On Saturday we decided it would be better to get on a nice air-conditioned train and watch some pretty scenery roll by than to sit in the apartment. We choose Chur (pronounced koor) more or less at random, and somehow we managed to pick the weekend of the annual Churer Fest. How cool is that?
But first the train ride: it was gorgeous and oh-so-comfortable and almost completely empty. Apparently all the Swiss were at the lake on Saturday. We rolled south along the Zürichsee, passing Badi (baths) and beaches filled with swimmers and sunbathers. We continued south along the Walensee, where the steep granite cliffs of the Churfirsten range rise directly out of the lake.
We were, we found out later, actually in Heidiland, which starts at the Walensee and continues southeasterly towards Bad Ragaz. Maienfeld, further south in Landquart (Graubünden) is where Johanna Spyri set the novel, and this is now called Heididorf. It's all bucolic and beautful, and the cheese-y marketing doesn't really make a difference to the views.
Arriving in Chur, we found the Old Town jammed with people and every possible open space filled by tented pavilions offering food, drink, and music ranging from country to R&B, to more traditional music, including an accordion orchestra backed by several upright basses. Nice!
We wandered through the crowd and then headed up through empty streets to the vineyards and the cathedral. The view across the rooftops to the mountains was worth the climb. Down to the cathedral, which was closed to visitors that afternoon, we sat for a while in the shaded square, empty but for a few passing priests. I imagine that Chur is more often like this than the jolly bustle down below.
We took the a stair-stepped street back down past a restaurant that had been there since the 16th century to the festival below and began deliberations. Best food option? The street food ranged from kebap to pizza to gyros, but the standout was clearly the whole roast pig. Very, very tempting.
In the end, however, we decided to go for a restaurant in an old guild hall, the Zunfthaus zur Rebleuten on Pfisterplatz. We're actually glad we did, since this is the best meal we've had in Switzerland. The imaginative Chef's Menu was executed with a deft hand. French technique and precision married to local ingredients. Heaven! The amuse bouche featured Bündnerfleisch. The first course was Zander filet, served diced in a timbale with a perfect brunoise of fresh apples. For the mains we had a braised lamb and a broccoli paupiette with chantrelles. The desert was a summer treat of fresh berries and berry sorbet. Unfortunately, we had to dash for the train and weren't able to linger for a coffee on the terrace, which is surrounded by flower boxes and perched among the roofs of the neighboring medieval houses.
Chur was a treat, much more than a simple transit stop. We'll be back to take the cable car up the Brambreüsch and wander the streets at a more leisurely pace. Chur would also make a good alternative to (ghastly expensive) St. Mortiz as an overnight stay at one end of the Glacier Express. The Rebleuten also has rooms...