Good morning! I was all set to tell you about a curious little trend I’ve noticed at our kiosk in Zürich and how magazine-buying patterns (sales of various titles are way up!) look likely to positively affect certain consumer sectors but this is going to have to wait because yesterday my comrade who occupies this same space on a Saturday pretty much promised that I’d tell you about my week getting out and about in Switzerland. So buckle up – we’re off to a remote little valley flowing with dairy delights, roaring streams, fine hosts, naughty goats and plates of tasty schnitzel.
The first time I glimpsed Switzerland’s green lowlands and swaying meadow flowers was through the window of an SBB train in the summer of 1983. It was my first trip to Europe and I was chaperoned by grandmother (she turned 102 on Friday, by the way – Happy birthday Ema!) for a grand tour to visit family and see the sites. When we set out from Zürich this past Monday morning, the sky, fields and rolling hills reminded me of that trip way back in the 1980s. With no clouds and a crisp breeze, the yellows, pinks and various greens were vibrant, the lake dazzling and the nostrils filled with the verdant scents of fresh-cut grass, elderflower and a bit of cow poop. With the GPS set for the village of Vals, it was a quick hour on the highway and then another hour on some windy roads up to the top of the valley and to the front door of Brücke 49. If you’ve been following our pages and podcasts for the past couple of years then you’ve likely heard of this little establishment and its delightful Danish-Swiss owners, Thomas and Ruth. I wasn’t really planning for a Sommerfrische escape but had one of those moments the week before last when my mind wandered up to the Alps, I saw myself hiking and swimming and before long I was chatting to Ruth and booking a room.
When we pulled up to the hotel, the village was deserted so we left our wheels and set off on foot to find signs of life. Was this what a sunny Monday normally looked like? If so, amazing. A quick tour of the village revealed a few locals sitting on their balconies in the sun, Lycra-sheathed cyclists stopping to refill water bottles and donkeys, cows and goats lunching on the slopes above the town. Just beyond the town square a sharp, angular building under construction came into view and we stopped to inspect the stonework. “Funny, it could almost be the work of Kengo Kuma,” I said to my partner Mats. Closer inspection of the information board revealed that this ambitious structure was indeed the work of Kengo Kuma and set to complete later this year. (Sources later told me Tadao Ando is also doing a house up the hill.)
After beers, wine and local meats and cheeses for lunch we met Thomas to check in and got a tour of the property. To call Brücke 49 a hotel both under and oversells it as it’s a collection of three fine structures that stand smartly alongside the river and house a collection of rooms, three apartments, a lovely shop and multiple indoor-outdoor levels and nooks in which to read, tan, nap and sip.
Once upon a time Switzerland was very good at doing cosy but somewhere along the way a combination of too much money and an obsession with hard right angles eradicated the warmth that had defined so much of the country’s hospitality. Fortunately Thomas and Ruth have done their very best to correct this with a mix of Danish and local design, a hand for texture and a firm grip on good lighting. Brücke 49 has all the cues you want from a modest alpine hotel – with rustic elements of Stockholm’s Ett Hem, the simplicity of the Briol and Bad Dreikirchen in Südtirol and plenty of hygge twists that only Danes can deliver.
The following morning we went for a three-hour hike high above the town, took a plunge in a swirling pond beneath a waterfall, watched a baby goat make a hippity-hoppy escape through a fence and saw the sun go down accompanied by a fine Weissburgunder from the other side of the canton.
On Friday Switzerland announced that it will throw open its borders to all EU and Efta countries from June 15. If you need to shake off the funk that’s come with life under lockdown, a bit of Sommerfrische and some time in the Alps might be just the tonic. And in case you missed it, we’ll be hosting our own little end-of-summer retreat a bit higher up in Graubünden in St Moritz from 17 September. You’ll also be able to get some hospitality cues from Thomas and Ruth, who will be part of our panel on how to be gracious hosts. For booking details, contact Hannah Grundy on firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there.