Nutli Huschi Folk Museum, Klosters, Switzerland
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THERE was a time not all that long ago when you couldn't just nip down the road to the nearest garden centre if you broke a spade or needed a specialist bit of kit – you'd have to make it yourself or find someone who could.
And therein lies the charm and fascination of a real village folk museum, which can whisk you and your imagination back to a world that was unchanged for generations until relatively recently, yet seems very much a bygone age.
It's all the more surprising when it's in one of the most sophisticated all-year-round holiday resorts in the world, where royalty, film stars and the mega-rich and powerful rub shoulders with families whose grandparents often still work in the surrounding meadows and tend their herds of photogenic, bell-tolling cattle on the high pastures even if their mattresses are stuffed with francs from selling off or renting out some of the most valuable real estate in Switzerland.
Heritage and then some is reflected in the traditional, flower-bedecked chalet architecture of converted farmhouses, old and new homes and balconied hotels in vibrant, fashionable Klosters, but tucked away in the heart of the village is a time capsule gem that evokes rustic life as it was for many, many people in the harsh, subsistence farming environment of the Alps before the trickle, then flood, of tourists moved in with time and money to spare.
Traditional local and regional artifacts and workaday items from the 17th to 19th centuries are displayed in context in the Nutli Hüschi house – built in 1565 – and the adjoining 18th century barn. The charming stone and timber-built museum (its 'personal' website if your German is up to scratch!) shows how the Walser people lived their hard and basic lives and is well worth a diversion, if only to underline the contrast with the holiday chalet or hotel you're staying in with all the mod cons you could wish for.
Keeping warm was an imperative in the unforgiving winter and with plenty of firewood on hand, a huge built-in stove is the hub of the interior, heating all the rooms as well as being something to cook on and even lean on if the cold really closed in. Small windows with shutters underline the need for cosiness, along with curtained beds to keep out the draughts, and another neat touch is a hand-carved wooden cradle which can be extended as the youngster grows – a bit like a large, super-ornate matchbox.
A loom on the top floor provided clothes, curtains and bed covers, while the downstairs rooms and the barn show off all manner of essential implements for making a living from the land and the animals that grazed on it, from haymaking gear to specialist equipment for making butter and cheese.
Many of the ingenious ideas-in-action are just as valid today for various tasks and demonstrate that you didn't need a degree in advanced mechanics and a computer to come up with some cracking solutions to posers which would have stumped many a modern technocrat.
The Prättigau house – the name of the valley which is home to Klosters and its neighbouring resort of Davos – has such an iconic status in the Graubünden region of Switzerland that you can even get married there. Then you could maybe have a reception at a mountain restaurant, reachable by funicular or gondola, or at the riverside village base I used, the nearby, family-owned Silvretta Parkhotel, named after the glacier visible at the head of the valley.
The historic house is a brilliant setting for a celebration and a superb backdrop for the wedding album in winter or summer – and a great spot for touristy photos, too.
SWISS offer up to 19 daily flights between the UK and Zurich from Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester (from £125 return); and up to 31 daily flights if you include Geneva and Basel. From Zurich, you can reach Klosters by train thanks to the Swiss Travel System, with a Swiss Transfer Ticket covering a round trip from £96 second class, £153 first.
For more information on Switzerland, visit MySwitzerland.com or call Switzerland Travel Centre on 020 7420 4934 or email [email protected]; or for packages, trains and air tickets, email [email protected].
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