Vuorz / Mister Schweiz

I write this final travelogue from Laax with the proverbial clock ticking as I have a bus to catch to Ilanz soon. This morning I am going to Chur, the capital of Graubünden canton, and I will take a break from my journey and visit Il Palantin, Switzerland’s only all-Romansch bookstore. I visited this place last year and spent over 200 CHF, however I don’t think I’ll spend as many francs this time as I bought quite a bit already from the Lia Rumantscha a week ago. From Chur I will grab the bus to Locarno, in the Italian canton of Ticino. To get there, I cross the San Bernardino pass, and it has been recommended to me that I grab a seat on the left side of the bus to get the best view. I will be in Locarno tonight and tomorrow, in the Ticino capital of Bellinzona on Monday night, and will spend my final night back at André’s house in Zürich on Tuesday. During my Ticino stay I will visit the Italian exclave of Campione d’Italia and also cross over into Italy proper. Be sure to click on the map in the above link to enlarge the area where Campione d’Italia is located.

Yesterday I took the postal bus to the village of Vuorz (in German, Waltensburg) and walked around for an hour, and then headed for the hiking trail to catch the train back to Ilanz. That night was our final dinner together and it also included entertainment in the form of skits performed by all the classes. Time limits me from describing everything I saw in Vuorz, but what nearly resulted in me missing everything at all that evening, including my recitation of my poem, was that I got lost along the hiking trail and missed my return train at 17.13. I got scared that I would ruin my class presentation not only because I wouldn’t be there to say my poem, but also because I played a small role in the poetic skits of my classmates.

The trail was marked, but as far as I could see I could find no continuation markers. I kept walking and walking (luckily, downhill) yet I always came to a cliff edge and never found the path down to the railway station. I felt I had no alternative but to head back, running uphill, to see if there was a bus I could take. By the time I made it back to the town road I was exhausted. Wheezing and red from head to toe. I saw that I could get the bus and a connection back to Laax, and I would be about an hour late. Thank goodness I would only be an hour late–some buses here run every two hours. At least I wouldn’t miss my class presentation, however I would miss dinner.

While I was walking to the bus stop I suddenly remembered that I had seen a fellow student of the course on the road when I had arrived. I then had a wild thought: what if she was going to the dinner? She could take me with her, provided of course, that she didn’t catch the very train that I had missed in order to get there.

So I walked around the town again, looking for her, hoping to God that she would still be there and, most of all, be outside. There was no use me waiting at the bus stop for 45 minutes doing nothing. So I headed along the town’s only road, looking in the windshields of every passing car in case she was driving right past me.

And then luck rained down on me when I saw this woman, Ruth, in her garden. I asked her first in Romansch and then in German if she was going to Laax. Indeed she was, and was catching a lift with another student. So I waited outside for her to change and get cleaned up, and she left me with two handfuls of fresh raspberries to savour.

I really have to rush now, but I will say the highlight of the final dinner was the surprise appearance of last year’s Mister Schweiz, Renzo Blumenthal who signed autographs, posed for pictures, and told us all about his winning year. Renzo is from Vella, a Romansch village, and Romansch is his first language.

My poem went off without a forgotten word however I did mangle the pronunciation of the word “scolastas” (female teachers). At the end of the dinner and presentations we all gathered around the piano and sang till 01.30. Such a good time to spend with my friends, singing, taking photos and making plans for next year.

I have a bus to catch now. I’ll write to you next from the Italian canton of Ticino!

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