Justine Tyerman finds thunderstorms addictive at the Alpina Mountain Resort & Spa in Tschiertschen.
The Alpina Tschiertschen – an impressive landmark
High on a sunny, elevated terrace above the village of Tschiertschen in the Swiss canton of Graubünden/Grisons, the white, five-storey Alpina Mountain Resort & Spa with its traditional gables and balconies is an impressive landmark.
The recently-renovated historic hotel, established in 1897, offers four-star service with 27 rooms and suites, two restaurants, stylish wine and cocktail bars, a cigar lounge, library and spa zone.
Our bright, sunny balcony suite on the top floor of the hotel had a large, super-comfortable bed with fluffy down duvets and soft pillows, a lounge-sitting area with a couch, coffee machine, modern bathroom with a separate toilet, shower enclosure and vanity well-stocked with the Alpina’s own fragrant toiletries, a skylight window, flat screen TV, and free wifi.
Balcony my favourite place
I loved the warm hues of the pine walls and oak floors. But my favourite place was the balcony. I was spellbound by the breath-taking view of the Schanfigg Valley, the magnificent Bündner Alps and the exquisite little village of Tschiertschen with its steep narrow streets, sun-blackened chalets and barns, window boxes with brightly-coloured flowers and graceful stone church.
Nearby was the bottom station of the ski-lift. I could just picture the scene in winter with the landscape blanketed in glistening white snow.
A welcome card and fresh fruit from managers Michael and Marlies Gehring was a thoughtful touch along with a choice of pillows – on the menu were cherry stone, millet, pinewood, feathers or synthetic fibre balls. I enjoyed reading Marlies’ tips of the day especially her advice on how to sleep better and the health benefits of yoghurt, linseed oil and drinking lots of water.
As a historophile, it was heart-warming to see how well the herringbone parquet floor, chandeliers, wood panelling and plastered ceilings of the Alpina’s La Belle Époque dining room had been restored. Even the mirror above the piano is in the same position as it was in 1897, perfectly placed to reflect the hands of the pianist.
The Panorama Restaurant has also been renovated in keeping with the Golden Era of the 1920s. The outside terrace has spectacular views of the valley and mountains.
The cosy Alpina Bar has original wood panelled walls and floors while an intimate wine bar, the Alpina Vinothek, has been installed in the old vaulted cellars. There’s also a library and cigar lounge.
Shan Spa outstanding
The outstanding new Shan Spa (Shan is Chinese for ‘mountain nature’) offers pure relaxation, pampering and indulgence, the perfect place to relax, destress and unwind. Facilities include an outdoor Jacuzzi, a smorgasbord of saunas, a Kneipp basin and a range of massages, beauty treatments and Asian health applications.
My husband Chris is a sauna fan so he sampled all four. The Finnish sauna has hot, dry air to enhance circulation and stimulate the blood supply to your muscles. The eucalyptus of the steam bath benefits the respiratory system, skin and hair. The bio-sauna offers essential herbal aromas to purify, and warmth to revitalise the body. And the infra-red sauna is especially recommended for muscle spasms, joint pain, general fatigue and for those who do not tolerate intense heat and high humidity in a sauna. He emerged refreshed, rejuvenated and re-energised.
Via Mala a highlight
A highlight for me was the unique sensory shower experience of the Via Mala thunderstorm path with hot and cold mist, a storm with huge rain drops, bird song and stars, and a deluge of hot water with cool mist. I did it several times. It was quite addictive.
I also enjoyed the Kneipp basin where I sat on a warm stone bench and trod water in a stone tub which stimulated my circulation and arterial blood supply. Apparently it’s a great way to prevent varicose veins… so I’ll need to keep coming back.
But at the end of a day hiking in the mountains, I loved nothing better than lying in the warmth of the Jacuzzi, relaxing on the bubble lounger, and breathing in the fresh, sweet alpine air.
One evening, we were treated to a shared Asian dinner prepared by the Alpina’s highly-talented Chinese chef Tony Leung. We dined in the elegant La Belle Époque restaurant, the hotel’s historic dining room with its original parquet floor and chandeliers.
Tony’s Asian dishes were delicious and our charming waiters Eran and Jamina looked after us exceedingly well. On the menu were chicken soup with glass noodles, Sze-chuan beef, Thai chicken curry, sweet and sour shrimps, Asian vegetables with tofu, wild rice and fried rice noodles with vegetables, and lychees and icecream for dessert. I never tire of those fresh Asian flavours. The wines were delectable too. We were thoroughly spoiled.
Next evening, after relaxing in the sauna and drinks in the bar, we dined in the scenic Panorama Restaurant overlooking the valley and mountains. High above us on the dark horizon, we could see the twinkling lights of the restaurant at the top of Hörnli where we had lunched that day.
With a strong penchant for spicy cuisine, we had another of Tony’s fabulous Asian dishes, Thai curry with cod and jasmin rice, served with a flourish by Eran who again looked after us splendidly. There was even a ‘Welcome Tyerman family’ heart-shaped stone on our table. The staff were so warm and friendly, it felt like we were part of a family.
Breakfast at the Alpina was also a gastronomic highlight with a delicious array of mueslis, fresh fruit, yoghurts, cheese, cold meats, salads, juices and the best bread and pastries I’ve ever tasted. And a cooked breakfast for those who prefer something substantial – like my husband.
Sleeping under the stars
At night, we slept with starlight shining through the skylight above our bed, and awoke to the sound of tinkling cowbells and church bells.
In the mornings, I wrapped myself in a warm blanket and opened the doors to our balcony to watch the sunrise. Nowhere is the freshness of the new day so sweet as in the mountains. The sun was slow to show itself on our side of the valley, sliding tantalisingly just below the ridge, casting hazy golden beams and long shadows across the little village.
Suddenly, Tschiertschen was illuminated in dazzling light and the colours were blindingly bright. The church spire shone in the morning sun and the pastures were vividly green and as smooth as an iced cake. How do they mow the grass on such steep slopes? I wondered.
Later in the day, sitting alone on the top of a grassy knoll below the hotel gazing at the valley, mountains and village, I gave into a strong urge I had suppressed since I arrived. I was so happy I yodelled… just quietly.
The Alpina Mountain Resort & Spa
7064 Tschiertschen / Switzerland
The Alpina Mountain Resort & Spa is a member of the Romantik Hotels & Restaurants International, a group of more than 200 establishments in 10 European countries. ‘The distinguishing characteristics of tradition, history, quality and warm hospitality combined with excellent cuisine, authentic local roots and tangible history unite the owner-run hotels, creating an exclusive collection to delight even the most discerning guests.’