Daniel Pountney

Swiss balmy life

Daniel Pountney
Swiss balmy life

THEY used to call Klosters ‘Little Hollywood On The Rocks’ referring to a time when Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby danced on the tables downstairs at the Chesa Grischuna.

Movie stars are more reserved these days but you are still likely to see silver-screen royalty, or even real royalty, walking around the streets of the village in the Graubunden region of Switzerland.
“Prince Charles is a nice man. He’s a friend,” said Barbara Rios-Guler, owner of the historic hotel.
It was in Klosters, a village around 4,000ft high in the Alps, where in 2006 the media first captured Prince William kissing Kate Middleton in public.
That was during the winter when the place heaves with skiers and the bar and skittles alley under Chesa Grischuna are packed out every night.
During the season the 12 pine-clad rooms upstairs, which have been open since 1938, are booked out with high-rollers who enjoy incredible mountain views from their balconies.

While Graubunden is already a favourite destination for thousands of Swiss, German and English tourists in the winter, it is now selling itself as a summer holiday destination.
And why not? It’s warm in July and August, the scenery is stunning and you won’t run out of things to do in the day time.
In Klosters though, nights are quiet before the skiers arrive.
Our party dined out at Restaurant Hohwald – a charming place, again heavy on the pine, where the waitresses wear traditional Swiss dresses, the chandeliers are made of antlers and the surrounding alpine glory pours in through the windows.
After a feast of cured salmon, pork and a fair amount of Swiss red wine – they produce it in the south and it’s pretty good, who knew? – we started to wonder where to head next.
Enter Stiffler, or at least a chap who looked like the half-witted party animal from the film American Pie.
“I’ll take you somewhere where the Swiss go,” he said.
It sounded promising but 15 minutes later we were in a hotel bar back in the centre of Klosters and there was nobody else there.
If this was where the Swiss go, they hadn’t gone that night.
Never mind though, there’s no cool atmosphere that a few bar games can’t fix.

If it’s nightlife you’re after in the summer months, you’re better off in Davos.
It’s Pippa Middleton to Klosters’ Kate – not quite as pretty but good for a laugh.
At night you’ll find girls doing the Macarena on podiums to indistinguishable europop at the Postli club.
When the town hosts the World Economic Forum every January, it’s A-listers only.

That doesn’t mean celebrities either, more like leaders of the free world.
It was in the basement of our hotel – the huge, friendly and, of course, pine-heavy Morosani Posthotel.
It’s a great base from which to explore the area.
One morning we hopped on a cable car and then hiked through beautiful woodland to a cheese factory for lunch. 
You can also play golf at the 18-hole Golf Club Davos.
It’s remarkably flat for an alpine course and I defy you to find a better view from the tee.
Plus, you will hit the ball further than at home because of the thin mountain air.
If you’re more energetic then you can take on the Go Ape-style Adventure Park Farich.
After a few hours of rope slides and clinging for dear life on to high wires, the prospect of visiting the second highest brewery in Europe seemed heavenly.
It was, but not just for the chance to sample a few of the 200,000 litres of beer which are poured out to the region every year by the BierVision Monstein team.
More so because the location is incredible. 
Set amongst traditional Swiss lodges with quaint shutters and flowers in every window, the view along the valley is breathtaking.
My camera battery had taken a battering by the time we were escorted down to the bar under the brewery for a selection of cold meats, cheese and beer.

That’s the thing with Graubunden though – those vistas are everywhere.
Back in Klosters we spent a day watching tennis’s European Junior Championships.
Sitting next to two ladies doing their best Sue Barker and Lindsey Davenport impressions, I was supposed to be John McEnroe in our little commentary team.
The only trouble was that my eyes kept wandering to the surrounding mountains rather than the game in front of me.
All of the fresh air you get exploring Graubunden can take its toll and relaxation comes easily. 
With the hotels used to catering for the aching limbs of skiers, they all have good spa facilities.

At the Morosani Posthotel we asked at the reception if the total nudity rule in the sauna was really necessary. We are English after all.
“Don’t worry, you will have the place to yourself so do whatever you like,” the receptionist said.
The trouble was, we didn’t, and soon found ourselves making small talk with a naked Swiss man.
It went well until the subject moved to how much pine there was everywhere we went.
“Yes, there’s a lot of wood in Switzerland,” someone said innocently as a not-insignificant piece of Swiss timber swung past us as he left
the room.


This feature first appeared in Weekend magazine, part of the Gloucestershire Echo and The Citizen newspapers.