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The Rhine valley north of Chur winds through lush meadowland to the small industrial town of Landquart – an important rail junction for the line to Davos – and on to BAD RAGAZ, a rather graceful spa resort full of cheery elderly folk strolling happily along the neat boulevards feeling much better than they used to, thanks to the town’s thermal springs which rise at a cosy 34°C to soothe away rheumatic and circulatory problems. Take a dip at the Tamina Therme baths (daily 7.30am–9pm; Fr.16), located behind the luxurious Grand Hotel Quellenhof or at the simpler Dorfbad, in the town centre (May–Sept Mon–Fri 8.30–11am & 2.30–5pm, Sat 8.30–11am), 1km or so southwest of the train station.

The hills above Bad Ragaz are where the Heidiland region got its name: the Swiss author Johanna Spyri set her wholesome classic of children’s literature Heidi in and around the village of MAIENFELD, and the place milks its claim to fame mercilessly. Local trains between Chur and Bad Ragaz stop at Maienfeld station, starting point for a gentle half-day amble up into the lush pastureland on the mountain slopes. The trail leads first past Maienfeld’s pretty central square and the tourist office (Mon–Fri 10am–noon & 1.30–5pm, Sat closes 4pm; 081/302 58 58), which has maps and swathes of Heidi kitsch, and then on up the hill to the hamlet of Oberrofels, now cruelly renamed Heididorf. Regardless of the lack of firm evidence linking Spyri’s story with any particular house, one old wooden chalet near the execrable Heidihof Hotel has been seized upon as being “the original Heidi’s House”, and converted into a museum to show how Heidi would have lived a hundred years ago (April–Oct daily 10am–5pm; Fr.5). A trail – which, thankfully, most people don’t seem to bother with – leads from Heididorf further up into the high pastures, past another lone chalet designated Peter the Goatherd’s Hut and up to Heidi Alp, supposed home to Heidi’s wise Alm-Uncle. The trail is actually very scenic, winding back down through lush meadows filled with spring wildflowers to the village of Jenins, and back to Heididorf.

The Bündner Herrschaft

The east bank of the Rhine around Maienfeld, taking in the adjacent villages of Fläsch, Jenins and Malans, is one of Switzerland’s more unusual winemaking areas, dubbed the Bündner Herrschaft. In what would otherwise be far too inhospitable a climate, luscious red Pinot Noir grapes – introduced in the seventeenth century by the French Duc de Rohan – are nurtured by the warm southerly Föhn wind, which can sometimes raise summer temperatures well above 25°C. The villages are linked by footpaths, generally quiet once you’re out of the range of Heidi-seekers, and have a handful of rustic inns at which to enjoy a carafe of local wine alongside a square meal. Schloss Brandis, a medieval castle on the edge of Maienfeld (081/302 24 23), has a renowned restaurant for gourmet regional specialities, and an impressive cellar, and the Landhaus in Fläsch (081/302 14 36; closed Mon & Tues), Traube in Jenins (closed Thurs), and Zum Ochsen in Malans (closed Mon) all concentrate as much on their wines as on their generally very affordable menus.

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