1902 Encyclopedia > Engadine


ENGADINE (the ancient Vallis Eniatina or Aenigadena, German Engadin, Italian Engadina), the valley of the Inn from its source to the Austrian frontier at Martinsbruck, a distance (by road) of about 65 miles. It is divided politically into two districts, the Upper and Lower Engadine, and four circles, which form part of the Gotteshausbund, one of the three leagues comprised in canton of Grisons, Switzerland,

The Upper Engadine has only one circle, whose chief village is Samaden. It consists of the valley of the Inn with its tributaries. The river flows through a long and straight trough, about 30 miles in length, and varying from a mile to half a mile in breadth, lying between lofty mountains, at a mean height of 5500 feet above the sea, being, after the Avers and Spol valleys, the highest inha-bited region of central Europe. Unlike most Alpine valleys the Engadine is closed at its head only by a low bank. The Maloya Pass (5942 feet) is hardly 100 feet above the lake of Sils. The lakes of Silvaplana and St Moritz lie at nearly the same level. Samaden (ad sum-mum 03ni) stands at the junction of the Inn and its first considerable tributary the Elatzbach. This stream drains the principal glaciers of the Bernina chain, the largest glacier group in eastern Switzerland, remarkable for its closely-clustered summits, the highest of which, Piz Bernina, attains a height of 13,294 feet. Beside the Flatzbach runs the road to the Bernina Pass (7658 feet), leading into the Val Tellina. It passes Pontresina, a village of late years much frequented in summer by travellers of all nations. Its name has been assumed to be a trace of the presence of Saracens in this part of the Alps (Pons Saracenorum). Another and more plausible derivation (Pons Bhastise) has been suggested.

The valley below Samaden is for some distance level and uniform, and studded with flourishing hamlets. The boundary between the two Engadines lies between Scanfs-and Zernetz, in an uninhabited part of the valley.

Owing to its great elevation, the scenery of the Upper Engadine has a bleak northern aspect. Pines and larches alone flourish, garden vegetables are grown only in sunny spots, and there is no tillage. The Alpine flora, however, is very rich and varied, and the Upper Engadine has been called " a paradise for the botanist." Snow always lies low on the mountain sides, and often falls even in the valley in the month of August. Hence the climate is described in the proverb—" Nine months winter and three months cold' weather." The mean annual temperature is 36-5° Fahr.,. that of the summer months 50'8° Fahr., of the winter 17'5° Fahr. The villages are built entirely of stone. The houses are large and roomy, a cattle stable being often included under the same roof. The small deeply-set windows bear witness to the severity of the climate. Those of the lower story are protected with iron gratings, a precaution the character of the people does not justify. An abundant use of paint and whitewash gives many of the dwellings an almost Dutch air of cleanliness, and the window-sills are usually decorated with carnations and other bright flowers.

The Lower Engadine is divided into three circles. Schuls is the chief village ; next in importance is Zernetz, which stands at the junction of the Inn and Spol. The latter stream issues from Val di Livigno, the only inhabited valley north of the Alps belonging to Italy. At this point the Inn flows for a few miles due N. through a wooded defile before resuming its N.E. course. From Suss to Finstermunz it runs in a deep channel, while the villages lie high on terraces on the mountain sides, cut off from one another by deep ravines, through which descend streams from the glaciers of the Silvretta (Silva Bhastise) range on the N. and from the wild dolomite ridges of the Scarlthal on the S. In the recesses of the latter bears are still found. The villages of the Lower Engadine are not so well built as those of the upper valley, and the inhabi-tants are said to be less energetic and more ignorant than their neighbours.

Below the village of Schuls, on the left bank of the Inn, lie the baths of Tarasp, much resorted to by North Germans. The springs to which they chiefly owe their repute are saline-alkaline in character.

One of the highroads into Italy has since early times-passed through the Upper Engadine. The Bomans used the Bernina Pass in conjunction with the Julier. In the Middle Ages this route was the most frequented between the Mont Cenis and the Brenner, and was chosen by travellers who wished to avoid the Milanese territory and the Spanish troops. In recent years the old mule-track over the Bernina Pass has been converted into a military road, and the internal communications of the country have been opened up on all sides. Boads have been made over the Albula, Fluela, and Ofen Passes, and the villages of the Lower Engadine, previously almost inaccessible on wheels,, have been united by a good road both to the upper valley and to Tyrol.

The population of the valley at the last census (1870) was 9756, of which 8402 are Protestants and 1335 Catholics. The Catholics are found chiefly at Tarasp and in the secluded glens of Samnaun and Sampnoir on the Tyrolese frontier. The people are industrious, frugal, and alive to their own interests, and at the same time more independent in manner, and less courteous to strangers than those of central Switzerland. With the exception of Tarasp, which is mostly German, the whole district is " Romantsch." The1 language is a dialect known as " Ladin," nearly allied to _that spoken in the Tyrolese valleys of Groden, Abtei, and Entieberg. It has a scanty literature, consisting of a translation of the Bible, some prayer and hymn books, and one newspaper, the Fogl d'Engiadina, printed once a week at Samaden. German is now taught in all the schools of the valley. The wealth of the inhabitants consists in their hay meadows and pastures. The lower Alps feed large herds of cows, the upper are let to Bergamasque shepherds, who travel thither every summer with their flocks. A considerable trade is also carried on in Italian products and Val Tellina wines, in which the Engadiners serve as carriers. Formerly many of them used to emigrate to different parts of the world, where they found employment, especially as pastry-cooks. Of late years the sudden influx of strangers has changed the picturesque villages into groups of hotels, and diverted the inhabitants from their former pursuits. The iron springs of St Moritz, the cause and centre of the immigration of summer visitors from all parts of Europe, have been known since the 16th century. They had been steadily resorted to by Germans and Italians since the days of Paracelsus, though it was not till the present century that any bath-house was erected for the convenience of the guests, who found sufficient accommodation in the village. The waters are highly charged with alkaline salts and carbonate of iron, with a small proportion of phosphoric acid, and traces of iodine, bromine, &c. Their influence, in combination with mountain air, is extremely beneficial in cases requiring strong tonic treatment.

See Coxe, Travels in Switzerland; Theobald, Natwrbilde aus den Rhdtischen Alpen ; Ball, Central Alps; Mrs H. Freshfield, A Summer Tour in the Orisons; Caviezel, Engadine ; Leclmer, Piz Languard; Dr Burney Yeo, A Season at St Moritz (for medical and botanical information) ; Fortnightly Review, No. cxi., new series. (1). W. F.)

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