The passengers on the train from Chur to Bever thought New Zealanders Justine and Chris Tyerman were crazy. But the Kiwi couple blended in well among the other outdoor fanatics at the trendy, three-star, hyper-modern Bever Lodge, Switzerland’s first hotel built using an innovative modular wooden construction technique.
My limited German came in incredibly handy on the day we set out by train from Chur to Bever Lodge in the high Engadine Valley. I recognised the word ‘spät’ which means late, something that seldom happens with Swiss trains.
But the ‘drei Minuten zu spät‘ or ‘three minutes late‘ meant we could catch an earlier train to our destination and spend more time in this spectacular mountain region in the canton of Grisons (Graubünden).
Joel at the Rhaetian Railway office in Chur had promised the trip, a UNESCO World-heritage-listed section of the world-famous Glacier Express, would be thrilling but I wasn’t prepared to be quite so flabbergasted by the landscape.
Never sat down
We never actually sat down in our seats but stayed at the back of the carriage by the door where I could open the windows to take photos without disturbing the other passengers. The countryside flickered past my eyes like the frames of an old-fashioned movie, only in glorious technicolour.
We spent the entire two-hour trip leaping from one side of the carriage to the other frantically trying to capture the vertiginously-high viaducts, deep gorges, swirling rivers, turquoise lakes, castle ruins, glorious autumn colours, bright blue skies, majestic mountain peaks and impressive hydro-electric dams.
The highlight was the staggering 65m-high, 136m-long, six-span Landwasser Viaduct between Tiefencastel and Filisur. I nearly fell out of the train window trying to get the perfect shot!
There is, however, a serious downside to Swiss train travel. You can’t relax, read, sleep, work or even go to the bathroom for fear of missing out another astonishing stretch of countryside. The passengers in the carriage next door thought we were crazy.
Bever Lodge conveniently located
Bever Lodge is ideally located for those travelling by train or bus – it’s directly across the road from the Bever railway station with a bus stop right out in front.
Having spent the last few weeks in stately old hotels and resorts with centuries of history, it was refreshing and exciting to stay at this near-new establishment, Switzerland’s first hotel built using an innovative modular wooden construction technique. The components were all prefabricated and then assembled on site.
The trendy, three-star hyper-modern lodge opened two years ago and is already a big hit with hikers, bikers and families who are seeking close-to-nature, active, outdoor holidays rather than a life of leisure and luxury.
Our kind of place
You get a feel for the healthy, sporty vibe of the place as soon as you arrive – there are mountain bikes parked outside, cyclists taking a break in the sunny courtyard or ‘Sunset Lounge’ and hikers with backpacks and walking sticks heading for the mountains. It’s our kind of place. We felt right at home.
The location has the added advantage of being just 15 minutes from world-famous St. Moritz if you do want a taste of glitz and glam – but without the eye-watering price-tag.
When we checked in, the very efficient and knowledgeable Andrea at reception gave us excellent instructions about the best hikes to do in the area and issued us with cards providing free use of all the buses and mountain transport.
Our spacious, cleverly-designed room was sturdily constructed with pale larch wood-panelled walls and flooring giving it a light, clean, airy, modern look. The lovely tiled bathroom – and one of the best showers I’ve ever experienced – was concealed behind frosted glass decorated with a mountain motif.
The floor-to-ceiling windows and doors opened up to allow fresh air to circulate and gave the effect of a balcony but without being outside the room. The view of the Engadine Valley ablaze with autumn colours was mesmerising. In the foreground, stood graceful dwellings with ornately-decorated plaster walls.
With plenty of storage space, a flat-screen television, free wifi and an app with all the activities of the area, we lacked for nothing.
Practical, well thought-out, aesthetically-pleasing, welcoming and exceptionally comfortable, we felt relaxed and at home in our surroundings.
A gym, sauna, massage studio, relaxation and meditation rooms and an all-important well-equipped cycle, ski and snowboard repair workshop were located on the ground floor.
Bever Lodge buzzing
When we arrived home after hiking in the mountains, Bever Lodge was buzzing with rosy-cheeked guests, fresh from another happy day in the ‘Great Outdoors’.
We lounged in the sauna before feasting on pumpkin soup with chilli and coconut, Engadine capuns, pulled pork, Thai curry and tasty Bever Lodge Burgers with country fries.
The restaurant was always busy but we were well looked after by Matt, the charming, friendly chef-de-service. After dinner, we sat by the fire in the cosy lounge before collapsing into our super-comfortable beds.
Each morning, the grass was clothed in silver from early frosts and clear skies promised perfect autumn hiking conditions. We could hear the tinkling of cow bells in the distance and the rumble of an early train coming down the valley.
Refreshed after a deep, restful sleep, we were always hyped-up and ready for another day in the mountains.
Breakfasts at Bever Lodge were hearty and healthy. The array of fresh fruit, yoghurt, muesli, juices, cold meats, cheese, bread and pastries was mouth-watering, with a chef on hand to cook omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon and tomatoes for those who wanted something more substantial.
Bever Lodge the perfect base
Managing directors and hosts Marco and Johanna Zeller said Bever Lodge is proving very popular with bikers, hikers and families looking for an active holiday in one of the country’s most beautiful regions without having to pay a fortune. We were there in late autumn and the 41 rooms were nearly all full.
The lodge is the perfect base for summer and winter sports, and Marco and Johanna, who know every corner of the Engadine, take delight in sharing their secret spots with guests.
In the winter there’s limitless scope for alpine skiing and snowboarding, snow-shoeing, winter hiking, cross-country skiing and tobogganing, and in the summer there’s a vast network of hiking and biking trails right on the doorstep.
The lodge also prides itself on an in-house bike coach with personal touring suggestions and insider tips, not to mention a lockable, video-monitored bike room, workshop and spares. And they throw in a free laundry service for biking and hiking clothes.
Marathon runners and athletes train here too, taking advantage of the Engadine Valley’s 1700m altitude and dry alpine climate with 322 days of sunshine every year. Swiss athletes trained here nearly 50 years ago for the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
Great deals for cost-conscious holiday-makers
The lodge has some great deals for cost-conscious holiday-makers.
In winter, if you stay at Bever Lodge longer than one night you can buy the Hotel Ski Pass for 38 Swiss Francs ($56NZ) a day – for instance, if you stay five days, you can book the pass for five days. That’s roughly half the price of the average lift pass in New Zealand. And for this you can access 350km of perfectly-groomed pistes, three snow parks, 56 mountain lifts and 34 mountain restaurants. There’s also a free ski bus on the doorstep and a train station across the road.
And in spring, summer and autumn, a similar deal applies. Guests who stay at the lodge for two nights or more get free use of public transport, funiculars and cablecars.
From 190 Swiss Francs for a double room, ($275 NZ) Bever Lodge is comparable if not cheaper than hotel accommodation on the fringes of New Zealand’s top holiday resorts. Excellent value for money.
Who says Switzerland is expensive!
Via Maistra 32
7502 Bevers / Switzerland