SWITZERLAND | The Grisons or Graubünden 

Rail map of the Grisons.

After the year 2021 without visiting my sister Florence in Zug in Switzerland, I finally returned to the Confoederatio Helvetica in March 2022. I stayed over a week. More than a family visit, I organised an excursion to French-speaking Switzerland, also known as Romandy, to visit Maxime and the vineyards of Lavaux in the canton of Vaud, near Lausanne. I also booked a journey on the world-famous Glacier Express from Sankt Moritz to Brig. Furthermore, I looked for a nice way in and out. The ÖBB Nightjet night train from Amsterdam to Zurich and the voyage home via Lyon in France.

A week in Switzerland for my sister offered opportunities for excursions further away. One of those was doing the Glacier Express, which is part of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Danny and I have been to the canton of the Grisons or Graubünden several times now, on separate occasions. It’s a popular place for Swiss and foreign tourists, as it is home to landscapes one typically associates with the country.

Grisons coat of arms.

Presentation

The Grisons form one of the twenty-six cantons of Switzerland. The canton has eleven regions, and its capital is Chur. The German name of the canton, Graubünden, translates as the ‘Grey Leagues’, referring to the canton’s origin in three local alliances, the Three Leagues

The other native names, Grischun in Romansh, Grison in Lombard, and Grigioni in Italian) also refer to the Grey League. The medieval inhabitants wore grey clothes. Gris in French, Grau in German. 

Rhaetia is the Latin name for the area, hence the Rhaetian Railway or Rhätishe Bahn. Also, in English and in the Roman languages, Grisons comes with a plural article. Le canton des Grisons, in French. 

The Alpine ibex is the canton’s heraldic symbol.

The largest and most easterly canton of Switzerland, it is also one of the three large southern Alpine cantons, along with Valais (Wallis) and Ticino

It is the most diverse canton in terms of natural and cultural geography, as it encompasses both sides of the Alps and several natural and cultural regions. 

The Grisons are bordered by four cantons: Ticino to the south; Uri to the west; and Glarus and Sankt Gallen to the north. 

The canton is also bordered by the Principality of Liechtenstein to the north; Austria‘s states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol to the north and east; and Italy‘s autonomous province of South Tyrol and region of Lombardy to the south.

Rhaetia

The Grisons form the only trilingual canton of Switzerland. It is also the only one where Romansh, Switzerland’s fourth national language, has official status. 

Romansh language and culture is an important part of local identity.

In 2020 the canton had a population of just over 200,000. It is the least densely populated canton of Switzerland. The only sizable city in the canton is Chur, as the majority of the population lives in mountainous areas, including some of the most remote valleys of the country. 

One of the birthplaces of winter sports, the canton is a major tourist destination year-round, and comprehends a large number of Alpine resort towns, notably Davos and Sankt Moritz

The canton is also renowned for its extensive narrow-gauge railway network, operated by the Rhaetian Railway, and linking the capital with most valleys of the Grisons.

Formerly occupied by the Rhaeti, most of the lands of the canton became part of the Roman province called Rhaetia, which was established in 15 BC, with Curia, a settlement dating back to the Pfyn culture, as capital city. 

The area later became part of the lands of the diocese of Chur. The late middle ages saw the foundation of the League of God’s House, the Grey League and the League of the Ten Jurisdictions. In 1471 an alliance gave birth to the Three Leagues, and before the end of the 15th century, the latter became an ally of the Old Swiss Confederacy. In 1803 the Three Leagues finally became one of the cantons of the Confederation. 

Trains

Trains, our favourite subject. Perhaps along with flights and airport lounges. The SBB CFF FFS are almost completely absent from Grisons, only going to Landquart and Chur. There you change on the narrow-gauge railways of the RhB.

The RhB latter uses the largest narrow-gauge railway network in Switzerland and serves most regions of the canton, with branches towards Central Switzerland and Italy. This network is notably travelled by two of the longest distance trains of Switzerland: the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express.

In conclusion

When you think of Swiss landscapes, Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee), Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Lake Geneva or Bern are not top of your mind. The Grisons are. Maybe Valais with its Matterhorn

So visiting the canton should be on your Swiss to-do list. 

Previous adventures in the Grisons

Switzerland 2022

  1. Zandvoort, home of the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix.
  2. REVIEW | ÖBB Nightjet Amsterdam – Zurich night train.
  3. SWITZERLAND 2022 | Thun and Thun Castle.
  4. SWITZERLAND 2022 | The Lausanne Métro.
  5. REVIEW | Hotel du Raisin in Lausanne.
  6. SWITZERLAND 2022 | The Vineyard Terraces of Lavaux in Vaud.
  7. SWITZERLAND 2022 | Two days in Lausanne.
  8. Romandy.
  9. SWITZERLAND 2022 | Sankt Moritz.
  10. REVIEW | Hotel Arte in Sankt Moritz.
  11. SWITZERLAND | The Glacier Express from Sankt Moritz to Brig (and to Zermatt).

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