A castle (almost) on our doorstep: Regensberg

It was a glorious weekend but Tim and I didn't want to travel far - so we decided to explore our surroundings of the Züri Unterland a little more. Embarrassing that, while we have covered much of Switzerland on weekends away, we have seen but little of our local area. Regensberg provided the perfect destination.

A short train ride took us to Otelfingen, a pretty town beneath the Lägerenweid and the Jura Höhenweg panoramic hike. Our 2.5 hour walk took us first past meadows sprinkled with colourful primroses and tumbledown farmhouses in Boppelsen, before winding into the shade of woodland. Our path meandered between tall trees that wove together into a scene like something from 'Where the Wild Things Are'.

As the curtain of forestry drew back, a panorama of spectacular proportions opened up: rolling fields and patches of woodland in the foreground, backed by an Alpine vista stretching from Säntis (2,502m) in the north east to Mount Pilatus (2,128m) in Central Switzerland. We picnicked watching plane after plane take off against the view (the airport was also part of the setting), before our route swept steeply downhill and the back up to Regensberg and its castle. Only the turret of the castle remains, so the setting is fairytale-esque: a tree-lined cobbled street leads up to a smooth windowless tower. It was like Gruyères for the Unterland and a lovely way to spend a quite spring Sunday.

You can find the route we took here.

A birthday's skiing: Scuol, Engadin ...

I can't think of many places I'd rather have seen in my 27th birthday than Scuol in the Lower Engadin valley. The weekend looked promising: Scuol is not only a quaint spa town with nice cafes, sleepy squares and a charming vista of the Swiss National Park, it also boasts a friendly ski area with plenty of blue runs. We visited last summer, and if the town looked beautiful then, it looked just as much so in winter.

The old town properties, each decorated with sgraffito, were quilted in white and making a picture postcard scene. We had booked two nights in B&B Bun di Scuol, a traditional Engadiner property with wood panelled rooms in the heart of the old town. Having stayed there previously, we knew what a warm welcome we would get and what a cosy night's sleep enveloped by a blanket of silence. Never mind that I arrived with a bang, having gone splat after slipping on ice on the hill down to the B&B!

The skiing was excellent. Despite the warm weather recently, there was still a lot of snow on the gentle slopes - and what a range of blues for me to build confidence on. We enjoyed lunch of lasagne (me) and gratin (Tim), before leaving the mountain mid-afternoon and enjoying tea and cake at arty cafe MundArt on the main street. Walking around town in the early evening is beautiful, as the traditional properties begin to twinkle and you can admire the modern revamping of some of them - huge glass panels revealing ancient woodwork, and so on. There are fountains dotted around, each gushing mineral water (Scuol is surrounded by a network of natural springs with healing properties).

Later, facing a panorama of mountains gilded with moonlight, we ate tasty pizzas at Restaurant Pizzeria Taverna. If it sounds like food was a key theme, that's because it was: before returning to Zurich we treated ourselves to a slice of Apfelstrudel on a sunny terrace overlooking that breathtaking view. Time flew - sitting there was so irresistible that we almost missed our bus! If this is what getting another year older is, I'll definitely take more.

Ski-yoga and sledging in St. Moritz

St. Moritz in the Engadin valley is a funny old place. The home of winter tourism - which celebrates its 150th anniversary this coming season - it retains a glitzy, old-world charm. A charm imbued with the intrigue of wealth and glamour. It is easy to dismiss as expensive and snooty - just as I had. But, as we meandered along the lakefront under clear moonlight, the town above illuminated like a cluster of fireflies, I couldn't fail to be enchanted.

Our accommodation for the evening helped. Hotel Cervus is an authentic terracotta Engadiner property, just enough removed from the main drag. It offered a friendly welcome, a cosy room that meshed the traditional with the modern in a tasteful way (think wood-beamed ceilings above sparse white walls, slick fittings and a flat-screen TV) and a homely four-course dinner - featuring trout in horseradish sauce and stewed pear with cinnamon ice cream - served in a welcomingly warm Stube (dining room). We awoke to glistening mountains and the pristine white carpet of the frozen lake, which was being prepared for the annual cross country ski marathon.

Perfect weather for our day's activity: ski-yoga. Sounds crazy, right? Where else would create a new trend combining skiing and yoga but St. Moritz? But, as I found out (and you can read about in my article for The Local news agency), it is anything but the latest fad. Instead, it is a new way of looking at skiing that really helped me, as a skier beset with anxiety and nerves, to approach steep pistes more confidently and safely. The person who commented on my article that it reads like PR has missed the point - I enjoyed the experience so much that I had nothing less than positive to say.

The previous day, we did something entirely different: the sledge run from Preda to Bergun. An iconic red Rhaetian Railway engine took us to the sleepy hamlet of Preda, which was a hive of activity with sledgers setting off along the well-known 4 mile route (Europe's longest floodlit sledge run). It was snowing lightly, snowflakes dusting our faces as we glided through woodland and beneath the railway viaducts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We arrived in Bergun in good time for the train back up to Preda, and so undertook a steeper sledge route - from Darlux back into the valley. If I had complained about the route from Preda being too gentle even for my tastes, I immediately regretted it. This run saw us haring over deep ridges in the snow, jolting up and down on the wooden frame, crashing into the corners and feeling bruises form all over our body. The skeleton experience? I was relieved that it was a re-run of Preda-Bergun that we opted for next, so my joints could ease back into position.

Dusk was falling, the lamps along the run casting a silver glow, and, when we reached Bergun, the main street was filled with the aroma of woodsmoke and warm mulled wine. Our weekend couldn't have been further removed from my preconceptions about St. Moritz.
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