Origin of the Spa Culture in St. Moritz

The spa culture of St. Moritz has a long tradition, it reaches back to 1400 BC.

In 1853, the Mauritius mineral spring catchment gets a renovation and at the same time, a prehistoric spring catchment got found and it got renovated in 1907.

This spring catchment was built in 1412 BC in the Bronze Age out of one hollowed larch trunk, but didn’t work properly, so some months later two larch wood trunks (see drawing below: A&B) were put over the mineral spring and got secured with a massive double wood box.  The “old” larch trunk was left there but filled woth stones. See the lowest drawing for how it must have looked like with the two big trunks, covered by a roof.

The “old” larch trunk (right hand side), above it, crotches to lift buckets full of water.

You can see this spectacular catchment in the Forum Paracelsus in St. Moritz Bad, near Ovaverva and Heilbad Medical Centre. There is a very interesting exhibition about the catchment, including pictures of all centuries about the mineral spring and even a fountain, where you can drink the of famous mineral spring.

This well is Europe-wide the oldest and at the same time the best preserved prehistoric building made of wood for the oldest known, highest-located mineral spring.

There were findings in the larch wood trunks of the Bronze Age: Three swords, a dagger and a needle. It is pure speculation if they are offerings or just fell somehow into the well.

Here you can see how big the construction was:

Paracelsus (see picture below) visits St. Moritz in 1535 and is excited about the mineral spring. He describes it as the “acetosum fontale”, sour fountain, and writes about its healing effects in two of his literary works.

This is a turning point in the history of St. Moritz. Thanks also to him, St. Moritz turns (over a longer time period of course) from a farmer village to a jet-set worldwide known place.

Interested in knowing more about the fascinating history of the famous mineral spring(s)? There will be soon another blogpost about it…
Sources for this blogpost: Heini Hofmann, Mythos St. Moritz, 2. Aufl., 2014; Exhibition in Forum Paracelsus

Peninsula Chastè, Sils-Baselgia

This was one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s (german philosopher, 1844-1900) favorite spot, the peninsula Chastè, near Sils in the Engadin. 

You can get there by car, just park at the entrance of Sils-Baselgia, because cars are not allowed in the little village. Or take the bus.

Turn right at this sign, saying Chastè.

Walk along this footpath and then turn left.

There are a lot of footpaths on this peninsula, benches to relax on and to have spectacular views to the Lake of Sils and towards Isola and Maloja. Don’t worry, you can’t get lost on the little peninsula, just explore it and enjoy the smell of the forest!

In the forest you can discover squirrels, birds, mushrooms and flowers.

The view from the different angles of the peninsula is always spectacular.

There are two places to have barbecque with firewood provided on the left-handside of the peninsula. 

Near them is the landing spot of a little ferry, that takes you to Isola or Maloja (only in summer).

If the walking made you hungry, have a snack in the Grond Bakery/Restaurant in Sils (yummie!).

Birdwatching in the Engadin (Upper Engadin)

There are so many birds to observe in the Engadin, depending on the season.

Here some birds I could observe in or near St. Moritz, by the lake or in a meadow or forest.

You can do birdwatching as well, just keep you eyes open and try being quiet in the forest.

The quality of my pictures aren’t the best, I try to replace some pictures with better ones.

What kind of birds do you like to observe in the Engadin?

On or near the lake

Great crested grebe, Haubentaucher, Podiceps cristatus:

Mallard or wild duck, Stockente, Anas platyrhynchos:

Tufted duck, Reiherente, Aythya fuligula:

Eurasian coot, Blässhuhn, Fulica atra:

Near rivers

White-throated dipper, Wasseramsel, Cinclus cinclus:

White wagtail, Bachstelze, Motacilla alba:

In the forest

Eurasian bullfinch, Gimpel, Pyrrhula pyrrhula:

Great spotted woodpecker, Buntspecht, Dendrocopos major:

European crested tit, Haubenmeise, Lophophanes cristatus:

Coal tit, Tannenmeise, Periparus ater:

Spotted nutcracker, Tannenhäher, Nucifraga caryocatactes:

Eurasian nuthatch, Kleiber, Sitta europaea:

In a meadow

Eurasian wryneck, Wendehals, Jynx torquilla:

Fieldfare, Wacholderdrossel, Turdus pilaris:

Amazing Guarda

Guarda is one of my favourite little villages in the Under Engadin. It is very famous for its architecture and because of the book and the movies “Ursli with the bells”. Ursli (Schellenursli) is experiencing adventures with his family in Guarda and its surroundings at the time of Chalandamarz. 

Guarda is located on a terrace above the left bank of the river Inn. It consists of about 70 houses and was first mentioned in a historical document in 1160 as Warda. In 2014 were 155 people living in Guarda. Over the last ten years but already in 1850 and further on, the population was decreasing, mainly because of finding a better job.

People speak mostly Romansh (Vallader), followed by German as you can see on some of the houses.

The houses are very well preserved and maintained. Guarda was awarded in 1975 with the Wakker Price for the preservation of the architectural heritage.

This inscription is from a house built in 1705.

On most of the houses are very artistic paintings and sgraffitos

Beautiful window sill.

Most of the houses have these typical wooden doors.


There is a nice walking path to other villages.

Powerful Pontresina

Pontresina is situated in the Valley Bernina, a side valley of the Engadin. It is the only village in this side valley and is surrounded by many mountains, mostly over 4000m high like Piz Palü, Piz Bernina, Piz Zupò, Piz Languard, Las Suors.

Pontresina was first mentioned at about 1137. The origin of the name of the village is not confirmed, it could derive from the Latin Ponte sarasine, after the name of a builder of a bridge but could also mean bridge of the Saracenes.

There are about 2500 people living in Pontresina, most of them speak Rumantsch, a specific language of the Engadin and Graubünden. But there are also a lot of Portuguese people working and of course living there. The children experience school in Rumantsch and German as well.

Pontresina was voted the guest-friendliest holiday place of Switzerland in 2012. If you are getting hungry by walking around in Pontresina, I recommend Grond Cafe with menus but also delicious pastries from their own bakery. In the evening you could eat at Kochendörfer, very elegant and superbe fish specialties.

In Summer, you can do wonderful hikes and watch ibexes, especially in the earlier Summer.

There are a lot of hiking paths, they are very well signed-out with the yellow signs of the Swiss Hiking Paths or just watch out for the white-red-white mark on stones or trees.

In Winter you can do crosscountry skiing, normal skiing, ice climbing, hiking, walking… Read more

Chalandamarz – driving out of the demons of winter

Chalandamarz happens every 1st of March and is a rite of spring dating back to ancient times, maybe even to Antiquity. It is practised mainly in the Upper and Lower Engadin (also in Val Müstair, Bregaglia, Val Poschiavo and Oberhalbstein). 

Chalanda is the Romansh term for “first day of the month. It stems from the Latin word calandae. Marz means March. 

On this day, in earlier times, the chairman of the community, the district secretary and the treasurer were legitimated. 

Schoolchildren walk on this day, dressed in costumes in bright, lively colours through the villages wearing their bells (boys) and flowerbaskets (girls). Sometimes, they carry whips with them and show their skills with the whips. The cracks produced by the whips are supposed to scare the spirits of winter away. 

The paper flowers for the bells and costumes are produced quite a while before Chalandamarz. They are called rösas and are  carefully made of silk paper. In some villages, there are strict rules how the paper flowers have to be made, in which colours, who has to make them and to whom they can be given. Mostly the girls create the rösas for a boy they like (their crush) and also invite him to lunch for the next day. But also the younger children craft the flowers in school or kindergarten, one flower for every year of life.

There are even several kind of bells: Talacs, Plumpas, Maruns, Brunzinas, Zampuogns and Rolls (Bell details). 

The schoolchildren walk around in the villages, around the village fountains (have a look at the famous book A bell for Ursli) and go into the houses to ring the bells to drive out the demons of winter. Sometimes, if you ask them, they sing a song and they appreciate it if you give them in return some sweets or some money for their school excursions.


At a certain time, they gather at a designed place (in St. Moritz: parking space Du Lac) and sing several traditional songs for the crowd, consisting of tourists but mostly parents and relatives. 

Here you find the text for the most famous and popular song: Song text. You can find also some explanations and pictures from earlier days (in German and Rumantsch). 


Trip to Zernez in winter

It takes about 20 to 30 minutes from St. Moritz to drive to Zernez by car. There is also a train that takes you directly or via Samedan in less than 50 minutes to Zernez.

Zernez is a cute, small, typical Engadin village and is very popular as the gateway to Switzerlands only Nationalpark. In winter, there is a a thick layer of snow, so the access to the Nationalpark is not possible. 

Of course you can go on winter hikes or crosscountry skiing, the paths have pink poles for the hiking paths and turquoise poles for crosscountry skiing paths.

But you can  also just walk around and look at the houses in the village heart, they are adorable! 

Here the Morenturm, the tower of a family called Mor. The tower is from about the middle of the 13th century. The family Mor lived in the tower till  1550. The original tower got built up higher in the 17th of century and renovated in 1961 and 1987. You can even rent an apartment in there for holidays!


And here a detail of a house in Zernez, a cheeky looking chamois. 


This is the castle Wildenberg, home of the famous family Planta over several centuries. The tower for defense and living purposes was built in 1280.  We are actually lucky to admire this impressive castle because there was a big fire in 1872, that destroyed a huge part of the little village. You can have a look at certain rooms of the castle on a guided tour, that takes part every Monday. 

If you get hungry or thirsty from walking around, I suggest you get something to eat in the Restaurant Acla-Filli, they have a wide range of dishes, even pizza for a very good price and you can also buy a big nut tart or only a piece of it for dessert or take away in their bakery. 

Shopping possibilities in St. Moritz (that are affordable)

For all those ones, who are like me and are looking for the special, authentic shopping experience, here a list of my favorite, highly recommended shopping places to go in St. Moritz!

1.  Bakery St. Moritz Bad: they don’t only have yummie pastries and breads but also little gifts and  give aways for all those ones with a sweet tooth. Website only in German. Via dal Bagn 4.

2. Souvenir Shop in St. Moritz Bad: you look for a wood carved ibex, a Ursli with the bells memory game or a Switzerland key chain or St. Moritz hoodie, they have it all and much more. Via dal Bagn 54.

3. Wega Bookshop in St. Moritz Dorf (Village): all kind of books, maps for hiking or biking, cards, gifts, stationary goods. Website only in German. Via Mulin 4.

4. Jill & Giorgio is a secondhand shop in St. Moritz Bad with clothes, shoes, bags and belts for women, men and children from famous brands like Prada or Moncler for a reasonable good price. Most of them are in a very good shape and some are even brandnew! Via Tegiatscha 1.

5. Studio03 is the address if you are on the hunt for cool hoodies, beanies, shoes, pants, t-shirts or sweaters for skiing, snowboarding or surfinsg (and yes, there is a surf paradise in Silvaplana in summer!) or just chilling out. Via Rosatsch 1.

This is my personal opinion and I am not sponsored by any of these shops.

What to do in St. Moritz when it is snowing (or very rarely, raining)

I have to admit, there is nothing nicer than staying at home or inside when it is snowing, but when you are in holidays you want to profit of every moment and enjoy it.

So get up, wrap yourself warm and get ready to explore!

Here my suggestions for a snowy (rainy) day:

1. Rent a fatbike at Engadin Bikes. You get there everything you need (to rent or to buy) like helmet, gloves, pants or shirt. Brett, the owner of the shop, can recommend you the best routes!

2. Go for a walk around the lake, on the lake (in winter of course) or to lake da Staz and combine it with number 3

3. Have a nice cup of hot chocolate, a tea or coffee with a piece of nut tart (Engadiner Nusstorte) at Restaurant da Staz or Restaurant Hanselmann. The nut tart is a traditional sweet, caramelised walnut filled pastry with a buttery crust. Really yummie 😀

4. Visit a museum: Segantini MuseumBerry Museum and my favorite, special museum Milli Weber Haus (website only in German, but I think the tours are also in English). Giovanni Segantini is an important representative of the Symbolism at the end of the 19th century. His paintings are very impressive. You can walk on the Segantini path (it has 6 picture panels providing interesting facts about the artist) starting at Hotel Soldanella to the Segantini Museum and continue to Suvretta.

Segantini Museum:

The BerryMuseum is next to the Clinic Gut. Peter Robert Berry was a doctor and painter, he was inspired by Segantini, he knew him personally.

Milli Weber was an artist who lived in the house (built by her brother and father) that is now a museum, located at the edge of the wood on the Dimlejstrasse just above the eastern end of lake St. Moritz and is almost obscured by trees. Milli Weber not only made fairy-tale paintings in frames but also decorated nearly the whole house (even the bathtub!) with little flower fairies in all colors, cute bears and self-made dollhouses.

5. Have a swim at the Ovaverva Swimming Pool (indoor and heatet outdoor).

A walk on the lake of St. Moritz

A popular smalltalk subject in St. Moritz in wintertime is the freezing of the lake of St. Moritz. When will it happen? Will it freeze at the right time for the special events on it?

This year I could observe for the first time which parts of the lake freeze the last and which don’t freeze at all!

As soon as the lake seems to be frozen is the next question: When is it safe enough to go for the first walk on the lake? Best thing is to wait the pistmachines on the lake working. 

Every walk on the frozen lake is exciting: The crunchy sound and the very bright colour of the snow, breathing in the clear air, the whole scenery of the lake, the mountains, the forests, the (hopefully) blue and sunny sky and the busy preparation for the coming events like Snowpolo and White Turf.

Just try to listen in a quieter area to the bubbly, “whaley” (reminds me always of Dory from the movie Nemo) sound coming from the lake, a very fascinating experience!

Just some words to the coming events like Snowpolo and White Turf: Go and have a look at it, there aren’t only the Rich and Famous, everybody can from certain parts of the lake observe these events. If you’re lucky and have a ticket for a tribune, don’t forget to dress really very warm, because it get’s really cold especially when there is a nice snowstorm 😀

Safety rules: Stay where other people are, don’t walk too close to edges where you see water and walk on paths that look used by a lot of people. 

Have fun on the lake and enjoy it!