Our first cheers of the horse races! This is the tent Matt and I chose to sit beside in between the races.
After an extremely busy week, including a charity event hosted by me and Matt (which will be blogged about in the future), I am ready to go on about our trip to Switzerland. I left you after our day spent in Milan, preparing for a good night’s sleep, getting ready to hop on the train to make our way to St. Moritz.
On day 2, Matt and I made our way to the train station rather early. Since the overall trip to St. Moritz would take about 5 hours, we wanted to catch the early train. The first leg of our ride took us through northern Italy to the city of Tirano, where we would switch to a Swiss train. We were a bit surprised by the nature of the towns at the base of the mountains in northern Italy; they were a bit run-down and unlike what we expected. However, the minute we crossed into Switzerland, the scenery changed drastically. Sleepy little Swiss towns were at just about every stop as we made our way up the Alps. And I literally mean UP the Alps. The train wound around the side of the mountains, going through tunnels, slowly working towards the top. At one point, we could see our original departure point in the valley below from our track on the mountain. Once at the top, we cut through the snow-capped peaks – this was truly an incredible sight. Snow surrounded us and at each stop we noticed skiers, or para-skiers, in the distance or just below. Once through, we encountered more and more cross-country skiers on snow paths the closer we got to St. Moritz.
One of the many beautiful views as we rode through the Alps!
Our arrival to the city was so exciting! We departed the train right next to the lake at the bottom of the town and hiked up through the village to our hotel. After dropping off our bags, we went exploring in the town, and eventually settled in at a wine bar for a pre-dinner drink. For dinner, we went in search of fondue, and found it at a hopping bar/restaurant. This is where we learned something important about Switzerland – it is so obnoxiously expensive. We were baulking at the ridiculous prices! For example, our vat of melted cheese and basket of bread cost 32 Swiss franks a person!!! At another point, when removing cash from an ATM, the minimum amount offered for a withdrawal was 100 franks; the maximum – 1,000! We were dying laughing. After the shock of dinner wore off, we moved to an outdoor bar where local ski instructors seemed to be gathering for a few beers before bed.
The horses take off on the first race on ice.
And now for the main event…the St. Moritz White Turf Horse Racing on Ice!!! We awoke on Sunday to bright, clear skies, fairly frigid weather, and high anticipation for the event. We bundled up in our ski gear and made our way down to the frozen lake. That was one of the coolest things about this event – the whole thing occurs on a frozen lake at the bottom the mountains and village. The horses are fit with special shoes for the event, which seemed to work, as there was no visible slipping and sliding. We previously purchased seats in the grandstand, but followed the protocol of the masses for each event: find a seat at an outdoor tent; order a bottle of champagne; bet on your horse for the upcoming event; go to your seat for the race, and then make your way back to your table where your champagne is still sitting on ice, waiting for you. We did this all day and had a blast! We people-watched, because some pretty swanky people decked out head-to-toe in fur come out for the event. We took turns getting bratwursts. We flipped through the program, trying to come up with our picks for each race. Only once did I feel cold, so I put on the extra socks that we packed.
Heading out to the frozen lake!
As for the races themselves, they were like nothing I’ve ever seen. There were a few regular “flat” races, but they also had two other specialities: Trotting and Skikjöring. In the Trotting race, the riders sit behind the horse in a “chariot” inspired contraption. The horses don’t full out run; they trot as fast as they can while the riders whip them from behind. Truly hysterical! In the classic White Turf Skikjöring race, the riders are on skis behind the horse, holding onto reins and being pulled at incredible speeds. Of course, we placed a win bet on each race, and we actually ended positive on the day!
After a jam-packed day of excitement and fun, Matt and I went back to the local outdoor bar for a celebratory drink. We had successfully crossed off White Turf from Matt’s bucket list, and had a great time doing it! For dinner, we went to the most popular hotel in the city, grabbed a table by the window overlooking the mountains, and enjoyed a nice meal while the sun set. And I must remind you, that the weekend was our anniversary! I couldn’t have imagined celebrating it in such a fantastic and romantic way with anyone but Matt!
At the outdoor bar following the races.