Postcards from Switzerland: Davos

After a couple of weeks away from blogging, I’m happy to be back with some more pictures to share with you. These are from Davos, a town in the mountains of Eastern Switzerland that was once famous as a tuberculosis health resort and still draws lots of outdoor enthusiasts. We visited in the very last week of the ski season, when just a couple of the six runs were open, but that was enough for a few days. (I do not ski, so my husband and son enjoyed the slopes while I walked around and relaxed.)

The hostel is the large building to the right.

We stayed in the Youth Hostel, located in a former sanatorium up on a hillside with a wonderful view. It was eerily empty, but that gave us lots of peace and quiet. We had an excellent four-bed dormitory room to ourselves, with our own bathroom and a large balcony that would have been lovely if the sun had been shining more. As it was, it was too cold to sit long outside, and I was extra glad not to be a tuberculosis patient.

View from the dining room on a snowy morning.

I spent some time in the Kirchner Museum, dedicated to the expressionist painter Ernst Kirchner, who spent the later part of his life in Davos. I really enjoyed the one room of his work, which included wooden sculptures, drawings, and photographs as well as paintings — but most of the boxlike modern one-floor exhibit space was devoted to an exhibition of works by another, contemporary Swiss artist that were incredibly hideous and depressing. I wish the balance had been the other way around.

One of Kirchner’s colorful paintings from the Davos museum

There was not much to do in the town, particularly as restaurants were not open, so I visited a few shops, ate takeout food, and ducked into some churches to warm up — there were lots to choose from.

I did not go inside this church, but the traditional designs on the outside were striking.
Escher-like sculpture in a roundabout coming down into town. (That’s another church on the right.)
The “Schweizerhaus” houses the town library (not open, alas).

The last church I visited was the Protestant Reform Church of St. Johann, parts of which date back 700 years. It featured a beautiful apse with early-modern stained glass windows by local artist Augusto Giacometti.

Detail of one of the windows — they depict the future Paradise as being full of the wonders of earthly nature, like this stork and duck.

I was happy to have a chance to visit this special spot, and I hope to return one day when there is more human activity and a bit more sun! The bookish connections are also manifold — I especially want to read Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain, inspired by a stay in Davos, which should make it even more meaningful.

What is your favorite mountain getaway, in literature or real life?

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17 thoughts on “Postcards from Switzerland: Davos

  1. Love the “postcards.” I read Mann’s The Magic Mountain when I was 21, just graduated from college one trimester early and working in a medical office. It was spring and I would take the book outside for my lunch break and get lost in it. It was a really good way to read it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Lori. For those of us who can’t really travel, it’s nice learn there are those who can!

    A tuberculosis health resort reminds me of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. I do hope I get to read it again one day. But that wouldn’t be my favourite getaway.

    My favourite mountain experience was in Griesalp in Switzerland. However, we have lots of beautiful mountain in B.C. and it would be hard to choose just one here.

    1. British Columbia is certainly a spectacular place as well. I’m looking forward to the day when I can get back there.

  3. I so appreciate when you “take us with you” on your trips. I enjoy visiting churches of various denominations, so interesting.

    My favorite mountains are in Southern California, called the San Jacintos. I have often hiked, camped and stayed at inns there. Then there are the Sierras which I have only hiked through that are magnificent.

    1. The mountain landscapes of the world have something in common and yet are so different. I never tire of exploring them.

  4. Standout narratives about mountains for me? I’m racking my brains but two that spring to mind are Robert Silverberg’s Kingdoms of the Wall, a scifi standalone but one I see as part of his Majippoor series of planetary romances (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-wall); and also Colin Thubron’s To a Mountain in Tibet about his pilgrimage to the sacred peak of Kailash (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-kailash). John Christopher’s Tripod novel The White Mountains only has a brief sequence in the Alps.

    I do want to read the Mann, but before that have Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game to reread which also ends in, I think, the Swiss Alps.

    1. [Pressed Send instead of New Para…] Lovely gallery, sorry you had lousy weather but I know it can be spectacular and beautiful in the right conditions.

      1. It was actually brilliant sun on the second day, but I did not take pictures then for some reason. The skiiers were happy to have one great day.

        Interesting mountain book suggestions, thanks. I’ve not read any of those except The Glass Bead Game a long time ago. Would like to refresh my memory of that as well.

  5. My hometown also had a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. That fresh mountain air, I guess! Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott’s wife, spent time there (I believe for mental health) and actually tragically died there.

    I love your pictures. The vivid colors of the stained glass really catch my attention.

    Obviously the Blue Ridge Mountains I call home hold a special place in my heart. We have a lot of authors from my area (surprising, considering we don’t have a large population) but my favorite might be Lee Smith. She sets most of her books in the mountains.

    1. The pictures of the windows actually showed the design more clearly than seeing them in real life. I think they may need cleaning. But either way they were stunning!

      Thanks for the recommendation for Lee Smith. I will have to check her out.

  6. How lovely! Thank you for sharing your day with us. Hm, favorite mountain escapes…I’m not thinking of anything right now, but now I feel a yen to drive up into the Sierra Nevadas!

  7. What lovely photos! I’ve only between to Switzerland for day trips, and my favorite was Interlaken. The drive was so stunning, I’ll never forget it. I’m glad you were able to find some things to do even though most things are closed. It must be like perpetual Sunday in Germany, where nearly every business is closed except restaurants and cultural sights like museums and theaters — hopefully those will reopen soon! I hadn’t heard of Kirchner but that’s a lovely painting, I’ll have to look for his work. When I traveled in Europe I realized how many artists are famous in their own countries and we really don’t see them here. I saw beautiful art in Estonia and Spain by artists I’d never heard of and they were so wonderful.

    1. Yes, it’s a bit random what works and artists become well known. Visiting museums helps to find those that are under the radar.

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