Traveling in the Swiss Valley of Bregaglia – Part One

Swiss Valley Bregaglia

Traveling in the Swiss Valley of Bregaglia – Part One

Traveling throughout Switzerland is always like traveling through a postcard, everything is pristine, beautiful, and perfect. One of my favorite places is the Swiss valley between Lake Como and St. Mortiz called Val Bregaglia in the Graubunden canton. The Val Bregaglia is a picturesque valley lined with mountains and dotted with charming Swiss towns.

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The Bregaglia valley is in the Canton of Graubunden, which has the coat of arms of an Ibex with horns. The Ibex is a wild goat that lives in this mountainous area and they are known to be very agile and good climbers. When traveling through this canton you will see the symbol of the ibex goat on flags, painted on houses, above doorways, and even sculptures that adorn sidewalks or that stand guard in front of houses.

Interesting fact: The Bregaglia valley is the source of origin for the Rhine, the Inn, and the Po Rivers which all run to different seas.

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Swiss Architecture

You will see traditional Swiss architecture in the Bregaglia valley and a unique feature to the area known as sgraffiti artwork. Sgraffiti artwork refers to the patterns you see around windows and doors; it is a pattern scratched out of the still-wet wall and usually only made with two colors. The sgraffiti technique originated in Italy and was brought to the Bregaglia and Engadin Valleys in the 16th century. The technique is still used today and you can see it on newly built houses. (The Engadin Valley is the valley where St. Moritz is located).

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How to get to this Swiss Valley – Val Bregaglia

The Bregaglia Valley can be reached most easily by car. If you are staying in Lake Como and renting a car you drive towards St. Mortiz and go through the valley before ascending the 13 hairpin of the Maloja pass that leads to St. Mortiz.

You can also take the Swiss Postal bus, but I would highly advise taking medicine if you are prone to getting carsick! From the town of Menaggio on Lake Como, the bus ride directly to St. Mortiz is about 3 hours long. For schedules and bus fares click here http://www.postbus.ch/

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Check back for more blog posts about the towns you can visit in the Bregaglia valley!

* For photographs of the Bregaglia valley towns, mountains, and more click here for Monica Goslin Photography where you can also buy prints.

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Photography Monthly October 2014 Issue

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Photography Monthly October 2014 Issue

I am very excited about the UK magazine Photography Monthly October 2014 issue because there is an article and photos in there by me! I was asked to write up a story about my experience taking photos on the famous Swiss red train! It was great fun to write and now amazing to see in print! The magazine formatted the article beautifully and I couldn’t be happier!

– Check out my travel post about the Bernina Express train ride with insider tips.

** See more photos of the Swiss red train here on Monica Goslin Photography website where you can buy prints too!

And see the magazine and story by clicking here for Photography Monthly UK magazine website. The October issue is on sale now!

British Classic Car Meeting in St. Moritz

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British Classic Car Meeting in St. Moritz

If you are in St. Moritz in the summer and you like classic cars, make sure to be in the area during the British Classic Car Meeting. You don’t have to participate in the event, and you don’t even have to be in St. Moritz to see it, you can simply drive through the valley and even sit on busy street corner to get a great view of these stately cars as they pass.

Although you do see these fancy old cars probably any time you visit the area, this is perhaps a time of the greatest concentration with about 200 participants featuring: Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin & Lagonda, Jaguar & Daimler, and Austin-Healey & Healey and a limited number of pre-1960 British cars.

I happened to plan my one night stay in St. Moritz to coincide with British Classic Car Meeting. There is an event list posted and you can plan to be in certain areas to see the cars. One morning the cars lined up in front of the Badrutt Palace Hotel where they start a driving route – a great time to see many of the cars and the owners.

This event usually occurs in July. The 21st British Classic Car Meeting was in St. Moritz from July 11 to 13, 2014 (click to see more photographs). For more information from the official website click here http://www.bccm-stmoritz.ch/

Bernina Express Travel Info (Trenino Rosso)

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Bernina Express (Trenino Rosso)

Riding the Bernina Express from St. Moritz to Tirano (or vice versa)

Take the famous Swiss red train and ride from St. Moritz, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy, where you descend from the alps into the Valtellina valley below with vineyards galore. The breath-taking Bernina Express ride takes you by immaculate Swiss towns, past the Lago Bianco and Lake Poschiavo, providing views of glaciers, and traveling down into the valley until you reach the city of Tirano, Italy. The train ride from St. Mortiz to Tirano is 2.5 hours.

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* Insider Travel Tip – When buying your tickets for the Bernina Express:

The Glacier Express – means the train cars are closed with larger and higher windows for prime viewing. The Glacier Express option is ideal for winter/fall when weather is cold or rainy. Note that tickets are a bit more and reservations/assigned seats are required.

-General train tickets – normal Swiss red trains with no assigned seats. This option is ideal for photographers and nature enthusiasts as you can open the windows, lean out (with care!) and get a 180 view.

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One of the main highlights is the viaduct at Brusio. It is just a stunning sight to see the train climb the curving track; from anywhere on the train you can look out the window and see the train as it climbs up or down the spiral ramp. The viaduct is a UNESCO World Heritage spot. The numbers on the viaduct:  viaduct opened for railway service in 1908, is 110 meters (or 360 feet) long, has a slope of 7%, curvature of 70 meters, and has nine spans or arches that are each ten meters (or 33 feet) in length.

If you are heading to St. Moritz from Tirano:  After the viaduct the train passes by Swiss towns and a lake and after Poschiavo it starts the climb from about 429 meters (above sea level) to 2253 meters at Ospizio Bernina station. The Alp Grum station gives a beautiful panoramic view of the glacier of Palu. The train then passes Lago Bianco, which is stunning in the summer or winter as you can see many peaks and glaciers while the train snakes along the lake’s perimeter. You will see the mountain, Piz Bernina, which is also the highest summit of the Eastern Alps at 4,049 meters or 13,284 feet. This point is also where you will also see the glacier of Morteratsch.

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You can make a day trip out of riding the Bernina Express by doing a round trip with a lunch break of a few hours at either end. This is also a great activity to do with kids. The general train tickets have trains with one complete open car in the back during the summer which is ideal for kids too!

The Bernina Express is a must see while traveling in Switzerland, add it to your list of things to do!

 *See more photographs of the Bernina Express by clicking here for Monica Goslin Photography where photos are available for stock and print as well as photo and canvas prints.

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A Spectacular View of Lake Maggiore

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Locarno, Switzerland with a view by Monica Goslin

— Get the view!

When traveling around Lake Maggiore go up to Locarno, Switzerland; which is a town at the top of the lake; and make sure to take two funicular rides to the top of Cimetta Mountain for a spectacular view! Take the funicular from Locarno up to Orselina where you can see the Madonna del Sasso (see below for details) and from there take the gondola to the top of the mountain.

The Gondola runs from Orselina to the top of Cardada (elevation of 1,340m or 4,400 feet) with a chair lift then available to the top, Cimetta at 1,671m or 5,482 ft.  From Orselina to Cardada it is 28 francs round trip and the chair lift is another 20 francs or so (prices as of summer 2012). Cimetta is the mountain in the Lepontine Alps above Locarno on Lake Maggiore.

*Make sure you go to the left when you get out at Cardada and walk to the look out point via a modern bridge that is suspended in the air and allows for spectacular views of the lake and valleys below (see photo above)!

–> For more photos of Lake Maggiore click here for travel photos by Monica Goslin on PhotoShelter

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The main site to see in Locarno, Switzerland:

Madonna del Sasso – The sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso above Locarno is one of the main attractions and is still a pilgrimage destination. This Franciscan sanctuary was constructed in 1487. This sanctuary is where Brother Bartholomeo da Ivrea was said to have seen the Virgin appear. It is situated on the edge of the mountain and set against an impressive backdrop of mountains.

To reach Madonna del Sasso above Locarno, take the funicular (found to the left of the train station) which runs every half hour.

For details about the Madonna del Sasso click here for the official Swiss tourism website

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Visiting Bellinzona, Switzerland – a town with three castles

Bellinzona, Switzerland by Monica Goslin

Visiting Bellinzona, Switzerland

If you are vacationing in Lugano, Switzerland or Como, Italy you can go to Bellinzona for an easy day trip.

You can visit three castle while in Bellinzona, Switzerland! Bellinzona is a beautiful city, an easy day trip, and is certainly a kid-friendly travel destination!

*If you like the photo above and want to see more that you can also purchase as prints click here for prints and stock photos of Bellinzona, Switzerland by Monica Goslin

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What to see in Bellinzona, Switzerland

 The three castles in Bellinzona, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, are the main attractions and below are descriptions of each, including tips on how to get to each castle.

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The old historical city of Bellinzona is the main area and the train station is right at the edge of it. From the train station walk to the left and you reach a piazza with the church of Saint Pietro e Stefano and a few cafes. From this small piazza you can find your way up to the main castle, Castelgrande, which sits on a rocky plateau above the city.

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The best way up to the Castelgrande however, is by elevator, which rises through the rocks and ends up at the castle wall just below the green space within the castle. The elevator up to the main castle in Bellinzona saves you the trouble of finding the hidden paths up, and needless to say it is less strenuous. The elevator up to Castelgrande is best reached from Piazza del Sole, a large square with a Migros market on one side and dotted by four concrete trapezoids that are entrances to the underground car park (very Swiss in design). The elevator is found through a narrow passage at the base of the rocky wall, and it is free!

The Castelgrande dates back as far as the 1st century BC, and in fact, was the only castle in Bellinzona until the 13th century. Much of what you see of the Castelgrande today is from the late 13th century to early 16th century, including extensive renovations.

From the main open square you can visit a small museum in the lower buildings and you can climb up the tall thin tower (entrance through the larger squat tower at the far end of the open space). You do have to get a ticket for the tower, 5 Swiss francs (July 2012). From the tower you can get a wonderful view of the valley, castle grounds, and the other two castles.

I also highly recommend walking along the castle wall, at least to the first break. The castle wall can be reached by walking through the flat green area, over to the side lower wall and on towards the sweeping castle wall, which is really impressive! This whole area is great for kids; they can run all over and visit a real castle!

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Castle hours for Castelgrande in Bellinzona are:

Summer hours are 10-7 for the Castle Wall and 9-10 for the Inner Courtyard

Winter hours are 10-5 for the Castle Wall and 10-6 for the Inner Courtyard

I highly recommend stopping for lunch or even just a drink at the café right below the museum of the Castelgrande. The café/restaurant has a few sections that include an indoor grotto and an outdoor seating terrace under a grapevine covered path, with stone tables, and a view of downtown and the two castles. The food is seasonal and traditional for the area, plus the service is wonderful!

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Montebello Castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland

Montebello Castle is the second castle to visit in Bellinzona, Switzerland and was built in the 14th century. The Montebello Castle can be reached by foot from a path that starts from the piazza with the church of Saint Pietro (if you are facing the church, the path is to the right). The walk up to the second castle in Bellinzona is mostly stairs and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the castle. Enter Montebello Castle and buy your ticket for 5 Swiss francs before climbing up to the castle wall, seeing the views, and visiting the museum that is terraced through the castle tower (prices current as of July 2012). The Archaeological and Civic Museum is open from March to November.

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Sasso Corbaro is the third and smallest castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland and sits on top of a hill overlooking the town. Sasso Corbaro was built in the late 15th century and is not part of the city walls like the other two castles. There is a small museum in the Sasso Corbaro castle as well, open from March to November and you can walk along the castle walls. If you do not have a car, you can walk up to the third castle, although most of the walk tends to be along the road, and walking takes about 20 to 30 minutes from Montebello Castle.

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How to Get to Bellinzona

Bellinzona is a town that sits in a valley at the foot of the Alps and can be reached by train.

–   From Lugano to Bellinzona, it is a 22 to 30 minute train ride.

–   Bellinzona is a main stop as it is the administrative capital of the Ticino Canton of Switzerland.

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Old Fish Jazz Band in Switzerland

Old Fish Jazz Band in Lugano, Switzerland

Old Fish Jazzband in Lugano, Switzerland

While visiting Lugano, Switzerland this past summer I happened to catch the beginning of the street artist festival – summer is full of many odd but interesting and fun festivals all throughout Europe, from large cities to small towns. So in addition to seeing a magic show, an acrobatic duo, and a man balance on a pole while doing tricks with hula-hoops, I happened to pass a waterfront café that featured live music from the Old Fish Jazzband.

The band was on a small stage right next to the railing and overlooking the water, and with the mountains in the background it created quite a setting. All members sported a uniquely casual, southern style with faded pants, collared shirts, a few striped socks, thin suspenders, a couple of fedoras and a old newspaper boy cap. The ragtime jazz music floated through the air in a jumble of notes that made you tap your foot and smile at the happy tunes. Without a director the musicians of the Old Fish Jazzband seemed to play off each other and their joy in the music was evident from their grins and their playful performance.

* Listen to a music sampling the of The Old Fish Jazzband by clicking here

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To see more photos of Lake Lugano click here for travel stock photography by Monica Goslin on PhotoShelter

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