Winter is creeping up on Europe and in most Northern Hemisphere countries that means powder season is approaching. Everybody needs snow time and Switzerland is one of the frontrunners for this type of vacation. On my visit, I started in Zurich and ended in the Swiss Alps – Davos and Klosters to be exact – and it was magical. I hope this post tempts you to pack your parka and go – the powder this season is just perfect! Ski season runs to late March (early April in some places) and aside from swishing down the slopes, there’s tons to do, from winter torch treks, ski safaris, fatbike rides, igloo building for kids, snow shoe adventures and more, plus there are exciting events coming up such as the annual Junior Ski championships in Klosters at the end of January.
My first time in the land of cheese and chocolate was in the winter of 1979 to compete in a ballet competition, the Prix de Lausanne in the city of the same name. In early spring, the weather shifts between crisp and sunny days to damp and chilly, each with its own appeal. We left Cape Town in 30 degree heat and flew directly into Zurich, landing at night in minus 12 temps. When I drew back the curtains the following morning the city was dusted in snow and it was oh-so-beautiful.
We eased out of the city and headed for Davos via train – the best was yet to come.
Davos & the World Economic Forum
Let me transport you to the beauty of Davos, (pronounced Dahvos), a ski resort of 13,000 people and the highest town in Europe at 1560m above sea level. It’s mostly famous for the annual World Economic Forum, when 2,500 suits stride in to to discuss pressing matters economical.
Toboggan run, Shatzalp
Davos is a magnet for those mad about doing and watching outdoor sports and activities. You name it, if it involves powder, you can do it in Davos. I had a go at tobogganing, down the SchatzAlp I’ll have you know, all 2.8km of it. Not for the fainthearted! I careened down the pass, managing not to collide with anyone or hurtle off the edge in spectacular fashion. My skinny sled came safely to a halt at Davos Platz and I alighted, a tad wobbly but with a mild air of self satisfaction that I’d actually accomplished it and survived in one piece.
Hiking and walking through gorgeous landscapes
We did two hikes, both led by the amazing Martin Accola from Davos Tourism. The first was from Davos to Sertig, an easy paced walk surrounded by eerily beautiful monochromatic scenery. It was icy cold that day and completely overcast with snow falling softly and black fir trees breaking the greyish white landscape with their spindly branches. What struck me was the silence…other than the soft crunch of our footsteps on the snow, there was absolute quiet, it was so surreal.
The second walk (pic below) was from Monbiel in Klosters, a village only twenty minutes by car from Davos, to Garfiun. The day dawned with perfection – bright sunshine, the snow blinding white and glittering and the surrounding mountain peaks were perfectly framed against a cloudless blue sky. A photographer’s paradise.
IMG_4795 a clip of the beautiful horse and carriage arriving at Alp Garfiun
Bavarian curling and yodelling are a thing
Skiing is a big deal in Switzerland but who knew Bavarian Curling was a thing? In a nutshell, you slide, with some force, a disc over the ice towards a puck on the opposite side. It’s a game that people between the ages of 30 and 60 love to play. Not quite my cup of schnapps, mostly because I’m really bad at it. Kudos to our patient instructor Heidi because in spite of her efforts I still didn’t have clue how the game works and got worse at it as we went along.
Swiss food & wine
I love discovering different cuisine so let’s talk about that. We ate at three excellent restaurants- Walserhuus in Sertig, Alp Garfiun in Garfiun and Alpenhof in Davos. At Alp Garfiun, I came across a table of ladies having a bit of a yodel on the verandah. Yes, that happened and it was hilarious. Oh, and let me not forget how amazing it was to have resident chef Reinhard Nanny from Somerset West come over and chat to us in Afrikaans! He introduced us to bundnerfleisch, air dried beef similar to biltong but not as dry, and wonderful cheese made nearby. Swiss food is influenced by French, Italian and German cuisine. Rösti, a traditional dish similar to hash browns, the size and shape of a small pancake, which I’ve never eaten before, believe it or not, that is often served with vegetables or bratwurst. Swiss wurst is uber popular, as is barley soup and a delish drink called Rivella. My good travelling companion Norman McFarlane described it best,“it is an amber drink, slightly effervescent, redolent of honeyed summer fruits”. Most menus I found to be quite carb heavy (banting has no place here) with not much variety, but then again I hail from one of the food capitals of the world and am so spoilt for choice in Cape Town. The cheese fondue at Alpenhof was divine, as was the limoncello that followed after the meal. If you don’t believe me, just ask Justin Fox how much he enjoyed it! I do love a good wine and the Davaz pinot noir didn’t disappoint. I also have a thing for craft beer and Monstien artisanal beer that is brewed in the mountains high above Davos, was a good choice.
Davos’ position in one of the most glorious settings in the Alps is a major drawcard. It’s clearly different things to different people – a romantic destination (think chalets, log fires, cheese fondues and red wine), and also a photographer’s dream, an outdoor paradise. It’s Nature at her finest, in show-off mode, a must-do travel moment. I can highly recommend winter and early spring in the Swiss Alps – utterly magical.
Back in Zurich en route home, the weather was divine. We explored the city, a beautifyl finale to an unforgettable week.
A few words to remember when in Switzerland, to impress the locals and show you’ve got good manners: Grüezi (hello), Widerluege (good bye), Merci vilmal (thanks a lot), en guete (have a nice meal).
Rail Europe tickets: via World Travel in JHB
Where to stay: Sunstar Hotel, Davos http://parkhotel-davos.sunstar.ch/
Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF). 16ZAR to 1CHF
Tobbogan hire at Schatzalpbahn: http://www.davos.ch/en/winter/mountains/tariffs-tickets/
Ski hire: http://www.snowbrainer.com
Clothing to take: beanies, alpine gloves, shoes & boots with soles suitable for ice and snow
Tourist info: http://www.davos.ch/en/
This trip was made possible by Edelweiss Air and Swiss Tourism- all opinions are my own
Widerluege, until next time!