The Quintessential Swiss Mt. Village (with a whole lot of wood!)
On a recent weekend getaway with my husband to a small Alpine village in Switzerland’s southeastern region of Graubünden, I realized three things:
1. You can never take enough photos of flower boxes, old stone water fountains and crooked timber houses
2. I am obsessed with the way the Swiss keep their wood
3. You could spend a lifetime trying to visit every picturesque village in Switzerland
Off to Splügen we went, about two hours from Zürich, south of Chur. In the Rheinwald (Rhine Valley, not really a forest), it’s a village that has seemingly not aged over the past few centuries (minus the one television in the entire village we finally found, in order to watch Swiss tennis icon, Roger Federer, play at the Olympics).
Our home for the weekend was the Alte Herberge Weiss Kreuz, sitting atop the village, its white stone facade drawing your eye away from the rest of the dominating, dark timber structures and slate roof houses. A legendary address in the area, dating back to the early 14th century, the Weiss Kreuz received praise in 2002 for its “extremely careful restoration and historic preservation of an old mule-track inn.” (It was destroyed in a fire in 1716 and rebuilt soon thereafter, but the most recent renovations began in 2000.)
The only ones without hiking boots outside of our door, we realized it is now a rather popular rest stop for hikers in the region, which is well known for various hiking trails and the Splügen Pass, marking the Italian border. (We’ll return to the hotel in the future for those trails for sure, simply when I’m not 8 months pregnant.) The Weiss Kreuz had an expertly mix of original wooden structures, stark white stone, gray slate, vaults, a cave-like bar and discreet modern design touches all throughout. Traditional, charming and refined.
Back to my aforementioned obsession with wood… Talk about Swiss precision ! I was simply captivated by how every single house in this village had the most neatly arranged (and impressively large) stacks of wood. What some Swiss children may see as a chore, I saw as a piece of art.
Even though the sun sadly didn’t join us for the weekend, and our hopes for a picnic in the mountains remained unfruitful, the gray (and pouring rain) added a certain mystique to this peaceful, medieval setting.
The lack of picnics had us pleasantly surprised, discovering the auberge’s restaurant, with a menu listing only the most typical, local dishes of the area: Bündner Gerstensuppe (hearty barley soup), capuns (meat-stuffed chard leaves) and Bündnerfleisch (dark red air-dried beef). And there were still treats to be enjoyed on the train and bus rides, including Splügen’s local cheeses and dense breads. A small dairy sits at the entrance to the village below, its shelves packed with local specialties – butters, yogurts, grains and more. And you will not be at a loss for options of where to buy your slice of Bündner Nusstorte. Every bakery puts its own personal touch on this dense, caramel nut tart, mostly associated with the Engadine region. We got ours warm off the baking racks (below) at Bäckerei Winker, with just the right amount of buttery tart crust and sweet walnut filling.
With a tart so dense, it’s no wonder everyone is off hiking for hours…
My Splügen Addressbook
Alte Herberge Weiss Kreuz (part of Swiss Historic Hotels)
(at the very top of the village)
Bäckerei Winker (bakery)
Sennerei Splügen (dairy)
(look for the Milch sign at the bottom of the village)