What I remember most of my childhood days in the Prättgau Valley is the smell of fresh air on crisp summer mornings just before the sun rose above the Silvretta range. Still sleepy eyed that distinct freshness woke me up irrevocably, and there was instantly that comforting thought that all was good.
The Prättigau Valley is where I grew up, took my first steps in the dead of winter, went to school and was happy, explored every nook and cranny in the surrounding areas of my home, chased squirrels and collected hazelnuts, berries, herbs for tea and learned about mushrooms. We walked through the woods, played hide and seek and I still smell the unmistakable scent of damp moss and fragrant fir needles when I think of these wonderful days. I skied the slopes and sled the roads. I fought with kids and bonded with others and these friendships flourish to this day. And while I don't live there anymore, almost all of my family does.
Whenever I "go home" I take to the trails. When time permits, I even walk from village to village to visit relatives. When I told my father that he had to eat lunch by himself because I would visit Chur with my niece, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and a smirk on his lips and said: "You walk?"
That would have taken me probably two days but it shows how nuts I am about walking. He never understood it. Why walk when more than one car was parked in front of the house! What's more, driving me anywhere I wished would have given him a good excuse to grip the steering wheel. "Let's go for coffee" was an excuse for him to hit the road. Two hours later and we'd arrive in some remote corner in a small restaurant and sipped that promised brew.
But it really wasn't about drinking coffee for him; it was about driving and seeing what had changed since he had been on the road the last time. He even managed to lure his sister into such adventures. Once he met her while she was grocery shopping for lunch in the village. He invited her for coffee and stepped on the gas. The road trip took them via Davos, Lenzerheide and Chur. Three hours later they were back home in the Prättigau Valley. That was before cell phones and her husband already had searched the neighborhood for her whereabouts.
But I digress.
The oldest records of inhabitants in the Prättigau stem from the year 15 BC when the Roman legions conquered the Raetia and settled next to the Celtic tribes. Graves and two churches that were excavated on the "Chrea" field in Schiers show that Christianity was practiced as early as in the 6th or possibly the 5th century.
A new Germanic group of people from the Canton Valais called Walser immigrated in the 12th and 13th centuries. They strongly influenced the way of farming, the economy, the style of architecture, the formation of character and their language had a lasting effect. Our Walser dialect differs quite a bit from the dialect spoken in the rest of Graubünden.
That glimpse into the past explains the triple heritage we carry: Celtic fighting spirit, Roman alertness, and Germanic rationality.
The often overlooked Prättigau is tucked away in a side valley to the Rhine and lies between Landquart and Klosters. At the beginning of the valley is a narrow canyon called Klus and when one emerges from the tunnel, the valley begins to up and widens more the closer one gets to Klosters, a holiday resort for over 100 years.
Many mountain streams join the river Landquart that cuts its path from the Silvretta range and its glacier through the Prättigau to Landquart where it joins the Rhine. The Rätikon range with its high rock faces that resemble the Dolomites builds the natural border with Austria. Its grey limestone is a vivid contrast to the lush green meadows and forests. The gneiss, amphibolite and mica slate of the Silvretta massif adds its own mountain magic to the colourful mix.
The traffic conditions were very primitive until the Klus gorge was opened in 1863 and the road was built to Klosters, Davos and beyond. Unlike the Rhine Valleys, the Prättigau was never a famous transit route. The small trails might have been romantic but they were a disaster in the years of hunger during the 18th century. In the absence of carriage roads, food and merchandise had to be transported with pack animals and porters over mule paths and the almost impassible Rätikon range to Austria and back. At that time it was easier to transport goods over the mountain passes instead through the valley and the almost impenetrable Klus gorge.
Therefore, tourism arrived late in the Prättigau and only caught on when the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) connected Landquart with Klosters in 1889. Klosters peaked in the 50s of the last century when the famous including royals discovered the quaint village for themselves and coined the name "Hollywood on the Rocks".
Apart from the hustle and bustle of the ski resorts Klosters and Davos, life in the heart of the Prättigau Valley remains pretty much the way it always was. Everyone is busy with themselves - works on the farm, the field, tends to the garden or leaves home in the morning for work and returns at night.
Most of the visitors rush through the Prättigau Valley and few stop to linger longer. This is an advantage for all those who are in search of tranquility and recuperation, who want to rid themselves of their watches and forget the stress of daily life, enjoy the unique Walser culture and connect with the locals.
To find and experience the magic and beauty of the Valley and its villages you have to meander off the main transit route or leave the train behind and explore the side valleys by postal bus. You will be regaled with a magnificent mountain world, remote villages and wonderful panoramic views.
We were regaled with an impressive landscape and pure alpine air. Our diverse and rich culture is another plus. The Prättigau is full of fascinating myths and legends. The Silvretta range and the impressive high alpine valley Veraina take their names from two wild beauties that possessed magical powers and lived in a cave at the foot of the Silvretta glacier. There are rumors of man-eaters, legends of witches, abducted alpine dairymen now wandering as ghosts through remote alpine meadows, smarter than human creatures living in the forests or you might even meet the "Wildmannli", a legendary and wild cowherd. One you will not meet is the devil. He and prankster "Eulenspiegel" often visited but since there was not much to do for Luzi Fehr (Lucifer), both came up with all kinds of weird bets to kill time. The devil always lost and so he left the Prättigau Valley in anger, never to return.
It is tranquil in the mountain villages. Often, the only sounds you will hear are the church bells, the mooing of the cows and the ringing of their bells, the roaring of a wild brook or the thundering of a storm and the occasional sound of music from an impromptu open air gathering on an Alp.
The old farmer plays his bass with high enthusiasm :-)
In late spring you will walk through fields with intense blue gentians, narcissi and a variety of alpine flowers that spread out over the meadows like carpets. Later and higher up, red alpine rose bushes and lisianthus flourish and Edelweiss thrive in crannies and nooks of the rock faces. You can munch on bilberries and mountain cranberries while wandering over alpine meadows. You will share the paths with snow grouse and marmots and observe chamois and ibex on rock cliffs.
Following a few of my personal recommendations:
There are charming B&Bs and holiday apartments in almost every village; romantic mountain lodges for nature lovers, small hotels and Agro-tourism options. Here's a page you can search for accommodation by entering the village name you decide to stay.
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