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Although the alpine Canton Graubünden is well known to European travellers, it's often overlooked by overseas visitors. All too often our guests rush through our scenic and diverse canton by train without taking the time to see and experience more of this diverse region.
Most of you might have heard of the two famous trains - Bernina Express and Glacier Express. You might even know that Graubünden is the fictional home of Heidi. Perhaps you've heard rumors of sparkly St. Moritz and the ski resorts of Klosters-Davos and Arosa.
Honestly though, Graubünden has much more to offer than snobbish ski resorts and famous train excursions.
Graubünden was always a region of transit. Each Valley presents a different facet of the cantons diversity. People, goods and ideas circulate here since time immemorial and have left its mark in form of languages, uncountable dialects, customs and habits, culture and architecture.
Graubünden is a canton of contrasts in all aspects; various different languages and sub languages require concessions. Everybody belongs to some degree to a minority: Originally, the valleys were inhabited by the Raeti (Celtic origins). The German speaking Walser, member of an alpine tribe that migrated in the 13th century from the canton of Wallis mingle with the Romans that brought their own culture with them in 15 BC and from which the Romansh and Italian speaking population originates. People live in mundane ski resorts or isolated nooks and to get along with each other, compromises are necessary.
Graubünden (in German) is the only Swiss Canton where three of our four official languages are spoken (and varieties of dialects in all three languages, I might add): The name in Italian is "Cantone dei Grigioni" or "Chantun Grischun" in Romansh. If these are all tongue breakers for you, try the French version: Grisons.
The free-spirited people of Graubünden are first and foremost "Bündner"(meaning people coming from Graubünden, and I am one of them :)). We are fiercely independent; some would call us stubborn. We don't always see eye to eye with the rest of Switzerland, and we might need a little more time adapting to new technologies. But when we do, we tend to become leaders.
Just take the proposal of building railroads. Skeptics feared noise and pollution would interfere with their idyllic life and scare their cows to death. Once resistance broke, they went on to building the World's largest and cleanest narrow gauge railway system - the Rhaetian Railway, our beloved RhB. Sections of it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in 2008.
And since I am ad it, electricity was somewhat seen as evil's work. Little did these backwoods experts know that Graubünden would become Switzerland's largest supplier of clean water energy!
We might be a little rough around the edges. And our humour might be a tad unconventional. Who else but Graubünden can come up with some of the weirdest advertising campaigns without offending our guests?
Graubünden is first and foremost an outdoor arena for winter and summer sports. Whether you want to climb craggy mountains, wander along ancient routes and gurgling streams, hike in the history rich landscape and through lush larch forests, visit our diverse towns and villages or just hang out in thermal bathes, experience living traditions and eat yourself through local dishes - I promise you plenty of "I-can't-quite-believe-this" moments.
Just off the bat, not all regions below are "politically correct". I merged a few to make it easier for you to navigate and find them. I hope Flims can forgive me for taking them out of "Imboden" and adding them to the "Surselva", for example.
Graubünden's gateway is the wine growing region and its capital Chur:
Despite the immediate proximity to the world famous ski destinations Klosters and Davos, the Prättigau Valley hardly ever makes it into travel guides. You'll have serious bragging rights upon returning home:
The Surselva consists of four remote valleys that spread out from the medieval town of Ilanz. Flims belongs to the neighbouring region but fits perfectly into a visit with the Surselva:
From the city of Chur, the Plessur region leads through the Schanfigg to Arosa or via Churwalden toLenzerheide. Arosa and Lenzerheide are connected through hiking- and biking tails in summer and it's a fabulous ski region in winter:
2000 years of alpine transit has left its marks in this region. One Nature Park, four valleys and two cultures with intact village and unique churches:
Merchants and pioneers have used these alpine routes over the passes Albula and Julier since time immemorial:
You'll be greeted in Romansh and Italian. This region will accelerate your heart beat - in the best of ways:
While most have heard of mundane St. Moritz, I'd rather guide you to more beautiful areas:
The Mosea valley connects Graubünden with the Canton Ticino via San Bernardino Pass, a rugged beauty on an ancient route:
Well, food is not a region but it's almost a universe on its own. Even our dishes are a bit different and an adventure in itself. Many specialties can only be found here, and they vary from region to region:
On a map, Graubünden has a similar shape like Switzerland itself and is tucked away on the top of the south-eastern corner.
The canton borders Liechtenstein, Austria, and Italy - and shares cantonal borders with Ticino, Uri, Glarus, and St. Gallen.
Motorways lead to Chur (and beyond) from all parts of Switzerland and the rest of Europe:
You don't have to walk over hill and dale to happiness and mountain bliss. Public transport brings you to the most exciting destinations.
Graubünden's climate is as varied as its landscape, languages, culture, and cuisine. Due to the Alpine location and the average altitude of more than 1000 meters above sea level (3280 ft.), winter lasts far into April with still excellent winter sport conditions until Easter. You can enjoy Magnolia flowering trees in the southern valleys and go skiing in the Alps on the same day.
It's beautiful in every season, except maybe November until mid-December. These months can be weather-wise neither here nor there with too much rain and not enough snow. Of course, being an Alpine Region, snow can sprinkle alpine areas pretty much anytime of the year though it tends to disappear quickly as soon as the sun brings out her shining glory in summer.
Graubünden lies in the Southern Alps and is influenced by the Mediterranean climate. Winter is exceptionally beautiful with more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Switzerland (sun-wise we compete with the Canton Valais).
Dry, clear autumn days are beautiful to wander through the extensive chestnut forests in the southernmost valleys. When green leaves turn to crimson shades and the larches to a yellowy orange glow under a steel blue sky, then it's definitely time to lace up the boots and go hiking.
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