November 1st, 2005

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Autumn break in Scuol, Unter Engadin (Part 1)

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What a perfect place to have a few days break! We had an absolutely wonderful time in Scuol, the weather was gorgeous, the air was clean and fresh and the mountain views were truly stunning. Click here for the photos!

The train journey to Scuol took about 3 hours and passed through some fabulous countryside. We changed a couple of times, and most of the journey was on the Rhiatische Bahn affectionately called Der kleine Rote (the small red one!). The Unter Engadin (lower valley of the En) has only really been opened up to the outside world in the last 10 years or so with the train route. Before that, you had to drive and use the Vereina Tunnel. The Unter Engadin is on the edge of the Swiss National Park, and in fact the river En (also called the “Inn”) flows into Austria and Innsbruck.

Scuol (alt. 1200m) is the ‘capital’ of the Unter Engadin, and a centrepoint for the Rumantsch culture, and has always been a Spa – its proud of its healing waters. Scuol has a lower village (Scuol Sot) and upper village (Scuol Sura). The Upper village has more hotels and shops, whereas the lower village has the older, beautifully renovated houses. Scuol’s spa heritage is marked today by its many fountains, supplying clear fresh water to tourists and villagers! The whitewashed Engadine houses are really distinctive. They have deep, funnel windows, thick walls, “sgraffito” (traditional artwork scratched into the plaster, often heraldic in nature), rounded cellar doors, benches, and often in one case a sun dial!

Rumantsch is the fourth official language of Switzerland and spoken by 0.86% of the population (about 70,000), mostly in the canton of Graubuenden. It’s a member of the Romance family of languages, which developed from the vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman soldiers and administrators. It belongs to the same family as French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, and Romanian. To make matters more complicated Romantsch has five main dialects which differ greatly in their written and spoken form. Two of them have several sub-dialects…After a 5-year study of all these dialects an artificial uniform written language was launched in 1982 under the name Rumantsch Grischun (Grisons Romantsch). based on the dominant characteristics of the five dialects.

We learnt just one word “Allegra” – Hi! Very useful when walking in the moutains… Part 2 of our adventures to follow...
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Autumn break in Scuol, Unter Engadin (Part 2)

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Now that I’ve bored you, dear listener with the history and culture of Scuol, let me just rave about how beautiful it is! It has mountains on both sides of the valley. The air is so clear, and the strong mountain sunlight throws vivid shadows on the mountainside.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and took a wander round the village, taking lots of photos! The evening sun is quite extroadinary, the peaks of the mountains are bathed in a golden light. On Friday we wanted to take the cable car up the mountain and walk from there, however the cable car was closed. Instead we walked down the valley to the next village of Sent and when we got there we wanted to walk a bit further, so we got to the next village of Ramotsch. The footpaths are clearly signposted, and we walked along the moutainside, as well as through villages, and through pine forests. Wildlife seen? Cows and mountain goats! Total time about 4 hours. After our walk we relaxed our aching legs and feet in the Bogn Engiadina Spa. There were several different pools and jacuzzis; our favourite pool was outside, with a perfect view of the mountains.

We were planning to leave early Saturday morning, but the weather was just too wonderful, so we checked out and then went for another walk. This time we headed the opposite direction out of Scuol. We walked down to the river Em, past the old pump house (Kurhaus Tarasp) and then gradually walked up the mountain side, through pine forests until we’d climbed about 300 metres. At the river level it was frosty and cold, but by the time we reached the higher paths, the sun was strong and bright. We walked to the castle at Tarasp. On the opposite mountain side we saw the viaduct style railway bridge of the Rhiatische Bahn. Total walking time about an hour, and then we got the Post bus back to Scuol, down some alarming steep hairpin bends! Then back on the train to Zurich after a wonderful couple of days in the mountains! Click here for photos