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Versam -- Tiny Graubunden Village

I have a dilemma...... my husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Switzerland, and I hope to include a stop in the tiny village of Versam, the place from which my ancestors emigrated to America in the 1800's. It seems the scenic, must-do Glacier Express slides right past this village, but that would only provide a drive-by glimpse. Versam itself almost certainly isn't a tourist attraction, although there are a couple of choices for lodging in the village itself. It can be reached as an 8-mile day trip by post bus, regional train, or rental car from Chur. We are considering staying 2 nights in Chur -- visit Versam day 1 and return to Chur for the night, then do the Glacier Express to continue on to other destinations.

My questions for the community:

  1. Does anybody know anything about Versam?
  2. What's the best way to research the road conditions between Chur and Versam to determine if traveling by rental car from Chur is a good option?
  3. Is there an information source that describes what amount of snow is typical on Swiss roads throughout the year? Except for this trip to Versam, the remainder of our Switzerland itinerary would hopefully be done by train, and we have yet to research the best ticket package makes the most sense.
Posted by
32 posts

Why don't you take a train/bus to Versam (http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en)? I don't know about road conditions in winter. As I remember it was quite an isolated road to Versam. To find out more about road conditions I would call the tourist office in Versam (Versam / Valendas Safiental Tourismus Tel. +41 (0)81 630 60 16 www.safiental.ch, info@safiental.ch).

When you are in Versam go down to the Rhine gorge, which I found impressive (http://en.graubuenden.ch/nature-culture/nature-switzerland/lakes-gorges-the-rhine/rhine-gorge-swiss-grand-canyon.html).

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks, Aniol. Train does make more sense, and the only reason we'd consider car rental is if we wanted to maneuver the roads within Versam to try to locate my ancestral house which we understand still exists in nearby Arezen. I'm actively researching to see if I can get more information about where the house actually stands, and with luck we'll get more specifics. If the Versam/Arezen area is walkable and not too taxing for our healthy 67 year-old bodies, we'd certainly prefer the train option. I haven't yet got a good sense of the terrain within the Versam area (e.g. from the train station to the town and from there to Arezen. It appears to be close to Versam according to Google map, but is possibly up a steep hill.

As to our travel dates, that is still entirely flexible and we're not limited by anything other than our overall preferences. We'd definitely not travel there in winter, but are leaning to the shoulder seasons of September/October or springtime.

Thank you!

Posted by
669 posts

There are busses in each direction every 30 minutes or so, so I don't see the need for a renal car at all...

Posted by
22267 posts

In springtime and September or October most main roads will be clear.

Trains will have no problem.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks you so much for that copy of the fahrplanfelder. It's very reassuring to see there is a bus option even to Arezen. Overall, the non-rental-car option seems to provide the easiest access.

I appreciate all the help you Community members have provided!

A spin-off question regarding the Rhine gorge. Can anybody tell me if there is a manageable walking trail from Versam to the base of the gorge itself, or at least a view from the heights down to the river?

Posted by
176 posts

You might try hiring a local driver for a few hours to take you around Versam and the surrounding area.

Posted by
2215 posts

If you decide to spend the night in Versam you might want to contact the hotel to see if they can arrange a driver for you if the terrain is too challenging. Google Earth might have some clues for you also about the elevation changes. Have you tried Google Images to see if there are pictures of the 2 towns you are interested in seeing? Have a great time on your family quest.

Posted by
1062 posts

If doing the trip by public transportation, spending a night in Versam would not be a bad idea. If the weather is good it would not matter, but if it is rainy having a base in the village - vs. standing in the rain waiting for the next bus - can save the day.

Also, it looks like a very original thing to do. Chur is a nice little city but not really an unforgettable one.

Posted by
5 posts

Kathy, Mona, and Lachera:

You all have gotten me convinced on the best way to go here. I especially like the concept of staying in Versam instead of Chur. After Versam, we could move on to other destinations by traveling back to Chur to hop on the Glacier Express.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Posted by
32 posts

The Rhine is next to the train station "Bahnhof Versam". So you can see the Rhine gorge from below. To admire the canyon from a platform, take the train and Post Bus to Flims Waldhaus and then you have to walk through a forest. Nearby is also the beautiful lake "Caumasee".
Enjoy Switzerland.

Posted by
1062 posts

Pegmo: a couple notes of warning. I do not know Versam but I have spent some holiday periods in very isolated Swiss localities. As much as I like it, I understand it is not for everybody. I see Versam has 250 residents: this means there will be relatively few things to do. Thinking about it, it could be unforgettable or it could be boring to death. Also consider that in these villages accommodations, while usually spotless clean, are often a little on the basic side. It is up to you to decide.

A note about how the railway works. The Versam station is on the line between Chur and Disentis. I don't know if you will be taking the Glacier Express direction St. Moritz or direction Zermatt. If you are heading direction St. Moritz you can probably board the GE at Reichenau-Tamins without going all the way to Chur. If you are heading direction Zermatt, you take a regional train to Ilanz or Disentis and board the GE there saving some time.

The train line follows one branch of the Rhein river, so the station is lower and distant from the main village. As one of the two hotels is near the station, keep this in mind when making your plans.

Posted by
5 posts

Aniol: Thanks very much for the information about the Rhine in relation to the actual village Versam. It looks like a better way to access the actual village and a likely B&B is to take the PostBus which is 100 meters to Gasthaus Rossli. It makes sense to take in a later overlook from above when traveling west from Versam to the Glacier Express.

Lachera: That's a very good point about "attractions" in Versam. My primary reason for visiting is to see the actual village and house of my ancestors which was described quite extensively (including photographs) in a family genealogy written by my late aunt in 1962. It's been a bit of a family tradition to visit Versam, although nobody from more recent generations has done this -- therefore, no up-to-date information. At most I would imagine a 1-day visit, and if it should evolve that wonderful family information and contacts should transpire, I'll just have to come back for another visit in the future!

Thanks to all for your valuable input.

Posted by
1062 posts

Pegmo, you made me look for Versam on the internet. It looks to belong to a German language and Protestant island in a mainly Rumantsch and Catholic area; it was populated by Walser, a people of German language that can be found scattered all along the Alps; they left the Wallis/Valais canton in 14th century and settled in the highest and more remote villages. Their dialect is separate from the Swiss German dialect.

Versam is a sort of exception as Walser were Catholic but the Versam ones got into a local reform movement and switched to protestantism. What I find fascinating about Switzerland is that every village, even the remotest ones, seems to have its own identity.

Posted by
60 posts

Height difference between the train station and Versam is 274m (635 to 909 m above sea level) over 3.7km. Versam looks pretty level but the trip to Arezen might be another story. Arezen extends from around 940 to 1160 meters above sea level. If you want to take a look yourself you can use the wanderland.ch map.

Driving by with the train will most likely yield no line of sight to the town at all. The train travels at the bottom of the valley and the slopes are rather steep.

Also like Aniol said: The north side of the valley is an excellent place to hike. Not too much up and down if you stay on the plateau of Flims and the Caumasee and the viewing platform are worth a visit. If you plan on hiking you might want to aim your vacation more in the direction of september, early october for better temperatures.