One of the day trips I did while staying in Scuol was to Guarda, a tiny village perched high over the Lower Engadin valley at an altitude of a bit over 1650 metres. The population isn’t much more than 150.
Guarda railway station is in the valley below the village, and a bus runs year round to transport locals and visitors between the station and the village bus stop, which is called “Guarda, cumün” in the SBB timetable. “Cumün” means “village” in Vallader, which is the local variety of the Romansch language, the main language of the area. (German is also widely spoken.)
I’d been past Guarda station in the train quite a few times during my stay in Scuol, and had always noticed the little bus waiting there to take passengers up to the village. I was the only person alighting at Guarda on this occasion, and as I got off, a man boarding the train two carriages along was calling out to me and gesticulating madly in the direction of the bus stop. There was no bus there, so I assumed the man was trying to tell me the bus had already left.
I thought it a bit strange that it would leave without any passengers, but resigned myself to waiting half an hour or so for the next one, and went into the small indoor waiting room to avoid a chilly wait outside on the platform. Before long though, a man popped his head around the door and asked me if I wanted to go up to the village. It was the bus driver, so off we went! Although I was the only passenger, the bus was packed to the rafters with luggage, and the bus driver had to move a suitcase out of the doorway so I could get in! The bus was quite small, and as we drove into the village I realised why: a full-size bus would have absolutely no hope of turning the corner into the narrow main street! There was no-one in the village waiting to claim all that luggage, so it remains a mystery to me what it was doing in the bus!
Guarda would have to be one of the most lovely traditional villages I have ever seen. Apparently most houses date from the first half of the 17th century, and are built from stone, lime and wood, with coarsely plastered walls. The beautifully preserved facades are decorated with “sgraffito” and paintings, including many texts. Window boxes and pots of flowers abound, and many fountains add to the rustic beauty of the narrow cobblestone streets. In places, especially from the garden of the Hotel Meisser, there are great views into the valley below.
After an hour or two wandering around the village on what was an icy cold day, I retreated to a cosy restaurant with an open fireplace: “Ustaria Crusch Alba”, in the main street not far from the bus stop. (It’s marked on Google Maps if you zoom in close enough). I enjoyed a lunch of “Steinpilzstroganoff” (mushroom stroganoff), and admired the “Drachenecke” (dragon corner) decorated with a painted dragon on the wall, which refers to a local dragon legend apparently. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and also has a seasonal closure between late October and early December.
By the time I decided to head back to the bus stop, it had started snowing, to my great delight! For me, that just added to the beauty of the village. (I was suitably dressed for the cold weather of course!) Although I hadn't seen that many people strolling around in Guarda on this cold Sunday in early October, a small crowd of people appeared from nowhere shortly before the bus was due to depart, and the bus back to the station was packed, with many people having to stand. A small child unselfconsciously sang a catchy song over and over all the way back to the station, by which point some of the adult passengers had started singing too, and continued while waiting on the platform for the train!
I have attached some photos I took in Guarda that day. One of the photos shows the Jecklin house, which has an inscription in Romansch on it. There is a translation of the text on Wikipedia. It says:
“We build such pretty houses and know that we not stay forever.
But about the place we will go to forever, we think only rarely.”