Is the gras really greener on the other side?

Every so often, a change of perspective is a good thing. Therefore, we decided to swap the side … of the Rhine river.  From Flims – where we currently live – we drove towards Ilanz, turned left to Sagogn and then crossed the river to ascend the hills on the other side. A short 25 minutes later, covered in dust from the dirt roads, we arrived in the small, traditional village of Valendas, home to roughly 300 people.

The village centre revolves around Europe’s largest wooden fountain with a mermaid on top, the Gasthaus am Brunnen (Inn at the fountain) invites with it’s fabulous cuisine for a break. We visited on a Monday where the restaurant was closed but discovered a sign leading us to a cute coffee shop in one of the farmhouses, the Café Mäntig (coffee shop Monday), open only in summer and on the days the Gasthaus am Brunnen is closed.

I instantly fell in love with the place. The rustic, country chic is instilled with so much love, the vibe so positive and the smell from the freshly baked cakes was to die for.

We sat down under a big apple tree and chose from the menu written on small chalk boards and hanging from the branches of the tree. Whilst me and my mom tried different cakes, my dad went for a cheese platter served with fresh, homemade bread.

The kids were off playing in the big garden equipped with outdoor toys the minute we arrived. We could have stayed the whole afternoon, it was so very peaceful.

As we actually came to hike we pulled ourselves away after a solid 2 hours break and set off. We passed the village with the ancient houses, the oldest one, the Haus Joos, dates back to roughly 1300, the attached barn has the date 1572 carved into it. The Türelihaus in the centre of Valendas was built in 1485 and is the village’s most valuable house from a historical perspective with many original furnishing from both the Renaissance and Baroque era. It amazes me every time anew when I try to grasp how old these buildings actually are!

What struck us was the amount of apple and plum trees we saw. Half of the village seemed busy harvesting. Probably a sign of the very sunny summer we had here?

We left the village behind and – equipped with a map – started the 2 kilometres long mystery trail which is especially designed for kids. The mermaid on the fountain top in the village disappeared so we had to go and hunt it. On seven posts indicated on the map we had to answer questions in order to get a clue where the mermaid could have gone. Our kids were still a bit small for it but they nevertheless had fun. The Rätselweg Alix – as the trail is called – leads you to the stunning platform Alix overlooking the Rhine valley or the Swiss Grand Canyon, as some like to call it. We were all by ourselves, enjoying the serene late summer afternoon. I just realise we don’t have many pictures from the platform as we were busy looking after the kids – the slopes are very steep!

On the way back we had to carry the trolley we had with us as there were some steps and steep declines. So, the trail is a good and fun family adventure but not suitable for prams.

When reaching the car our trolley was full as if we were at the grocery store. We ended up buying fresh apple juice, apples, homemade cake and bread, honey, cheese and Capuns (a local dish made from Spätzle dough with air-dried meat pieces wrapped in Swiss chard leaves) from different farms we passed.

It is quite common in Switzerland to buy fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, flowers or even meat directly from the producer. Usually it is not a proper shop which is attended by anybody, you just help yourself and leave the money in the little cash box next to the display. We really enjoy doing it whenever possible as the stuff is really fresh, local and we like the idea of keeping the supply chain short whenever possible.

We headed home, tired and happy. The Capuns didn’t last long, we devoured it all for dinner.