Late arrival by train from Vals to this loveliest of Swiss cities, thanks to trade with Italy centuries ago that resulted in architecture and narrow streets reflecting Italian aesthetics more than Swiss.

We are in Wilden Mann, a favorite inn, by the Reuss, and though it’s only a very short stay, it feels like home since the city has many memories for me even from the time I was a boy of thirteen.

Luzern was the first place I went to with my family.  Then later I did a Landdienst in Root, a nearby village, about 10 km away.  There Herr Bucheli had me climb long, wooden, rickety ladders up forty feet to pick cherries, then clean horse stables, feed calves fresly mown grass, empty sewer tanks, etc.  Once or twice I hitch-hiked to Luzern.  Much later my wife and I traded homes with a city minister and stayed a month.

Now it’s vibrant, still, and as lovely as ever.

Last night we ate at Galliker, a favorite Stube away from the old city; 150 years old: Low ceilings, lots of good local wine, a great local crowd, Wiener-style schnitzel pounded flat.

VALS 7132 (CH)

It’s a gem, The Therme, designed by architect Peter Zumthor.  The gaunt stones and the play of light, the absences and suggestiveness, the emptiness.

Most of all, the nothingness.  So pleasing.

The rooms and outdoor areas are filled with water of varying temperatures, and all sorts of extremely subtle variations of shape and empty space.

It’s my third visit, and now with rooms designed by Tadeo Ando and Kengo Kuma, the feel is of a ryokan in view of alpine pastures.

Here in Graubunden, the village itself has numerous stone or wooden structures with slate roofs.  In the surrounding hills are herds of cows, goats, and sheep.

Today we walked on a long and familiar path, cows nearly nose to nose, and deep in a remote valley had a picnic of fresh rolls, local cheese, an apple, and Valser Wasser.

From the Balcony…

…it’s possible to see the Todi, to the SW, and beside it Selbsanft, after which this building is named.  On the East, the Alps are not as high, but tower still between 6,000-9,000 feet.

It’s quiet now, and will remain quiet, with the occasional hum of an electric transport vehicle, a crow, dogs, and maybe a helicopter or two bringing construction supplies to the village.

Yesterday it was another six hour walk above Braunwald, starting at Gumen, which we had reached by cable car, with old friends from Bern.  Soup in a cafe with cider and bread.  An alpine lake.

Prior, just the day before, we had started from the same place, this time heading West rather than East, and walked up to Rietstockli, a favorite hike, that takes one through valleys, past a pond, and ends with a view of two valleys.  At the top, Urnerboden, in canton Uri, can be seen.

Vals today, only 24 miles away, but a three and half hour trip by train as there are high mountains between us.  The Therme is there, designed by Peter Zumthor, whose bare walls of granite are suggestive.