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August 3rd 2018

Festivities, but also a thunderstorm with consequenses

In the morning of August 1st I said goodbye to the nice hoteliers of Hotel Margun. I had a pleasant stay in a beautiful, interesting area. I went on my way to the Mals bus station to get on the bus to Nauders (in Austria) and Martina (in Switzerland). I would like to celebrate the First of August in Scuol again, like in recent years. And also to have a bit of a holiday after the last demanding days… The weather was nice and hot again, but that didn’t put people off to go into all directions in large numbers – and exactly on the bus I would like to take as well! My plan of the day had been to step off the bus during the trip in the villages in the Reschental Valley, like Graun im Vinschgau, of which the old village has vanished into the reservoir in 1950. The church tower dating back to the 14th century however is still standing halfway in the lake as a warning finger. This will be for another time…. I was able to take a few pictures ‘though from the bus, a. o. of the Ortler massif with the Reschen reservoir in the front. This is a nice goodbye – auf WiedersehenArriverderci!

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Reschen: view over the Reschen reservoir on the Ortler massif

Because all the rush on the way the bus arrived too late in Martina. The Postal car to Scuol hadn’t been able to wait for us: the Postal cars on this track have to be in Scuol on time, so the passengers can change to the trains of the Rhaetian Railways – the trains run only once an hour and connect in turn to the national Swiss Railways. That was all clear to me and furthermore I wasn’t in any rush anymore. I sat in the shade waiting for the next bus to come; next to me a couple of cyclist were resting – they were clearly from the neighbourhood, as they discussed about this and that in Vallader. And I was perfectly able to understand them – the Cuors intensiv da Rumantsch has apparently had its use ! The next Postal car, arriving some 50 minutes later, took me to Scuol, where I checked in again at Hotel Altana. It was good to be back again.

In the evening Hotel Altana was completely in the mood for the “Nationalfeiertag”, the National Day. On the menu of the “1. August Buffet” (First of August Buffet) traditionally many Swiss classic dishes were displayed. The dining room was festively decorated with red lampoons with white crosses; a large format Swiss flag was hanging on the wall. And of course everywhere a lot of vases with summer flowers from the own garden! Especially the small bouquets on the tables were special this year: red geraniums with in the centre white Edelweiss. Nobody had to risk his life for it, because the lady who caters the breakfast in the morning had picked them from the garden, that her mother had created. I never knew that Edelweiss smells very nicely of honey!

On the menu were a. o. “Zuozer Krautsuppe mit Engadinerwurst“, a clear summer type of cabbage soup with Engadin sausage from the village of Zuoz in the Engadin, my favourite dish: “Bündner capuns” (stuffed chard leaves with a cheese sauce) and also the “Suure Mocke”, beef in one large piece which is marinated in a sauce of red wine, vinegar, herbs and vegetables for about a week and then put into the oven at 80°C to simmer for 12 hours. Also the original “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes”, slightly disrespectfully described as slices of veal in a mushroom-cream sauce was there. As side dishes were served the well-known potato fritters, “Rösti”and also the “Munder Safranrisotto”, a risotto prepared with saffron cultivated in Mund, a village in the eastern part of the Upper Valais (near Brig – where the Stages R96 and R97 of the Via Alpina pass through!). Supposedly in the 15th century mercenaries from this village took the saffron crocus back home from far-off places and it is still abundantly growing and blossoming there! After the platter of (Swiss) cheeses and an impressive dessert, with a. o. a crème brûlée made with apples from the own garden, it was time to watch the traditional “Höhenfeuer”, the large fires that burn high up in the mountains, that are also called “Augustfeuer” as they especially burn on August 1st. Because of the drought of the recent months the local authorities had issued an absolute prohibition on making fire and on setting off fireworks. Such an order caused a lot of grief for a lot of people, although I know from recent years: there are just a few bangs and it is nothing compared to the display of smoke and noise that characterises the celebration of New Year in the Netherlands. Around 8 o’clock in the evening a gigantic thunderstorm put an sudden and loud end to any discussion. It kept on “hanging” around Scuol, with quite a lot of heavy rain…

Although the festivities in the village with speeches by the mayor and others, the music by the local band and the tour through the village literally “fell into the water”, some brave people still lit the “high fires”: through the rain and the flashes of lightning we could see two clear fires burning on the mountain top of the Piz San Jon. And then one has to realise that those people have to descend afterwards to the riding school San Jon and further downwards to Scuol through a narrow footpath, only lit with burning torches… Very special!

The next morning, on August 2nd, I heard already early in the morning helicopters flying to and from the Val S-charl Valley, which had been in trouble so many times already with such heavy downpours. Now all over again… When taking a stroll through the village I saw the Piz San Jon mountain top pointing through the patches of fog and thought back to the “Höhenfeuer”. The lower part of the village looked idyllic with the old houses and the beautiful church.

On the wall of one of the houses a nice saying was painted – in sgrafitto: it comes down to this: you are allowed to come in, but only when you are in a good mood, otherwise you should leave…!

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Scuol: sgraffito painting on the wall of a house – the text reads such as “come in with a cheerful mood, then you are welcome – if not, please leave…”

That the rain of which we longed so much had not brought only bliss, became clear when I crossed the footbridge of Gurlaina across the Inn: the water had a greyish-brown colour because of the silt it carried. Dramatical was the fact that I made the same photo on the same spot, but exactly one year and one day earlier: on August 1st 2017 the water in the Inn looked as grubby as it did after the severe weather of July 29th of that year… The road into the Val S-charl Valley has been preliminary closed – again; it has become evident that the wonderful hiking path through the Clemgia-Ravine will never be re-opened again… I feel grateful that I have still been able to make this hike last year – how I have been enjoying my first steps on the vast Via Alpina, and how I feel sorry for those hikers who can’t make this tour, because they are not allowed to do so…!

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Scuol: view on the Church and the covered bridge over the river Inn, which has changed its colour into greyish brown because of the silt from the recent thunderstorms

The next day, on August 3rd, I decided to take things easy: in the afternoon I went by cable car to Motta Naluns, which is on the mountain shoulder above Scuol and the starting point of many hikes in summer and of ski runs in winter: a beautiful trip with wonderful panoramic views and a lot of landmarks, such as the Tarasp Castle.

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Scuol: on the way in the cable car to Motta Naluns with views on the Tarasp Castle

On the terrace of the restaurant up not only funny bar stools with wooden seats were standing. There was also a kind of looking box, which could be turned around. Then in the lower part a map appears with indications of places and mountain tops, close by or just faraway… Apparently five municipalities in Switzerland participate in this “project” with the slogan “Five municipalities meet each other” and such in all four languages spoken in Switzerland. In the west it is Le Landeron, Canton of Neuchatel, in the north it is Eschenbach, Canton of Sankt-Gallen, in the south it is Morcote, Canton of Ticino and in the east it is Scuol, Canton of Grisons. In the middle of this constellation is Meiringen, Canton of Berne. From this latter place it is not very far to the geographical centre of Switzerland, situated on an alpine meadow near the Älggi-Alp in the Canton of Obwalden. It is an amusing and educational way of looking around in this area! So if you spot Schloss Tarasp Castle at the other side of the river Inn, then the South Pole is situated “only” 15.231 kilometres away…!

Also at that moment it was warm again and there was more sunshine than that there were clouds. Everybody was focussing on his own activities: I was walking around as a true tourist, taking pictures, the farmers were busy on the hayfields and the paragliders were floating high above the valley.

Before I returned in the cable car I took another picture of Scuol. It also means the end of this holiday and also a goodbye to this place. But I will definitely return to Scuol again!

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Scuol: view on Scuol from Motta Naluns