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Sumbriva da stà fa uai it vainter d'inviern—
A bad summer means belly-ache in winter.
(Farmers' saying from the Val Müstair.
If the hay will not dry properly in the summer because of bad weather,
the resulting poor-quality animal feed may disturb
the cattle's digestive processes.)

 

In the new wing of the hotel, created in 1980 in what used to be the barn, fewer demands are placed on one's sense of direction. Seven rooms now stand where once hay was stored and hens and goats housed. On entering, the room's generous scale reminds one of its original purpose; this was the way to the hayloft, where the forage was stored after the summer harvest. Closing one's eyes, the smell of dry hay seems still to hover in the air, the tangy fragrance of herbs and mountain flowers. The old beams, darkened by age and sunlight, and secured only with wooden pegs, were retained to help support the new walls.

In las pullas, one of the ground-floor rooms, there is another pointer to the past. This is where the hens used to live; the opening by which they would go in and out still remains visible under the right-hand window. The chicken design in the curtains re-emphasises the identity of the room's former occupants. In the next room, la staletta, where the goats were kept, exactly the same principle applies; the relevant animal motif appears in the curtains.


When earth under the pens was being removed during the conversion from barn to new hotel wing, the architect discovered remains of old foundations. These turned out to be the foundation walls of a house which must have been built in the time of Charlemagne, i.e. at roughly the same time as the nearby Convent of St. Johann, which dates from the end of the eighth century.
By virtue of its antiquity and historic significance, the Chasa Chalavaina has been designated part of Switzerland's national heritage; it is listed as a monument.


"The Chasa Chalavaina is a house that begs to be discovered", as one guest said after a tour of the building. His comment is true, but that is not the whole story. The walls, boards and beams have absorbed the sounds and smells of the centuries. The rough voices of the mats, the maid's frightened shrieks as she fled from the French officers, can, of course, no longer be heard. It is a long time since thyme, arnica and Bindenfleisch (dried beef) were dried under the roof, and the oven is cold where once rye bread was baked. Yet these sounds and smells live on. Although they now belong to the past, they pervade the atmosphere of the Chasa Chalavaina. The past invests the house with dignity, a dignity etched deep by time.