Why is that woman crying? those lunching at the top of Muottas Muragl wondered. New Zealanders Justine and Chris Tyerman were awe-struck with the scenery in the high Engadin Valley.
The beautiful high Engadin Valley is a hiking paradise so soon after we had checked into our lovely, spacious modern suite at Bever Lodge, we were heading for the mountains with maps and a tourist information app in hand, courtesy of Andrea at the lodge reception desk.
She also gave us free public transport cards, a couple of walking sticks and two tubes of sunblock. Very thoughtful indeed.
With our magical free cards, we caught a bus outside Bever Lodge to the Punt Muragl valley station and enjoyed a thrilling trip up the mountain to Muottas Muragl in the historic 1907 funicular, the oldest in Graubünden.
Basking in the warm autumn sunshine drinking chilled rosé at 2454 metres surrounded by magnificent mountains, lakes and glaciers brought tears of joy to my eyes and made my heart soar. I was awe-struck… lost for words. Perhaps it was the altitude. Our fellow lunchers were bemused at the tears.
We could see four or five lakes sparkling like a row of sapphires strung on the necklace of the Inn River, and the stunning snow-covered Bernina Massif and the Morteratsch Glacier.
Below us, hang gliders were taking off with whoops of excitement and hikers were beaming with joie de vivre on a perfect day in the Swiss Alps.
One of the world’s most beautiful walking tracks
We didn’t think life could get much better – but then we set off on the 7km panorama trail, one of the most beautiful walking tracks on the planet. The path took us around the side of Schafberg mountain, through larch woodlands and across mountain streams beneath the towering peaks of Piz Muralg (3157m) and Piz Languard (3262m).
Hikers sitting outside an alpine hut built of grey stone waved out to us. Their heavy packs suggested they had done a trek far more arduous than ours. Our path was mainly downhill which was a blessing because at this altitude, even the slightest climb had us puffing.
We stopped midway for refreshments at the picturesque little Unterer Schafberg mainly for the sheer novelty of coming across a restaurant on a mountain hiking track, a rarity in our home country, New Zealand.
By the time we reached Alp Languard two and a half hours later, it was late afternoon and the air was starting to chill so we caught a chairlift down to Pontresina and a train back to Bever Lodge. The station is just across the road from the lodge. So easy, so Swiss… and free.
St. Moritz the ultimate in elegance
Although we were blissfully happy in our own idyllic Engadin paradise, a visit to nearby St. Moritz was a must – especially when we discovered the card Andrea issued to us on check-in at Bever Lodge also gave us free use of all the cablecars, buses, funiculars and mountain railways in the world’s ritziest mountain resort.
The bus to St. Moritz took 15 minutes along the broad, sunny valley beside the pristine Inn River past the pretty villages of Samedan and Celerina and the historic Cresta toboggan track built in 1884.
The town is superbly positioned on the shores of Lake St. Moritz and completely encircled by mountains. It’s the ultimate in elegance with a host of boutique designer shops and grand old heritage buildings. Enough said. Volumes have been written about St. Moritz.
Reaching the summit of the highest peak, 3057m Piz Nair, was our aim for the day, a feat we achieved effortlessly by riding two funiculars and a giant cablecar.
This mode of transport may be commonplace for Swiss folk but for New Zealanders, it was an enormous thrill, especially gliding high above the near vertical start of FIS Alpine World Ski Championships downhill run called ‘Free Fall’.
The panorama from the summit was mind-boggling with a myriad of peaks clamouring for attention. Piz Nair, which towers above St. Moritz, was shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of other imposing peaks, all over 3000 metres. At this height we experienced mild altitude symptoms, a gentle rocking sensation like a small earthquake… even before our prosecco with lunch.
Fit-looking hikers were setting off in all directions while mountain bikers were launching themselves down precipitous, scary-looking tracks.
We lingered at the summit, knowing this was our last day in the alps. I even played in a patch of early snow, the last we would see until the southern winter.
After much discussion with locals and consulting of maps, we finally set off towards a lake far below us. The top of the track was rockier, narrower and steeper than it looked from above, and there were patches of snow and ice that kept us well and truly focused for a good 30-40 minutes.
But the vista was breath-taking and we made it down safely to the funicular station at Corviglia. Looking back up the mountain, we realised we had crossed an enormous rockfall that covered the entire face of Piz Nair.
We arrived back in Bevers in time to explore the idyllic little village with its pretty houses and tall-spired church – so tranquil and peaceful after bustling, self-important St. Moritz. Home to 700 people, many of the sturdy four to five-storey dwellings are decorated with exquisite Italian sgraffito art.
The ancient technique involves applying layers of coloured plaster to the walls then scratching patterns in it with iron tools. The designs around the windows and huge arched doorways, built in the old days to accommodate hay-wagons, depicted ibex, deer, elephants, horses and bears. It’s a tradition in the Swiss Engadin Valley, borrowed from nearby Italy.
The houses were built with small windows to limit heat loss, and deep sills that funnel the light and sunshine into the rooms.
We heard wonderful stories about the Fairytale Path that leads through the middle of the Val Bever to Spinas but the daylight faded before we could explore it. Created by local Engadin authors and sculptors, there are six stations depicting scenes from fairytales.
Next time we visit, we will walk the path. Locals say the fairies come alive… for those who believe in magic.
Justine and Chris Tyerman stayed at Bever Lodge in Bever, Switzerland