Unexpected Travel – My First Date with Chur

Chur Switzerland

I knew we didn’t have a lot of time in Switzerland, but there was nothing I could do. We were traveling by train from Italy to Brussels and the great Alpine nation of neutrality was just a pit stop, a way station. I promised myself I’d return one day if I liked what I saw but what I never expected was to quickly and completely fall in love with a city I’d never heard of before – Chur.

We left Italy on the Bernina Express, one of the world’s great rail journeys that snakes along some of the most stunning landscapes in the Swiss Alps. The train journey concludes in the unexpectedly amazing city of Chur. When I planned my trip I’m embarrassed to say that Chur was completely new to me. I Googled it, located it on a map but still couldn’t find out that much about the town. I secured a hotel for the evening and we planned just to spend a few hours in town to rest before the long train trip to Brussels. If only I could go back and change things.

Switzerland immediately matched all of my expectations. The night air was crisp and pure as we stepped out of the train station, the streets were neat and clean and there was an underlying sense of order permeating everything. All that lacked was a banker wearing a Rolex and my preconceptions on Switzerland would have been complete. It was late, we were tired and it was Sunday, December 23. I thought for sure we’d be out of luck trying to find an open restaurant due to the holidays, but the first of many Churian surprises was about to occur.

Not only were some restaurants open late, most were open and doing a bustling business. We settled on a Swiss gastro-pub, muddled through a combination of bad German and English and sat back content and relaxed. After dinner on a search for gelato, fueled by our recent consumption in Italy, we discovered not ice cream but a remarkable town.

The shops were closed as we meandered down the main pedestrian zone; just a few couples were out enjoying the surprisingly moderate temperatures. We rounded a corner and suddenly stepped back in time. A clock tower chiming the hour rose up before us and the buildings shifted from modern retail to old fashioned Alpine in a matter of seconds. Walking around town the community had a feeling to it, a sensation that automatically appealed to me and before I knew it I had fallen in love with Chur. An unlikely romance if there ever was one.

We eventually did find that ice cream, but McDonald’s was the only choice. Walking back to the hotel eating my McFlurry I smelled the mountain air again and thought to myself how lucky I was. Lucky to find places like Chur, to discover new cities and towns that are amazing in their own right and much more than a mere pit stop on a race across Europe. I vowed to return one day and see it properly, to discover more hidden secrets to a little known city in the Swiss Alps.

What are some of your favorite travel discoveries?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

6 thoughts on “Unexpected Travel – My First Date with Chur”

  1. I think I need to back to Chur too because I had the opposite impression of the city! I visited like you as part of a rail trip- Glacier Express. In my research I had read that Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland and full of historic buildings. Walking from the train station I did find some interesting buildings but I expected more! I will go back and give Chur another chance :)

  2. You may have actually run up against some banker without noticing. Many rich people in Switzerland don’t flaunt their wealth. It’s not unusual to see people in Zurich who are normally-dressed like me, walk in downtown apartments that cost tens of thousand of francs per month to rent, or millions of francs to buy.

  3. Aw, this brings back memories :) I also love the way you say ‘Chur’, like you’re clearing your throat, a really Swiss name :)

  4. Thanks for a wonderful story Matt, I’m now convinced its worth the stop over. We are in the middle of planning our Europe 2015 trip and the Bernina Express looked like a great option for a leg from Milan to Liechtenstein, we’ll be posting the planning stages over the next few months (once the concrete has set) on aholeinmyshoe.com


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