Streets and Sweets of Chur
Each time my family or friends visit us here in Switzerland, we love to find the most Swiss experiences for them. We stroll around charming villages like Appenzell and Stein-am-Rhine, we take in the (accurately stereotyped) gorgeous landscapes, eat locally and wave hi to the cows. My parents are getting to know quite a bit of Switzerland, and on previous trips of theirs, have discovered the best cappuccino in Locarno, onions (and confetti) in Bern and my favorite region, the Engadine. With a day of hiking in the mountains rained out, what to do?
We hopped on a train and headed for Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city (called Curia Raetorum in the time of the Romans). I knew no matter what, there would be charm, history, culture and some good eats. Taking trains in Switzerland is always part of the experience, gazing out the window at the most perfectly green rolling hills, dotted with cows, sheep and little chalets. Churches, monasteries or castle ruins perched atop mountains always amaze me. It’s tempting to take pictures, but a tree, train line or window reflection inevitably covers the entire thing. Best to just sit back and enjoy.
Chur (pronounced koor) is just over an hour from Zürich in the canton of Graubünden, and turned out to be a great place to walk around for a few hours, simply admiring the architecture, the incredible medieval structures and the pristine churches. All of this set against the mountains – and we had many a photo opportunity, at just about every step!
Winding around the old town, up and down narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll see tons of options for restaurants boasting their local specialties, including Bünderfleisch (rectangular, paper thin slices of air-dried beef), Bünder Gertensuppe (barley soup with vegetables), and capuns (Swiss chard leaves stuffed with meat and cheese). There are also many gelaterias for such a small area, not to mention a Giolito stand, which is truly divine gelato – I recommend the stracciatella. I love kitchen stores, with tons of gadgets and accessories and Kuchilada was a real find. Plenty of objects I don’t see in similar shops in Zürich, fun and colorful serving trays, cappuccino stencils and the cutest stainless steel corn cob holders and cocktail skewers by German company, Horgi. A fantastic shop. Looking for a cutting board in the shape of a cow, goat, sheep or pig? This is the place.
And of course my sweet radar went off a few times too…
In just about every bakery and pastry shop window, we saw the traditional Bündner Nusstorte (shortbread-like crust with a chewy walnut caramel filling) and the Alpenstadt-Torte. The latter comes in a large box emblazoned with the region’s famous wild mountain goat, the ibex, overlooking the Alps. A soft sponge cake predominantly made of nuts and a touch of cherries, was coated in sweet, caramelized nuts. Many places sell the slices, but I chose to get mine at Café Confiserie Maron, where even the cut sides of the individual slices are coated in those sweet nuts too. The other house specialty at Maron is Bündner Steinböcke, gianduja-filled chocolates in the shape of the ibex, or capricorn in Romamsch, the local language. The iconic animal’s long, saber-shaped horn also makes an appearance as Capricorn-Brot, which was created just last year and that I found at Bühler’s Zuckerbäckerei am Obertor. A wholesome bread made with 100% organic Grison grains, including wheat, barley and rye flour, also comes in mini versions, called “Capricörnli.” I love that -li ending, such a Swiss German touch.
I also simply love discovering traditional specialties, and it seems as though we will never run out of charming villages in this country to visit. Swiss storybook towns, artisans proud of their creations and locals loyal to their favorites. I’m ready for the next sweet adventure…
My Chur Address Book:
Café Confiserie Maron
Merz Bäckerei Confiserie
Bühler’s Zuckerbäckerei am Obertor
Untere Gasse 32
Obere Gasse 23
Evviva Gelateria Artigianale Italiana
Untere Gasse 11