The Essence Of Switzerland

Switzerland’s scenery is ridiculously beautiful, and, in many places, it tastes as good as it looks!
By Helen Hayes

Let’s face it. Switzerland is giddily glorious. Whether you are standing at the top of the Jungfrau summit, looking out the window of the Glacier Express train, admiring the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, or marvelling at the sheer size of the Matterhorn from the cobbled streets of Zermatt, you can’t help but feel headily drunk while drinking in the majesty before you. It is a salve for the soul, and with us all yearning to escape the confines of our suburb, city, state and country, the wide-open spaces and stunning landscapes of Switzerland are beckoning.

It’s time to taste the Alps

The idea of eating the scenery is not that far-fetched. High up in the Prättigau region in Graubünden canton, Alpine sea buckthorn grows in a tangle of vegetation. The bushes grow up to six metres high and a dedicated couple pluck them – branches and all – before taking them down the mountain on their two trusty donkeys, Fiona and Meli. 

The treasured fruit then finds its way to the kitchens of multiple award-winning restaurants, including Memories and Verve by Sven, at the historic and relaunched Grand Hotel Quellenhof at the luxe Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. The restaurants are helmed by a rising star of Swiss gastronomy, Sven Wassmer, who loves nothing more than to put ‘nature on a plate’. 

Wassmer is making a name for himself for reinventing Swiss Alpine cuisine by using ingredients like the Alpine sea buckthorn. He has described it as ‘the lemon of the mountains’, due to the fact it has a wonderful acidity and a ‘flowery, open flavour’. It is also rich in vitamins. Wassmer uses other Alpine ingredients, including fir cones, which he cooks in sugar and taste sweet like an apple. Going the extra yard to really know his ingredients helps him determine when to use them in his seasonal menus. Whatever he is doing, it is working. Verve by Sven has a Michelin Star, while Memories has two.

The historic Grand Hotel Quellenhof could tell a story or two about its famous guests.

Soak it up and love it

It is not just the restaurants that will have visitors starstruck, it is the location as well. The Grand Hotel Quellenhof is a true gem of Swiss hotel history, having opened its doors back in 1869. The Quellenhof has hosted a slew of celebrities, royals and dignitaries, most of whom came to enjoy the wellness experiences on offer, based around the thermal pools first discovered in the Tamina Gorge over 780 years ago. An easy one-hour hike from Bad Ragaz, the gorge is truly spectacular.

Did you know? The town of Maienfeld, in the Bündner Herrschaft wine region, is home of the much- loved children’s book Heidi.

Adventure is also on the table in the Prättigau region, whether in winter or summer. It is a wonderland of white in winter with skiers and snowboarders in their element at a number of excellent ski resorts including Davos Klosters, which is Prince Charles’s go-to ski playground. In the summer months, you can take to two legs or two wheels with many incredible trails to be discovered. One of the popular hiking trails is the 72km multi-day Prättigauer Höhenweg. It will take you to dizzying heights – 2257 metres – think ramrod cliffs, glorious gorges and valley views. 

Cyclists can ramp up the heart rate by tackling the Alp Valpun or opt for a more entertaining Culinary Bike Tour through the Bündner Herrschaft. This round-trip bike tour from Bad Ragaz is easy and will fill your cup with food, drink and picture-perfect views.

Enjoy a spectacular hike to Tamina Gorge from Bad Ragaz.

Till the cows come home

The Alpine traditions in these parts are strong. In summer, the mountainsides are transformed into a carpet of the lushest of green grass, with all of the happy cows, goats, sheep and horses grazing to their heart’s content. Prättigau produces a third of the cheeses in Graubünden – about 150,000kg worth. Yum – pass the crackers!

You can get a taste of the region’s cheeses at the Prättigau Alpine Festival, held in Seewis in autumn.
A highlight of this traditional festival is the Great Cattle Descent, when the farmers bring their cows – and goats – back from the alpine pastures. The cowbells clank and tinkle as the flower-decorated cows make their way down. It is a true carnival atmosphere that culminates in alpine and speciality markets, cheese tasting, a cattle show, and the main attraction – the coronation of the Queen of the Alps. This is not a human Queen, but a bovine one. 

So, let’s get mooving to Switzerland!

More info for you...


Switzerland Tourism

Memories or Verve by Sven

Bad Ragaz Resort

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