customers lying along the border, and then continue on to Fabio.
The Swiss border with Germany lies along Lake Constance, which is a beautiful place in itself. The lake is quite large, and is bordered by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Looking back at Germany from the Swiss side of Lake Constance
Joern finished his workday around 3, and after Marcel bought out McDonald`s, we headed towards the border. After our passports were checked, we had to stop and buy our vignette, a sticker that shows you`ve paid the tax to drive on the Swiss autobahns. The great thing about Switzerland is that not long after entering the country, you are met with beautiful views of the Alps.
An hour from the border, Joern brought up the fact that we would be stopping at his favorite rest stop ever, Heidiland. No joke!
Turns out that Johanna Spyri actually set her famous story of Heidi in this certain area of the Swiss Alps. Obviously, some people in this area were quick to jump on the marketing bandwagon with Heidi, and now besides the Heidiland rest stop, there is a Heidi Village (Heididorf) inclusive of Heidi`s House, a "Heidi Experience" walking tour, and another "Heidi and Peter" experience. Wild! Of course, it was enough for us just to buy gas and go to the bathroom.
About an hour`s drive past Heidiland, we exited the Autobahn at Bivio, a medieval trading town, which is part of the canton (or county,) of Graubuenden. Graubunden is well known not only for a destination for winter sports enthusiasts, but also for a dried beef specialty. We saw many buildings along the narrow streets of Bivio that advertised this Grabuendener meat.
Beyond Bivio lay the Julier Pass, one of the steep winding streets that Europeans (Germans especially,) love to use to feel like a racecar driver flying through the Alps. A positive about a pass is that they provide much better views than the Autobahn. Of course, to reach St. Moritz, one must either be wealthy and fly a private jet in to the funny little airport, or use the Julier Pass. This road winds its way high into the Alps, and reaches 7, 494 ft. to look up towards the Bernina Massif, which is over 13,000 ft. tall. Beyond the Bernina Massif lies the Engadine Valley, home to St. Moritz and it`s surrounding villages.
We had to drive through St. Moritz to reach Fabio´s village of S-Chanf. I immediately fell in love with the wonderful city, with it´s beautiful hotels, and old European charm.
A 15 minute drive beyond St. Moritz, and we arrived in Chanf, town of 547 residents that is hidden among the beautifully high, snow-capped Alps. What immediately struck me about the area is that it is throughly Italian. The buildings look exactly like they do in Italy. And I know this sounds strange, but the rooves of homes in Italy are quite different from those in Germany, and in the Engadine Valley, they are completely Italian. The names of the people in this area are all Italian, and the lanugages spoken here are Romansch (an old Romance lanugage,) and Italian. This is where tiny Switzerland amazes me, because in a space the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, there are three distinct cultures, French, German, and Italian. Of course, if you could walk over the Alps, you would quickly be in Italy from St. Moritz, which would also explain this strong influence.
On Saturday morning, after Joern and Marcel had a debate over whether to buy ostrich eggs from the farm down the street for breakfast, Joern and I headed out to St. Moritz. Since I already had fallen in love on Friday, I was only in for a day in heaven by going back. St. Moritz lies among the Alps, on Lej da San Murezzan lake. The city rises up a mountain - side, and from the center, and the residential area above the center, one has remarkable views. It is really a winter town, home to the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics, and the last natural bobsled run in the world. In the summer, the town is very quiet, some bike riders and hikers bring a little life to the area, but nothing like in the winter. For me, it was perfect, as I adore going to towns off season, to see what they are really like.
First stop was to visit the grocery store, as this is one of our favorite ways to learn about a culture. Plus, bringing home food from another country is always an excellent way to enjoy your trip when you`re back home. We bought coffee, chocolate, and pre-packaged Rösti, which is like a pan-sized hash brown. After the grocery store, we walked down to the lake and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
We then drove up to the city center, which is up on a mountain. Much of the city center is under construction, average for the fact that the city springs to life in November. The city center reminds me of a very, very old 5th Avenue. Very old like medieval 5th Avenue. There is so much old- world charm surrounding Cartier, Prada, Gucci, and the like. We walked by to the famous hotel, Badrutt`s Palace, which has been catering to the international jet-set since the 1800s. The city center has such impressive views of the Alps, and oozes charm. I could have stayed forever.
In the afternoon, we went back to Fabio´s apartment to watch the soccer game, which ended in Stuttgart being crowned German champions! We headed home at 6:00, stopped at Heidiland, and were home by 11:00. What an amazing way to spend a weekend!!
You can see all the pictures from our trip at www.joernandallison.shutterfly.com