As we drove round bend after bend, reaching higher and higher into the mountains, we noticed the temperature dropping and the scenery around us becoming just that little bit whiter. After three and a half hours of sharp bends and steep hills, we finally reached Celerina and pulled in to the driveway of my Uncle Guge’s hotel.
We parked the car and waited inside, accepting the barman’s intuitive offer of a cold beer. Guge came around the corner a little tired from his day of skiing but still very eager to hear how our Swiss trip had been so far. Dani, an old friend of the family, also surprised us by stopping by and joined us for a drink and a bite to eat. After a catch up Guge took us on a quick tour of the hotel before we dropped our bags off at their beautiful house around the corner where we’d be staying.
That night Guge cooked us and several of his friendly dinner guests a delicious seafood paella, but not before a “Hugo”, apparently one of Guge’s favourite aperitifs. I foolishly agreed to one not knowing that it was actually a dry martini – a straight mix of gin and vermouth garnished with an olive – so ensured I took it slow otherwise wouldn’t have remembered dinner at all. After the delicious paella, a selection of cheeses and a port wine, there was a short break before the lights went out and a birthday cake with candles arrived. I let it slip to Guge that we were arriving on Anita’s birthday, and he had organised a cake without either of us knowing. It was very thoughtful of him.
After a slice or two and a coffee, Guge got up to fetch his ceremonious cigar. He asked if anyone else wanted one to which all guests answered yes. Given it was Anita’s birthday and everyone was participating, we too agreed to share one, right before brushing our teeth thoroughly and crashing out for the night.
The next morning we rose bright and early to walk up and watch the bobsleigh and skeleton atheletes train. The “Olympia Bob Run” is the oldest in the world, and the only natural-ice track that hosts international races. It’s staged events for two Olympic Winter Games, as well as 24 World Championships. The speed that these guys reach is mental, especially when watching them hit 4.5Gs of centrifugal force around the “horse shoe” bend. We ended our morning with breakfast then relaxed a bit before chucking our boots back on to head up to Muottas Muragl, a mountain standing 2,456m above sea level and easily one of the best vantage points in the area.
We took the steep cable car ride up, watching the brown shrubs on either side turn to white snow as we reached further up into the mountain. When we finally reached the top we had the most amazing view over Celerina, St Moritz and beyond. We continued to walk higher up the mountain, trekking through the snow paths until we reached an even greater vantage point. On our return, Dani suggested we take a short cut to save time, unintentionally forcing us to trudge knee-deep down a slightly dangerous rocky slope. Anita and I couldn’t stop laughing all the the way down to the restaurant, where we stopped for a cold beer, a warm soup, and some very alcoholic schümli pflümlis. Once done, we returned back to the house to warm up, shower, and get ready for what was a delicious dinner at the hotel.
On our last day in Celerina we were taken to Lago Bianco, a black-ice lake which had completely frozen over and was now being used by the public for ice-skating. We were as equally nervous as we were excited because we hadn’t been ice-skating in decades, and certainly never on a lake. We made the slipperly decent down the snowy slope, slid on our boots and hit the ice. It took Anita only about five minutes before she was gliding around like a figure skater, and me about an hour before I could stand vertically. Ok, I wasn’t that bad, but Anita still picked it up way quicker than I did. Skating on the lake felt very surreal, especially one of black ice. Anita said it was easily one of the highlights of her trip so far.
It wasn’t long after we got home that we turned straight back around and walked with Guge to St Moritz via one of his favourite scenic routes. It was so nice to walk through the forest as the sun went down and all the way to the lake where we had a view of St Moritz from afar. People say it’s not the most beautiful town to look at but Anita and I didn’t think that at all.
That night after yet another of Guge’s rocket-fuel aperitifs, we all sat down to some älpermagronen. It’s a very traditional type of Swiss mac ‘n cheese which originated from farmers in the alps using what they had on hand, and comes with potato and a dollop of apple sauce. It’s fairly basic, but very delicious.
Over dinner, one of Guge’s dinner guests noted that Anita’s name reminded him of Costa Cordalis’ 1976 hit with the same title. Anita and I had never heard it, so after a couple of wines Guge chucked it on loud and after allowing it to catch on, we all sang it late into the night.
Before we knew it New Years Eve had arrived and it was time for us to head back to Besenbüren to return Connie’s car and continue on to my aunty Elena’s place in Zürich. We had such an amazing three days in Celerina and owe it all to the generosity and kindness of Guge and Dani. Thank you guys for showing us the very best of Celerina; we loved every second of it!