Change of venue today. Scoot on over to Field Notes from Fatherhood to check out what to do in this beautiful little village in the Swiss alps.
Thank you very much to Field Notes From Fatherhood for the opportunity to appear on his excellent blog. This is a travel blog packed with information and useful tips for families and other travellers. Love the humour.
See you there.
UPDATE September 2012: So that all my posts on Bergun can be accessed by a search on this site, I now post this here with a couple of minor changes. Thanks again to FNFF, for hosting me at his excellent blog. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
It goes like this:
Child: Are we there yet?
Adult: Yes, we’re at the… (Insert over-the-top adjective and appropriate landmark here eg “unsurpassed Landwasser Viaduct”.)
A few seconds pass while the child gawps with delight at the stunning sight you have laid on for them.
As the interest wanes and they start to eye off their sibling with a view to annihilation, mental or physical, you step in with: This is the highest-altitude trans-Alpine line in Europe and has one of the steepest gradients in the world without the use of rack and pinion technology. (Feel free to use your own words here.) This is one of only three railways in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. If, at any stage, that starts to wear thin (or repetitive) for either of you, introduce the game played by all Western Australian children when they go to Europe. It’s called ‘See If You Can Hold Your Breath All the Way Through the Tunnel’. This is an old WA classic dating from before 2000 when we had no tunnels of our own. If your children don’t pass out on the floor (so that when they wake up they really are there), they’ll be engrossed with checking ahead for tunnels and watching each other for surreptitious breathing.
By the way, there are fifty-five tunnels from Thusis, Switzerland, through Bergun to Tirano, Italy. Need I say more? Well, yes – there are 196 bridges and countless waterfalls. Your children can count them, name them and calculate the volume of water going over or under them in a year/month/day/hour/minute/second…
So let’s assume you arrive at Bergun with everyone and their tempers still intact; where will you stay? There are several places available. I can speak knowledgably about one and second-handedly about another.
The Kurhaus (think ‘cure house’, think Art Nouveau) is a stately hotel near the railway station. Recently, on my second visit, well-behaved children scampered up and down the stairs, had fun in the playground (flying fox, elevated walk), played pool in the damesalon (an intriguing game that involved lying on the table) and were absorbed in board games and boxes of building toys supplied by the hotel. The staff here are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
A friend of mine stayed with his family in an apartment in the Reka village. Reka is a non-profit, cooperative with holiday accommodation dotted around Switzerland. It was set up 1939 in the changing climate just prior to WWII with “the aim of promoting holidays and leisure, in particular for families.” Today, as well as providing family-oriented holiday venues, it assists needy families who might not otherwise be able to afford a holiday.
Reka village adds to the train culture of the area with two of its own. One is a carriage converted into a play area and the other runs on these tracks:
I saw enough toy ride-on tractors lined up outside reception to bring in the harvest of the entire canton of Graubunden. There’s also a general playground, mini-golf and an indoor swimming pool. As my friend noted, sometimes children just want to play near their accommodation and not go traipsing around the countryside chasing down experiences. Parents, you get to play too. Reka provides free, once-a-week babysitting from 5 – 8pm.
If you do want experiences, there’s plenty to do in and around the town. Laze by the pool. Visit the family-run cheese ‘factory’ behind the Spar (grocery store). Check out the local museum on the main street for a large model of the rail line between Bergun and Preda. The comprehensive Albula Railway Museum is at the train station.
There are a number of water troughs in the town. Your children may enjoy a challenge to find them and their construction dates. If they’re lucky, they may find them strewn with flowers.
They may draw the line at doing the washing in them though.
This is posted next to one of the troughs. If you know whom I should credit for this, please let me know.
And on the subject of finding stuff, see if your children can spy the little people on the window shutters in the main street.
The sgraffiti (from the Italian word graffiare, “to scratch”) will delight too. Perhaps it will inspire a project for home.
Walks, of course, abound. The Bergüner Holzweg (Wooden Way, suitable for prams) that begins over the river features carved gnomes and activity stations (as well as a smelly pen of goats). Take your lunch to the top of the hill – barbecue facilities and wood are supplied. Keep your eyes open for the black and russet squirrels in the lower reaches of the forest.
Gnome at three o’clock.
As you see in the background, some potential gnomes went on to other things.
The hike to Preda, the next town up the valley, is 7km of SCENERY (and I mean those capitals) with trains winding in and out. The BB and I took two and a half hours up but a lot of that was due to the lure of the photo. Friends did it in two hours with less of these breaks. With children, the walk down may be more appealing.
Once in Preda, continue out of town to Lake Palpuogna, the spot dubbed Switzerland’s prettiest in a recent poll of a television audience. Round trip about 1¾ hours.
How one would choose a best spot in such a country is beyond me. My Kurhaus host suggested that the lake walks near Albula Pass, whilst not accessible by public transport (the train is underground at that point) would give this one a run for its money.
Or just jump on things like trains (a series of spiralling railway tunnels means you survey Bergun from three different altitudes on your way to Preda), the chairlift (a five minute walk from town) or a scooter or toboggan from Preda. Six kilometres and a 400m drop in altitude makes this Europe’s longest floodlit sledging run. Bring on winter!
Whatever the season, Bergun has much to offer and is a handy stepping-off point for nearby towns.
If you’re not there yet, it’s time to book a seat.