Today I visited Chur (population 32.000), the capital of Graubünden. I took the bus through Flims, a popular ski village. Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland, and has been continuously inhabited since 3000 BC. My main reason for going was to check out the country’s only Romansch bookstore, Libraria Rumantscha.
Its Saturday hours were only from 10.00 to 13.00 and I stayed one hour and fifty minutes. What fascinated me most of all was the tiny selection of Sutsilvan books. Take note of the name: Sutsilvan, as opposed to the idiom I am studying, Sursilvan. In Romansch sur means “above” or “over” and sut means “below” or “under”. Thus the idiom I am learning is “from the upper Selva” (or to be correct “from the Surselva”).
During the last language census in 2000, a mere 571 Swiss replied that the language of their best command was Sutsilvan Romansch. With a population as low as this, one can well conclude that Sutsilvan is severely endangered.
I was awestruck by the store’s small Sutsilvan collection. In many cases, Romansch books for children are printed with texts of multiple idioms in the same book. These trilingual editions usually feature the idioms Sursilvan, Surmiran and Vallader. Sutsilvan is never included and so I was delighted to put my hands on genuine unilingual Sutsilvan books. I bought five children’s books: one solely in Sutsilvan; one as a diglot Sursilvan/Sutsilvan so I can compare the two idioms; and three written in Sursilvan. I also bought five CDs of Romansch popular and traditional music.
I have already taken three rides on the regional railway, the Rhätische Bahn pedestrian-only marketplace of Chur I found a big book on the history of the railway. I have already sent out some postcards showing this railway and its route through the Rheinschlucht (the Rhine Gorge).
Tomorrow is homework day. Maybe I can keep my hands off my new books long enough to get some work done.