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June 9th 2019

Floral splendour in white and wonderful panoramic views

Yesterday I have left Constance for Küblis: at first the trip by train went along the Lake Constance and after that along the course of the river Rhine, which is only a very narrow stream here. Normally my journey passes via Zürich and then along the Walensee Lake to Sargans and Landquart. Now I travelled through the Rhine valley to SArgans and followed the familiar route to Landquart where I changed to the narrow gauge railway of the Rhätische Bahn. This journey also had its charm! At a few minutes past 13.00 hrs I arrived in Küblis at Hotel Terminus, the hotel that I liked so much last year’s September. The weather still was pleasant, so I went into the village and treated myself to a “Kaffee mit Kuchen” at the local bakery shop. So I sat down on the terrace enjoying the sunshine! Hereafter I have worked out my plans for the days to come: watching the Poet’s daffodils in Seewis im Prättigau, hiking the first part of Stage R62 (St. Antönien–Gargellen in Austria), visiting the Kirchner Museum in Davos, making a trip from Davos to Filisur with the nostalgic train, drawn by the locomotive “Krokodil“… Weather depending of course – unfortunately the forecast wasn’t that promising.

Today on Sunday June 9th, Whitsunday, I set out to the village of Seewis im Prättigau, approximately 17 kilometres to the west of Küblis, halfway the valley to Landquart. I had read that every spring time the slopes are coloured white by the: these Poet’s daffodils (Narcissus poeticus) is native to Southern Europe and in the western part of the Balkan, especially on mountain meadows. In Switzerland the Poet’s daffodils grow in the wild and in large quantities oat two places : on the southern slopes of the mountains above Montreux and Vevey at the eastern part of the Lake Geneva, and above Seewis in the region Prättigau, Canton of Grisons. This had been on my whishing list and now I took my chance!

I took the train to the village of Grüsch, a trip of about a quarter of an hour, and from there the Posta car which also needed a quarter of an hour to overcome the three hundred metres in altitude from the valley to the village of Seewis. Nearly all passengers on the bus had come to see the daffodils, so we all followed the sings indicating “Narzissenweg” to the start of the trail. If one wishes to walk the complete trail on the Narzissenweg, it will take about five hours – the trail is some 14 kilometres long…

The weather wasn’t very fine, but is was dry, there were nice patches of clouds and the temperatures were rather pleasant. The sun didn’t show itself. It took – as mentioned in the information – about threequarters of an hour over an easy road to get to the actual start of the Daffodils’ Walk. Many flowers were already in bloom, especially white ones, such as many white Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) in the meadows, some specimen of the Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) on the sides of the road, Sweet-scented Bedstraw (Galium odoratum) in large patches and later that day also the white flowers of Bear’s garlic (Allium ursinum)! This all made the walk uphill special, completed with the view on the white, still snow-capped mountain tops…

Somewhere near a large farm a large bunch of many narrow leaves was growing at the side of the road: only one white narcissus was in bloom, the first one I met! Further on the meadows against the mountain slopes started to colour white with the flowers that will normally be in bloom between mid-May and mid-June. Partly because of the cool weather this spring, with quite recently a thick layer of snow, the flowering had started later: now it was abundant – lucky me! Whether looking uphill or downhill: everywhere the green grass was speckled with white. Although the sun wasn’t actually shining, I could clearly smell the wonderful, but quite heavy scent of the daffodils…

According to the legend from the Greek Antiquity this plant owes its name to the exceptionally beautiful Greek god Narcissus, who would according to a prediction live for a long time on the condition that he would not see his own reflection. At a certain moment however he sees himself mirrored in a lake, falls in love with his own reflection, falls into the water and drowns. On his grave the nice-smelling flower, the daffodil, would have grown. The Poet’s daffodil looks stunning indeed: the tepals are snow-white, the short corona, the “trumpet-like” centre that is that characteristic for narcissus, is yellow/red-coloured (by the substance called carotene like in carrots). Moreover the flower seems to be dancing in the wind on its long stem. The corona has even a stronger scent than the rest of the flower. That scent of the narcissus is very strong, almost intoxicating. There is a link between “narcissus” and “narcosis” – and of course the psychological disorder “narcissism”, well-known in our times! The “good looks” of the narcissus are however treacherous… The complete plant is very poisonous: it contains alkaloids, which strongly act on the central nervous centre. The highest concentration of the poison can be found in the bulb!


Close-up of a poet’s daffodil

Many other non-white flowers were already growing and in bloom, like the deep blue Stemless Gentian (Gentiana acaulis, or was it perhaps a Flower-of-the-Sweet-Lady, gentiana clusii…?), a purple Moorland spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata), that also has purple spots on the leaves (hence the name “spotted orchid”), standing lonely amid the white narcissuses and later on near the forest the bright Artic Yellow Violet (Viola biflora). Of course I also admired the brightly coloured carpets of flowers rolled over the meadows… After the white of the narcissuses the next explosion of colours was announced, this time in yellow: the leaves in the rosettes of the Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea) had already grown quite high!


Above Seewis i.P.: after the poet’s daffodils are gone, the Great Yellow Gentians will blossom!

At a certain moment I arrived at a fork in the road: I could go left, an unpaved, but wide track uphill, or go right and continue over the paved road back into the direction of the village. I chose the road to the left, because that seemed to me to be the most interesting! The sun was mainly hidden behind the clouds, but was trying to break through. Nevertheless the panorama was overpowering! I also had a view on the almost vertical rock at the entrance – or exit depending on the point of view! – of the valley in which the river Landquart flows and discharges into the river Rhine near the town with the same name, Landquart. Here the passage is very narrow – the Cantonal road, the railway track and the river: they all have to pass through the so-called “Chlus“, a barricade which has always been a strategic point and of which remains can still be found. This has “Talsperre“,the roadblock in the valley has already existed since the 13th century and has still played a role for the Swiss Army in the 20th century during the Second World War and later on in the Cold War. The steep rock wall forms the most northern point of the Naturreservat Trittwald, the natural reserve on a wooded mountain ridge separating the Rhine Valley with Chur and Landquart from the parallel valley which is much narrower and higher, the valley of Valzeina, where some hamlets are with stock breeding (and winter sports). From this altitude the rock looks far less impressive than when one is passing through the valley by train!

Talking about views: even with these somewhat overcast skies the panoramas are wonderful. Looking into the Rhine Valley into the direction of Chur, towards the south – and upstream the river – I noticed how much snow is still lying on the mountain tops. From here the het Calanda mountain range is quite visible. In the north this range borders on the mountains in the Canton of Glarus at the village of Elm with the Sardona mountain range, famous because of the “Glarus Thrust“. There rocks of a geologically older age have been pushed over rocks of a younger age because of the tectonic activities of the African and European earth plates. (I have been in Elm, in September 2017, but the weather was very bad and I have only seen the famous Martinsloch, created by erosion, on the day I left…). Actually those Glarner Alpen aren’t that far away – as the crow flies, but a hike by foot would surely take a very long time… – oh dear! Looking towards the southeast, the mountains of the Silvretta massive separating the Prättigau from the Engadin: an impressive range of snow-capped mountain tops…

The tour to the higher alpine meadows was very beautiful, but there I did not see the signs of the “Narzissenweg” anymore. I continued my way over a narrow, steep and stony path to until into the valley that had been overgrown with bushes of hazelnut and rowan, where the flowers of the narcissuses had for the most part died already. The small bridge over the stream looked a bit unsteady, but the path led to another paved road. A poster on a barn was inviting passers-by to go to the Maiensäss Valcaus, a mountain hut/eatery, that is opened between May and October on Thursdays, Fridays and the weekend, all day, no matter the weather. The paved road went steeply uphill to the north. The views were restricted by a dense forest of spruces. In former times huge trees had been cut – it was a funny sight to see how a young tree was growing on the trunk of one of those giant trees! The small tree proudly stood there, on an open space.


Above Seewis i.P.: on the way to the Valcaus Hut a new spruce grows on the trunk of an old spruce!

It was busy at the mountain hut Valcaus . I sat down and waited until someone would come to take my order. As I was perhaps a bit too much in a rush to order, ,the lady only stated “Nur die Ruhe kann es bringen bei uns…!” (Things will only be done with tranquillity). All right – so I took a “Valcauser-Hüttentee mit Pfiff“, tea with wine, that was red-coloured, which had not only been caused by the wine. I hardly tasted any wine in this tea… My lunch consisted of a large wedge of cake with damson plums to go with the tea. It was nice to sit there and to have a look at the great panorama of the alpine world to the south of the Landquart valley. Indeed, “die Ruhe“, the tranquillity to which the lady referred, really was there. I could see that the other guests were also agreeing to that!

On my way to the Maiensäss Valcaus I passed a geologically interesting point: a large chunk of tufa (not to be confused with tuff, which is of volcanic origin!). A sign with explanations was next to it. In areas with calcareous rocks tufa can be created: when rain falls on a layer of humus, the limestone will dissolve more easily by the acidic calcium oxide from the decomposing organic material. That acidic solution erodes the limestone and rinses it out. The calcium from the solution sinks down on the spot where the water surfaces. In this way the surroundings can “petrify”. Quell-Tuff or tufa is porous and easy to process. On the spot where the water came out of the tufa a small waterwheel had been placed, but somehow that appeared to me as being “for show”. On the way back to Seewis a display of all varieties of rocks in this area could be seen. The weathered trunk of a tree that had been cut a long time ago, stood there, firmly rooted in the rocks!

As I came lower on the mountain slopes, there were no more narcissuses. In the meadows where the cows were grazing, that certainly wasn’t the case anymore! Around 2 o’clock the village of Seewis came in sight again, still with beautiful panoramas.

At the point where I had got off the Postal car was already waiting. Halfway the slope to Grüsch it started to rain lightly, but when I arrived at the railway station the weather had improved again. The train swiftly took me back to Küblis. Going along the river Landquart I saw that the water level was very elevated and therefore also the flow rate! It was evident that the snow in the higher regions was melting, but that also the rain of the past weeks had largely contributed to the volume of the Landquart. It was an impressive sight.


Between Schiers and Küblis: from the train it is clear that the river Landquart carries a lot of water!

I have enjoyed this trip amid the white narcissuses: it was marvellous to see them grow against the mountain slopes and it was nice to smell them. It has been a successful start of my stay in the Prättigau!