Hinterrhein Driving Tour, Rhine River
This driving tour along the Hinterrhein begins in Bonaduz and ends in Hinterrhein, the last village in the Rheinwald valley.
The road south from Reichenau, where the Vorderrhein and the Hinterrhein join, crosses the Hinterrhein and runs along a terrace above the left bank of the river to Bonaduz. From Bonaduz (660 m/2,165ft; pop. 1,000) a road goes off on the right via Versam to Ilanz and Disentis. Here a road goes off on the right via Versam to Ilanz and Disentis. The main road (signposted to Thusis) continues south on the terrace above the river. High up on the left can be seen the Late Romanesque chapel of St George, with fine wall-paintings of the 14th-15th C. and a Late Gothic carved altar (key at Rhäzuns station).
Castle and Domleschg Valley, Rhazuns, Switzerland
From Bonaduz the road comes to Rhäzuns (648 m/2,126ft). To the right is the village, with the Romanesque church of SS Peter and Paul and another church of 1702. To the left, on a steep crag above the Hinterrhein, stands the imposing Rhäzuns Castle, the oldest parts of which date from the 13th C., and which commands the entrance to the Domleschg. At the end of the village, on left, is the lower station of a cableway, 2,100 m/6,890ft long, to Feldis. The road follows the railroad on the wooded hillside above the Hinterrhein, whose broad stony bed is enclosed between massive levees. On the opposite bank is a tower of the ruined castle of Nieder- Juvalta. 2km/1mi beyond this, on the right, is the Rhäzuns mineral spring ("Rhätisana" table water; visitors can tour bottling plant). In another 2km/ 1mi, just before the Rothenbrunnen railroad station (625 m/2,051ft; to left), the valley opens out and the road forks. The valley floor and the gentle lower slopes on the east side are known as the Domleschg, the steeper west slopes as the Heinzenberg. On both sides are cornfields reaching high up on the hillsides. The main road to Thusis skirts the left bank of the river under the Heinzenberg; the very attractive side road to the left passes through the numerous villages in the Domleschg and rejoins the main road at Thusis. The castles built on projecting spurs of rock were almost completely destroyed at the end of the 15th C.
Domleschg Valley (Rothenbrunnen to Feldis)
The portion of the Hinterrhein tour through the Domleschg to Thusis is 11km/7mi. (It is well worth the extra 1.5km/1mi). Just before the Rothenbrunnen railroad station the road forks and the road to the left crosses the Hinterrhein and comes to the village of Rothenbrunnen, under high rock walls, with the ruined castle of Ober-Juvalta. It has a chalybeate (iron-bearing) spring containing iodine (bottling plant).Farther on, beyond the bridge over the Scheidbach (on right), is the large Ortenstein castle (754 m/2,474ft), with an early medieval keep and 15th C. domestic quarters.350 m/1,148ft south is the ruined pilgrimage church of St Lawrence. 3km/2mi from the road junction a mountain road (not dust-free, with some steep gradients; in winter open only as far as Scheid) runs up on the left via the village of Tomils or Tumegl (800 m/2,625ft; Late Gothic church with an altarpiece of 1490 and 16th C. wall-paintings) and continues with many bends, through Unterscheid and Oberscheid to (8km/5mi northeast) Feldis or Veulden (1,472 m/4,830ft), a health resort in a sunny spot commanding extensive views (cableway from Rhäzuns).
Domleschg valley (Paspels to Thusis)
This portion of the detour through the Domleschg valley runs along the Thusis road to Paspels, with St Lawrence's chapel (Romanesque wall-paintings) and Alt-Sins Castle (restored). Beyond this, higher up on left, is the ruined castle of Neu-Sins or Canova. Rodels (700 m/2,297ft) has attractive 17th and 18th C. houses. Above the village, to the east, can be seen the 12th C. castle of Rietberg or Rätusberg, which features in Conrad Ferdinand Meyer's "Jurg Jenatsch". Beyond this is Pratval, with the ruins of Hasensprung castle. At Fürstenau are two castles which belonged to the Planta family; the Haus Stoffel has 15th and 16th C. wall-paintings.Higher up, on the left, is the beautiful village of Scharans (780 m/2,559ft), where Jürg (Georg) Jenatsch was pastor in 1617-18. The road then crosses the Zollbrücke over the Albula, which emerges from the Schin gorge a little higher up the hill and flows down to join the Hinterrhein. To the left are Baldenstein castle and St Cassian's chapel (13th C.).At Sils (Seglias, 683 m/2,241ft) we join the road from Tiefencastel through the Schin gorge and turn right along this to reach Thusis (722 m/2,369ft).
Cazis (and surroundings), Switzerland
The main road to Thusis (No. 13), (rather than the Domleschg detour), runs from Rothenbrunnen station along the left bank of the Hinterrhein under the Heinzenberg, with views of the villages and castles of the Domleschg. To the left are Alt-Sins castle and the ruins of Neu-Sins.In 5.5km/3mi the road reaches Cazis (600 m/1,969ft) where we find an old Dominican nunnery (1504) (church withwall-paintings in the choir) and the Romanesque chapel of St Wendelin. Beyond this is an attractive view, to the left, of the mouth of the Schin gorge, with the village of Scharans (on left) and Baldenstein castle (on right), the Tinzenhorn (3,179 m/10,430ft) rearing up above the gorge and in front of it the snow-capped Piz Curvèr (2,972 m/9,751ft). 1km/ 0.6mi beyond Cazis a road goes off on the right to Präz. Farther on, above the road on the right, are the little villages of Masein and Tagstein castle. Ahead, barely discernible, is the entrance to the Via Mala, with the ruined castles of Hohen-Rhätien and Ehrenfels.
4km/2mi from Cazis is Thusis, Romansch Tusaun (722 m/2,369ft), a handsome market village at the junction with the road through the Schin gorge to Tiefencastel. The village was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1845. The Protestant parish church dates from 1506, the new Catholic church from 1965. All round Thusis are the ruins of medieval castles. On a steep crag at the entrance to the Via Mala, 246 m/807ft above the river, perches the 12th C. castle of Hohen-Rhätien or Realta (950 m/3,117ft; 45-minute climb from the village); at Sils are Ehrenfels and Baldenstein; to the left, above the entrance to the Nolla valley, is Ober-Tagstein (1,130 m/3,708ft; 1.25 hours on a forest track) from the slopes of the Heinzenberg stands the castle of Tagstein or Nieder-Tagstein (848 m/2,782ft; half- hour).
The Via Mala is a dramatic gorge with limestone walls rising 500 m.
St Martin's Church, Zillis, Switzerland
In Zillis, Romansch Ciraun or Ziran (933 m/3,060ft) is the very interesting church of St Martin. The nave and tower are Early Romanesque, the choir Late Gothic; the whole structure was carefully restored in 1938-40. Its most notable feature is the 12th C. painted wooden ceiling, made up of 153 square panels depicting Biblical scenes - one of the oldest completely painted wooden ceilings in the west. Under the ceiling is a Romanesque frieze revealed in 1940. Near the church in the Schams museum (Tgea da Schons) is a collection of tools, furniture and manuscripts from Schams, Avers and the Rheinwald.
Donath - Town and Castle (Piz Beverin)
From Zillis a narrow and winding road runs 2km/1mi southwest up the Schamserberg, on the left bank of the Hinterrhein, to the village of Donath (1,033 m/3,389ft). Above the village are the ruins of Fardün castle (1,214 m/3,983ft), famous for the story of a 15th C. castellan who, during a peasant rising, spat into the dinner of a peasant named Johannes Calcar, who thereupon thrust his head into the bowl and suffocated him, with the words "Maglia sez il pult cha ti has condüt" ("You've salted the dish; now eat it!"). From Donath the road climbs another 6km/4mi west to the quiet little mountain village of Mathon (1,521 m/4,990ft), from which Piz Beverin (2,997 m/9,833ft) can be climbed in five hours.
Clugin - Cagliatscha Castle ruins
From Mathon the N 13 expressway continues south up the Hinterrhein valley, coming in 3km/2mi to the village of Clugin, on the left bank of the river (to right of road), with a picturesque little Romanesque church. 500 m/1,641ft southwest of the village are the ruins of Cagliatscha castle.
Beyond Clugin, on the right of the road, in the hamlet of Bad (Romansch Bogn), there is an alkaline chalybeate (iron-bearing) spring, the water of which is piped to Andeer. On the bridge over the Pignieuer Bach, which flows down from Piz Curvèr (2,976 m/9,764ft), is a 15th C. Latin inscription.
5km/3mi from Zillis is the exit for Andeer (979 m/3,212ft; pop. 1,000), chief town in the Schams area, in medieval times an important trading station and now a health resort (mineral swimming pool) and winter sports facility, with a large parish church (1673: Protestant) and a number of fine 16th C. houses with sgraffito decoration, notably the Haus Padrun.The old road continues through the Rofla gorge to join the new road (the distance is much the same). From Andeer there are rewarding and fairly easy climbs: to the west Piz Vizan (2,472 m/8,111ft; 4.5 hours); to the southeast Piz la Tschera (2,632 m/8,636ft; five hours).
The new road (N 13) runs above Andeer in a wide curve, twice crossing the old road on bridges and passing below the village of Bärenburg (1,042 m/3,419ft). Through the trees can be seen the ruined castle of the same name; to the right is an artificial lake. The road then traverses a tunnel of some length and crosses the Averser Rhein to reach the junction, at Avers, with the old road coming up from Andeer on the right, which gives access to the Rolfa gorge and the Avers valley.
For the Rofla gorge, after Bärenburg bear right into the old road to Avers which soon branches off on the left. 1km/ 0.6mi farther downhill is the Roflaschlucht inn (1,097 m/3,599ft), at the entrance to the Rofla gorge (or Rofna: access to gallery hewn from rock, admission fee payable at the inn).Beyond this is a reservoir (maximum capacity 1million cu. m/35million cu. ft), a compensation basin for the reservoir at Sufers, from which water is carried down under pressure through a tunnel 13km/8mi long to a power station at Sils in the Domleschg. The old road then crosses under the new one twice and comes in 2km/1mi to Andeer.