Frozen lakes and fon­dues

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

could ever wish for, and then some, un­der one roof: swim­ming pool, putting green, in­door and out­door ten­nis, plus mas­sages, saunas, steams and treat­ments, plus, in the win­ter, around 70km of medium grade pistes on the doorstep, ice-skat­ing rinks, curl­ing and a fab­u­lously scary to­bog­gan run from Tschuggen down to the vil­lage. There are also 200 kilo­me­tres of marked trails for hik­ing in sum­mer or for Nordic Walk­ing in win­ter.

Nordic Walk­ing is a re­cent phe­nom­e­non. Ba­si­cally, it is just walk­ing with poles, but it is quite stag­ger­ingly pop­u­lar; enough for thou­sands of hardy souls of all ages to con­verge on Arosa from all across Europe, line up at the start-line in a fever of ex­cite­ment, and com­mence to race each other by shlep­ping, it seems to me, as slowly as pos­si­ble, which, you will ex­cuse me, seems a lit­tle per­verse.

There is, my Nordic Walk­ing coach told me, an in­tri­cate method to all of this, which in­volves “wield­ing the Nordic Walk­ing poles in har­mony with the body in or­der to en­hance up­per body mus­cu­la­ture and car­dio­vas­cu­lar ef­fi­ciency.” Some peo­ple do it com­pet­i­tively. Most, how­ever, use it as an ex­cuse for a jolly good walk and a nice way to burn off a gen­er­ous 400 calo- ries per hour, as com­pared with 280 calo­ries with “nor­mal” walk­ing, which makes it a good an­ti­dote to all that fon­due and kirschwasser.

But even if it has lit­tle more than pre­ten­tions to be­ing a sport, if it gives good rea­son to take to the hills and val­leys and frozen lakes and in­cred­i­bly clean air of this beau­ti­ful part of the coun­try in the com­pany of your fel­low thrill seek­ers, with cable cars and chair lifts skim­ming the bob­bly bit on the top of your woolly hat, then I am all for it.

An­other thing about Arosa: they have don­key rides slap bang in the mid­dle of town (though ev­ery­where in Arosa is slap bang in the mid­dle of town; it is a small place). This is not some­thing I would nor­mally cite as a re­sort’s sell­ing point, but I think it is the don­keys that helped me grow so fond so quickly of Arosa — the sheer old-fash­ioned­ness of the place. There is noth­ing of the St Moritz, or the Davos, or the Klosters about Arosa. It is de­ter­minedly un-glitzy, un-pre­ten­tious, un­de­signer, and even more ef­fort­lessly fam­ily-friendly.

Row boats and ped­a­los on the lit­tle lake, weekly fire­work dis­plays, chil­dren’s play­grounds aplenty (my per­sonal favourite is the Alpen Club Mickey Maus), an open-air cin­ema, vin­tage rac­ing car ral­lies that turn Arosa into some sort of su­per­an­nu­ated Le Mans, and a clutch of old­world moun­tain huts that serve cold beer and cheese-and-pineap­ple-ona-stick.

Arosa is very low-key and warmly wel­com­ing. If you ever spy Harry or Wills in Arosa, chances are they are lost.

I have al­ready de­cided to head back to Arosa later this win­ter. This is when the renowned Tschuggen Grand Ho­tel re-opens, com­plete with its own right-to-the-ho­tel-door ski sta­tion and the ho­tel’s spank­ing new and ut­terly

stun­ning Ber­goase spa fa­cil­ity, linked to the ho­tel by a glass bridge, which is set into the side of the moun­tain and looks like some sort of in­cred­i­bly hitech Uni­tar­ian church.

Me be­ing me, I wan­dered on site and sniffed around on my way back down the Weis­shorn. I stood in the spa’s med­i­ta­tion room, where ec­cle­si­as­ti­cally pitched win­dows fil­ter skinny shafts of sun­light and bathe the in­ner space in a heav­enly glow in a way strik­ingly rem­i­nis­cent of Ber­lin’s Jewish Mu­seum. In­deed, it is a build­ing that would not dis­grace the great Daniel Libe­skind him­self.

It may be at­tached to a ho­tel, but this is a build­ing peo­ple will flock to just to gawp at. I went straight home and booked my­self in for De­cem­ber. Any day now, I will be get­ting out the walk­ing poles and woolly hat.

Arosa’s town cen­tre with its horse-drawn bug­gies

Pic­ture post­card Switzer­land: un-glitzy, un-pre­ten­tious Arosa

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