Davos: After the snow…

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Schatzalp Funicular Railway

Schatzalp Funicular Railway



A paradise for “walkers”

“It’s like getting our countryside back ” say some of the locals when Spring comes to Davos.
This has nothing to do with the World Economic Forum (Heads of State and heads of banks and so on) moving off but the fact that being permanently under snow creates a sameness across the Alps. But then the green foothills reappear and the cows with their incredibly clean velvety coats and bells are allowed out again to reclaim their high ground, well higher ground anyway! And so do the “walkers” – for some reason every bit of Swiss marketing literature refers to hiking and hikers, which implies “long arduous” walks. This is somewhat misleading because the combination of trains, buses and chair lifts and cable cars make Davos ideal “walking for softies”. In fact it’s very easy to walk all day without any uphill work and the country buses are as meticulously on time as the trains. As first time visitors to Switzerland, we thought our itinerary had been created by computer, unchecked by humans, as rail connections allowed less than five minutes per change – but every link worked, including the first at Zurich of two minutes: the next train was waiting 20 metres away on the same platform. So don’t get diverted by the smell of the hot dogs on the bratwurststands.

Davos is a paradise for walkers and, with trails linked to nearby Klosters, covers 700 km of paths all very efficiently signposted with time and distance information. Of the 80 suggested “hikes” in the tourism literature over half can be completed in less than two hours.

Davos and the Alps are great tonics for we who dwell in the smoke, Wandsworth in my case. After getting there in time for a late dinner, within half an hour the following morning one is swaying gently in an open chair lift with that combination of peace, quiet, order and mountain air that is ………. well, just so Swiss.

Silberberg Mine and Monstein

The whole area is full of attractive villages with no shortage of restaurants and cafés. One of many outings which can be described as: “chair lift up, walk along the top, then gently down” is a visit to the old mines at Silberberg. From 1447 silver had been sought, but they had to be content with lead until closure in 1848. The old workings can only be reached on foot or horseback and with typical Swiss efficiency they are lit with generators concealed in the woods. Of course, they also have camouflaged chemical toilet huts.

From Silberberg the walk continues down to picturesque Monstein with its micro brewery and a tasting of rather strong Swiss ale. Finally more gentle downhill walking to the Mining Museum and the railway station with a 20 minutes run to Davos.

Cars not required

There really is no need for a car in Switzerland. Trains cut through the mountains and across the valleys with precise timetables. Even the smallest hotels provide free station transfers. The Swiss Travel Pass allows for unlimited use of trains, buses and boats for any chosen number of days and luggage can be delivered straight to the hotel room.

Continental Europe seems to have gone cycling mad and in Davos there is every sort of facility including bikes delivered to one’s hotel, mountain bikes driven up the mountains on trailers and chair lifts with the side frame, used for skis, converted into bike carriers.

Lake Davos

Lake Davos

Down below Davos sits in along flat valley with its eponymous lake and it is hard to find a sport that is not represented among all the activities in their Summer programmes.


Schatzalp Hotel and Ernst Kirchner Museum

Hotel Schatzalp

Hotel Schatzalp

Some of the “must sees” on a short visit include the impressive Schatzalp Hotel (pictured) reached in four minutes from the town centre in a private funicular rail car. Completed in 1900, the art nouveau building was a world famous private TB sanatorium until conversion to hotel in 1954, and is well known from passages in Thomas Mann’s novel “The Magic Mountain”. The views are superb and the original south facing private hospital rooms, with balconies, are perfect for the hotel. The Schatzalp also owns a vast skiing area up the mountain behind the hotel. Essential to visit for a coffee or a cocktail or two on the terrace just above the gardens with it’s collection of 3,500 alpine plants.
Kirchner Museum

Kirchner Museum

There’s also plenty to satisfy the culture vultures with many concerts and an annual Young Musicians’ Festival every Summer. The Kirchner Museum is recommended. Completed in 1994 it has an extensive collection of work by Ernst Kirchner and other German “Expressionists” of the 1930’s all of whose work was banned by the Nazis. The Museum has visiting shows, workshops and in 2011 includes a special exhibition devoted to Emile Nole.


Downtown Davos

When the snow has gone downtown Davos is not as interesting during the day as the sum of its environs – it has a very good range of hotels to support events at the Congress Centre. It’s clearly a major conference centre but nothing as “special” as the World Economic Forum seemed to be going on. Well, it’s a hard act to follow.

Hotel Europe

Hotel Europe

But nightime is busy. We stayed at the Hotel Europe which is also the Casino and its late night piano bar is rated the best spot in Davos. Apparently it’s impossible to a get in during the World Forum, when some juicy indiscretions have been reported. Makes one ready for another bracing walk on the morrow!

Photographs by Anthony Lydekker

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