Switzerland: St Moritz

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

After a night of good food in a wood-paneled room above the world’s largest whiskey bar we set out from our Hotel Waldhaus Am See to explore St Moritz on foot.

St Moritz

Our guide for the morning was John Webster, an Australian who traveled the globe and decided that there was no place better for him to live than St Moritz. He set up his life in this historic town (sitting at 1,800 m/5,910 ft above sea level) and is an extremely charming ambassador for the City.

St Moritz

St Moritz is divided into two communities, St Moritz – Bad (on the West side of the lake) and St Moritz – Dorf, on the North side. The city is known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948 however it was also the birthplace of the bobsleigh, competitive winter sports as a whole, the skeleton (tobogganing), and winter tourism. The alpine ski starting point atop Piz Nair has a 100 per cent vertical drop, which is the longest, steepest start in the world and various other venues are either the longest, fastest, or oldest of their kind in the world.

St Moritz

Aside from Winter sports, St Moritz is also a summertime destination with a trail network that spans over 180km. Athletes such as Lance Armstrong come here for altitude training, while windsurfing and sailing on the lake are also big attractions. John also noted that they have three seasons in St Moritz; Summer, winter, and building as we noticed cranes and construction work dotting the landscape.

St Moritz

Due to its mineral springs, the area was originally a place people traveled to for cures, spas and even pilgrimages as in 1519, Pope Leo X gave total absolution to all who made the journey to St. Mauritius Church. For centuries it was a destination but there was no real infrastructure until 1815 when the first formal spa facilities were constructed.

Soon after hotels followed, including the five-star Carlton (that was originally built as a holiday home for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia), Palace Badrutt’s, and the Cresta Palace.

St Moritz

Palace, St Moritz

Heading up to the city from the lake-side promenade, we crossed through the central parking garage. To reduce the amount of cars on the narrow roads, this massive multi-level lot is carved inside the face of the mountain and uses a series of escalators (including the country’s longest) to get pedestrians up to the village level. Along the way, the Design Gallery of St Moritz outfits the passage walls with a photography exhibit.

St Moritz St Moritz

The city was deserted when we started out and John explained that during the winter, locals go about 4 straight months of working 7 days a week so in the off season they take plenty of much-deserved time for themselves. However bare the streets were in terms of actual people, there was no shortage of high-end names; from D & G to Cartier, Versace, Prada, and Bulgari. At 10am on a Saturday morning the locals you do pass by are completely dressed to the nines in suits and sleek leather apparel, even when out walking their dogs.

St Moritz St Moritz

St Moritz St Moritz

Winding up the stone passageways I couldn’t stop taking photos of the buildings, which all had such beautiful architecture and detailing. John said that the etching we saw on the sides of the structures was called “scrafitti.” This is the process of etching coloured patterns into the plaster while it sets over a period of several weeks.

Scrafitti, St Moritz

We passed by the oldest farmhouse in town, where we were told that livestock would be lead through the bottom door and kept on the lowest level of the house during winter months. The heat from the animals’ bodies would then rise up through the floorboards and keep the families nice and toasty. Now, the building is home to a restaurant and a pizzeria on the very top level. The ornately-carved wooden doors were a sign of status and wealth.

St Moritz

Continuing our inclined stroll through the twisting streets I noticed the abundance of colour — bright blue, yellow, and red alpine flowers were spotted throughout courtyards while the scraffiti-surfaced buildings boasted deep brown, and orange hues.

St Moritz

St Moritz St Moritz

St Moritz

Making our way all the way up to the original site of St. Mauritius Church, which has its own leaning tower, which is still structurally sound. From there we learned about the history of the bobsleigh and the Cresta Run before heading down to the Olympia Bob Run (which will be covered in another post).

St Moritz, Birth of the bobsleigh/skeleton

St Moritz St Moritz

St Moritz

Walking back through town we passed the outdoor curling rink used during the St Moritz Olympics, and stopped off at Hanselmann for some coffee and treats.

Olympic Curling Rink, St Moritz

Hanselmann, St Moritz

Sitting in the confectionery where Audrey Hepburn would have her afternoon tea, the legend that is St Moritz had yet to soak in. The profound history of ancient ruins and sporting innovation mixed with modern glitz and glam all melts together in this wondrous place. Snuggled in by mountains on all sides with a lake that reflects its naturally glassy scenery, I think my breath was simply taken away for the entire duration of our guided walk.

St Moritz

Although this side of St Moritz may not be the most affordable for most (compared to our quaint hotel across the lake) it is still a destination to be explored for countless reasons.

St Moritz

Hopefully my hike-loving husband will want to return with me someday in the summertime so we can get a bird’s eye view of one of the most amazing places on earth.

St Moritz

You can get your own taste of St Moritz at the House of Switzerland Canada during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. Located at Bridges on Granville Island (and the Mountain Club in Whistler), the House will have a St Moritz theme and will be entirely open to the public throughout the Games.

You can view the rest of my photos from my media trip to Switzerland in this photo set, and read all posts here.

8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Veronica Heringer-AmesSunday, November 22nd, 2009 — 11:59am PST

    I just love the pictures in this post, Rebecca!
    Your updates are making me dream about going back to Switzerland in the future. When I went to Switzerland in 1997, I spent three days in Zurich and everything that I saw was gray and rainy!

  2. Mike BrowneSunday, November 22nd, 2009 — 5:07pm PST

    Fabulous photos on all these posts so far. Looks like you’re having a great time.

    My parents did some honeymooning in Switzerland and got lost on a mountain road and were scolded by a local snow plow driver for being in on the road out of season.

    It has always been on my list of places to see.

  3. TawcanMonday, November 23rd, 2009 — 9:53am PST

    That 1st pic is pure awesomeness.

  4. fotoeinsMonday, November 23rd, 2009 — 2:32pm PST

    Beck, thanks for a beautiful and delicious slice of Switzerland! 🙂

  5. tburdphotosTuesday, November 24th, 2009 — 2:52pm PST

    Fantastic shots! Even with the beauty of the architecture and Swiss scenery, I particularly loved the one photo of the delicious looking sugary treat!

  6. Vancouver 2010: Bobsleigh History » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittMonday, January 4th, 2010 — 11:04am PST

    […] fall I received the best bobsleigh history lesson in the world from locals in St Moritz, Switzerland. After a walking tour of the town we stopped by the Cresta Run, then over to the Bob Run, after […]

  7. Sun Peaks Resort Winter Wine Festival » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittMonday, January 25th, 2010 — 5:04pm PST

    […] I peered up at the slopes I so desperately wanted to carve up. The village itself has a delightful European influence with a sloped corridor which provides ski-in / ski-out convenience. The exterior of each hotel and […]

  8. Vancouver 2010 House of Switzerland Canada » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittWednesday, January 27th, 2010 — 12:56pm PST

    […] you visit you can also enter for a chance to win a trip for two to St. Moritz Switzerland valued at $10,000 including 5-star accommodation at luxurious Hotel Kempinski or Hotel […]

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