We slept in for a good 10-11 hours and woke up by 6:30 am. The plan for the day was to travel from Innsbruck to Italy and then back to Switzerland, ending the day at St. Moritz. For that, we were hoping for some clear weather. It had snowed a bit during the night, and the clouds were still hovering all around us.
Journey So Far:
The only silver lining was that towards Innsbruck the clouds were parting a bit to let the sun in. That was a good sign at least, things could still turn for the better. The snowfall had made the views outside magical. Green peered through the shallow whites to make a bit of a yellow.
Sun trying to break through the clouds looked as if it had set it on fire. And the black clouds looked monstrous. The temperature was hovering around the 2-degree mark and thus we could not stay outside for long.
Innsbruck to Italy to Switzerland Road Trip
We got ready and true to their promise, the hosts had the breakfast ready by 7:30 am. Breakfast was a slow and a long affair and it was a really nice spread despite being a homestay. We ate to our hearts’ content knowing that this was probably the only hot meal we get during the entire day.
The only disappointment was the easter eggs. Although they looked pretty and enticing to eat, they were just cold-boiled eggs! I don’t know about you, but cold-boiled eggs = Yuck! By 8:30 we were all set to bid adieu to our guests and begin the drive for the day.
The sun tries to fight its way through the clouds
Haus Huber – our homestay at Oberperfuss, highly recommended if you have your personal conveyance
The village below
There seemed little to do at Innsbruck so we decided to drive through it to get a feel and proceed towards Schloss Ambras (Schloss = Castle) to have a view of the town from above. The castle is touted to be the “city’s biggest stunner” by the Lonely planet.
It is not a stunner by any stretch of the imagination when you have a look at it from the outside. Although the gardens around it are actually quite well maintained and picturesque. The real fun begins, I guess, when one goes inside the castle and has some knowledge and interest about its history.
Being poor students of history and especially poor at European history, both of us decided to give the interiors a miss and strolled around the garden for a while. Although I will recommend a visit to the gift shop located within the castle premises. They had some exquisite but expensive collections of souvenirs.
Through the multi-colored buildings at downtown Innsbruck
The gardens of the castle are very well maintained and beautiful
A little above the castle one gets a view of agricultural fields above Innsbruck. The town was shrouded by the clouds, however above those clouds the mighty Alps tower above the town. We just stayed there parked and enjoyed the view.
One of the true architectural highlights of the region (Tyrol, Austria) is located a bit west of Innsbruck in a village by the name of Stams. Zisterzienstift (Cistercian Abbey) was founded way back in the 1200s and boasts of exquisite interior carvings much similar to the WiesKirche we had visited yesterday.
By the time we managed to reach the abbey it had already closed down after concluding its scheduled morning tours. The next scheduled tour was only possible after a couple of hours. Not having the luxury of time, we had to move on. Although the stoppage was not entirely a waste as the village of Stam itself was pretty enough to make it worth our while.
Zisternzienstift at Stams
The entire abbey
A clocktower at Stams
We continued onward and halted only till we reached Landeck. The last town in the valley that heads west from Innsbruck, and from where we begin our climb towards Reschen pass on the Austrian-Italian border. The Lonely Planet mentioned a medieval castle located at the top of Landeck which was worth a visit.
Maybe it was worthwhile for others, we did not find anything too exciting about it. A lot of time was wasted loitering at the center of the town looking for a souvenir shop to buy Austrian fridge magnets. Sadly, we could not find any!
The Inn River cuts across the Tyrol valley
The highways are beautiful to drive on however stopping and shooting is cumbersome.
The castle at Landeck
The road runs through a narrow gorge, next to the Inn River, immediately after Landeck, and is a 2-lane highway, one for each side of the road. With the speed limits at 70 kmph even on this narrow and winding road, it was a bit of a scary drive for a short while.
Again, it is difficult for us Indians to trust people to obey traffic rules. At every blind corner, I would half expect a hatchback trying to overtake on the wrong side of the road and my instincts kept reminding me to keep my foot ready on the brake pedal.
The road widened somewhere near the village of Pfunds and started climbing dramatically over what was a very large meadow. I would imagine that the meadow must be home to some excellent beginners ski slopes during the winters. Now by April, the snow had melted away, leaving a large, empty & beautiful meadow behind.
Climbing Reschen and looking back towards Pfunds. The huge meadow before Reschen was a sight to behold
We halted at the pass, which also serves as the natural border between Austria and Italy, at a souvenir shop for those fridge magnets, however, we were in no such luck. We also got the Swiss Vignette there for about 35 odd EUR. I wonder why the Swiss authorities give a year vignette whereas most people would need it for a week or maybe two at the most. That is just stealing, I tell you.
Immediately after the pass summit we soon reached the cute little village Resia to the underlying Reschensee lake. Here a complete community was resettled in politically controversial circumstances and had to give the space for a lake with a dam to fulfill the former Italian energy policy.
Today, only the church tower stands out from the dam and makes for an excellent photo opportunity. We spent about half an hour there at the parking lot munching on some goodies.
We bid adieu to Austria now and embrace Italy momentarily
The lake at Reschen Pass
Rising from the lake this makes for a stunning sight
The descent included a couple of twists and turns in the road and then we started climbing again towards the Swiss border town of Mustair. On the ascent, we were faced with the only untarred section on our entire road trip. It was fun to drive on that section on that bumpy muddy road.
The swiss coming down from Mustair were visibly aghast at the Italians for keeping the road in such bad shape. There were no formalities to be done at the border between Italy and Switzerland apart from getting the currency exchanged for convenience.
We stopped for a few moments at a grocery store to pick up some hot bread and yogurt for lunch before proceeding to another UNESCO world heritage site. A church at Mustair.
A castle as we descend towards Mals
And now we embrace Switzerland and brace for their set of rules
The pretty village of Mustair
The UNESCO accredited World Heritage site (church)
After visiting the church, we continued our journey up the Ofen Pass. The road follows quickly through several broad serpentines through a small coniferous forest. The valley in this section was very wide and there are nearly unlimited views down towards the valley of Mustair.
After crossing the pass, it continues through mostly uninhabited regions and wilderness of the National Park of Switzerland. We did pass the tunnel which led towards the Valley of Livigno. We could take a convoluted route through the tunnel, across the Foscagno pass – towards Bormio and eventually take the Bernina to reach the valley of Sankt Moritz.
But doing this would have meant (a) paying that heft toll through the tunnel (44CHF) and (b) consuming a lot of time which we did not have. The cheaper fuel and groceries would not have negated the high toll on the tunnel route – thus implying little financial sense.
So with a heavy heart, we have Livigno a miss and continued towards Zernez, the first village we would hit in the Upper Engadine valley.
Climbing towards Ofen Pass. It had witnessed a recent bout of fresh snowfall
The valley is very famous for possibly being the slickest resort of the lot in Switzerland. The country’s original winter wonderland and the cradle of Alpine tourism, St Moritz has been luring royals, celebrities for a very long time. There are millions of big-name designer boutiques in downtown Sankt Moritz catering to celebs and the rich alike.
However, all that had to wait till we crossed a pretty wide valley. Parking was free at St. Moritz and we used it to our delight, to stroll around the town for a bit.
There are little pleasures in roaming about such an exclusive tourist town for free and then eventually heading towards Maloja, its poorer cousin village to spend the night in. The sight of the mountains and the frozen lake next to the town was something else.
The drive was stunningly beautiful between St. Moritz and Maolja which cross through the lake Silvaplana and a quaint village by the name of Sils-Maria. The temperature had dropped to near about freezing point. We reached our hotel, Chesa Alpine at Maloja by about 6:00 pm.
The owner did not speak any English but we could communicate with each other using broken German. They do not speak French, German or Italian in this part of Switzerland, but a unique mixture of all by the name of Romansch.
The room was small and devoid of an attached bathroom. One has to cut corners in such an expensive part of Switzerland. However, it was just for the night and will suit us fine. Quickly we freshened up and headed out to find a grocery store and dinner.
St. Moritz & Maloja
Railway next to the Inn River in the Upper Engadine valley
The road runs in the middle of the wide valley make it one of the more beautiful drives of the country.
The drive towards Maloja runs next to Lake Silvaplana. It was frozen for the most part.
The drive was to kill for!
We drove back all the way back to St. Moritz in search of a grocery store, but alas, the swiss shut their shops early. It was 6:30 pm and extremely late by Swiss standards! Finding nothing and since we were low on our own limited supplies, we were forced into having a meal at one of the ‘lesser’ luxe restaurants at Maloja.
The silver lining in the black cloud was the act of dining ensured us of a parking spot for the night at the restaurant which was right next to our own hotel. By the time we had tucked in, the temperatures were a good 5 degrees below zero. No wonder the lakes had remained frozen even during the end of April! Sunset was clear and uncloudy unlike most days that we spent in Switzerland
Innsbruck to Italy to Switzerland Road Trip – Conclusion
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