Make Tracks to Bergun, Switzerland

We’re very, very pleased to have Anne from www.worldismycuttlefish.com contributing to the website. On her latest round of globetrotting she’s just spent some time in Bergun, Switzerland, and shares her insights. Thank you Anne!

It goes like this:

Child: Are we there yet?

Adult: Yes, we’re at the… (Insert over-the-top adjective and appropriate landmark here e.g. “unsurpassed Landwasser Viaduct”.)

A few seconds pass while the child gawps with delight at the stunning sight you have laid on for them.

As the interest wanes and they start to eye off their sibling with a view to annihilation, mental or physical, you step in with: This is the highest-altitude trans-Alpine line in Europe and has one of the steepest gradients in the world without the use of rack and pinion technology. (Feel free to use your own words here.) This is one of only three railways in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If, at any stage, that starts to wear thin (or repetitive) for either of you, introduce the game played by all Western Australian children when they go to Europe. It’s called ‘See If You Can Hold Your Breath All the Way Through the Tunnel’. This is an old WA classic dating from before 2000 when we had no tunnels of our own. If your children don’t pass out on the floor (so that when they wake up they really are there), they’ll be engrossed with checking ahead for tunnels and watching each other for surreptitious breathing. By the way, there are fifty-five tunnels from Thusis, Switzerland, through Bergun to Tirano, Italy. Need I say more? Well, yes – there are 196 bridges and countless waterfalls. Your children can count them, name them and calculate the volume of water going over or under them in a year/month/day/hour/minute/second… 

So let’s assume you arrive at Bergun with everyone and their tempers still intact; where will you stay? There are several places available. I can speak knowledgeably about one and second-handedly about another.

The Kurhaus (think ‘cure house’, think Art Nouveau) is a stately hotel near the railway station. Recently, on my second visit, well-behaved children scampered up and down the stairs, had fun in the playground (flying fox, elevated walk), played pool in the damesalon (an intriguing game that involved lying on the table) and were absorbed in board games and boxes of building toys supplied by the hotel. The staff here are exceptionally friendly and helpful.

A friend of mine stayed with his family in an apartment in the Reka village. Reka is a non-profit cooperative with holiday accommodation dotted around Switzerland. It was set up 1939 in the changing climate just prior to WWII with “the aim of promoting holidays and leisure, in particular for families.” Today, as well as providing family-oriented holiday venues, it assists needy families who might not otherwise be able to afford a holiday.

Reka village adds to the train culture of the area with two of its own. One is a carriage converted into a play area and the other runs on these tracks:

I saw enough toy ride-on tractors lined up outside reception to bring in the harvest of the entire canton of Graubunden. There’s also a general playground, mini-golf and an indoor swimming pool. As my friend noted, sometimes children just want to play near their accommodation and not go traipsing around the countryside chasing down experiences. Parents, you get to play too. Reka provides free, once-a-week babysitting from 5 – 8pm.

If you do want experiences, there’s plenty to do in and around the town. Laze by the pool. Visit the family-run cheese ‘factory’ behind the Spar grocery store. Check out the local museum on the main street for a large model of the rail line between Bergun and Preda. The comprehensive Albula Railway Museum is at the train station.

 There are a number of water troughs in the town. Your children may enjoy the challenge of finding them and their construction dates. If they’re lucky, they may find them strewn with flowers.

And on the subject of finding stuff, see if your children can spy the little people on the window shutters in the main street.

The sgraffiti (from the Italian word graffiare, “to scratch”) will delight too. Perhaps it will inspire a project for home. 

Walks, of course, abound. The Bergüner Holzweg (Wooden Way, suitable for prams) that begins over the river features carved gnomes and activity stations (as well as a smelly pen of goats). Take your lunch to the top of the hill – barbecue facilities and wood are supplied. Keep your eyes open for the black and russet squirrels in the lower reaches of the forest.

  The hike to Preda, the next town up the valley, is 7km of SCENERY (and I mean those capitals) with trains winding in and out. My husband and I took two and a half hours up but a lot of that was due to the lure of the photo. Friends did it in two hours with fewer of these breaks. With children, the walk down may be more appealing.

Once in Preda, continue out of town to Lake Palpuogna, the spot declared Switzerland’s prettiest in a recent poll of a television audience. Round trip about 1¾ hours.

How one would choose a best spot in such a country is beyond me. My Kurhaus host suggested that the lake walks near Albula Pass, whilst not accessible by public transport (the train is underground at that point) would give this one a run for its money.

Or just jump on things like trains (a series of spiralling railway tunnels means you survey Bergun from three different altitudes on your way to Preda), the chairlift (a five minute walk from town) or a scooter or toboggan from Preda. Six kilometres and a 400m drop in altitude makes this Europe’s longest floodlit sledging run. Bring on winter! 

Whatever the season, Bergun has much to offer and is a handy stepping-off point for nearby towns.

If you’re not there yet, it’s time to book a seat.

Anne is a writer learning to photograph on the run. She started her blog, The World Is My Cuttlefish, as a way to keep her family abreast of her travels. It quickly morphed into a celebration of life, the universe and oatmeal. Original, fun, and funky, Anne’s blog is one to follow. Thanks so much, Ms Cuttlefish!

6 thoughts on “Make Tracks to Bergun, Switzerland

  1. Pingback: Wanna Write for FNFF? | Field Notes From Fatherhood

  2. Pingback: Make Tracks to Bergun | The World is My Cuttlefish

  3. Anne, thanks so much for this great post and beautiful pictures. Our two-year-old is a train fanatic, and I have been wanting to go back to Switzerland for ages. Bergun is now officially on my list of future family vacation destinations!

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  4. I love the trick you used in the first part of this post as a distraction-ary technique. In fact, I often use it on Daughter. However, my plan failed last year when, in the most bizzare turn of events, the only thing she would tell anyone about our trip was when, “We stopped at the FABULOUS Piggly Wiggly!!!” If I had known what a feature that would be, I wouldn’t have booked a poolside room at the hotel!

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