Saturday, 19 May 2012

A week in Nax

The Canton of Valais in Switzerland is a very nice place indeed. It's incredibly scenic, given that - as it's name implies - it is a valley running between mountain ranges. Rivers, lakes, quaint little towns and villages, and of course mountains, it is a photographer's dream come true.

It's also a very nice place to spend a week's holiday, which is exactly what we did in May.

Together with Chris' parents, we stayed in a chalet in a small village called Nax, approximately 15km or so from the Canton of Valais' capital, Sion. Nax has a population of around 400, and an area of roughly 25 square km (thanks Wikipedia!). What drew us to spend a week there was the setting.
Nax is situated on a little plateau at around 1200m above sea level, overlooking the historic town of Sion. It's location provides incredible views of the valley below, as you can see in the photos I took below.

Top left: the view looking right from the chalet; top right: the view of Sion from Nax
Bottom left: walking with Lydia in Nax; bottom right: sunset from the chalet

Our chalet in Nax

The village itself consists mostly of old buildings, including the original blacksmith's forge, which is still functional today. This is mixed with the more modern structures of chalets and villas built to provide people with winter/summer holiday homes. Fortunately, the majority of the new builds in Nax are in keeping with the ideal of traditional Swiss chalets, with wooden appearances and the typical "triangle" image. The chalet we stayed in (see photo) was only recently built, and gives you an idea of what I mean.

Firewood chopped by me
Our chalet had been superbly furnished inside, with the owner selecting decorations that give it a real, traditional feel. From the mouted deer's head on the wall to the old photos on the walls, it really felt like we were staying in a chalet far older than it really was.

Add to that the fact that the owner had installed a real working chimney, and you get a glimpse of traditional Swiss mountain life. I had a go at chopping firewood for the chimney using a real axe (see photo). Think I did a pretty good job!

Lydia on the terrace
The chalet also had an excellent terrace (patio) area outside, with a patch of grass stretching out from the chalet, both adding to it's appeal. We spent a lot of time on the terrace enjoying the May sunshine, sipping drinks, eating fondu, or just relaxing and enjoying the view. It was great for Lydia as well as she was able to play on the terrace or on the grass (under supervision, of course).

The village of Nax itself doesn't have many amenities; apart from a small shop and a little restaurant/bar, there really isn't much else to do. Then again, why spoil such a picturesque village with shops and businesses when they could stay hidden only a short drive away in Sion? To make the most of our time in Nax, we went for walks in the village and searched for mushrooms in the woods and fields.

Lydia and her grandpapa
next to the river

Going a bit further afield, we drove to the small town of Evolène, which is south of Sion. Snuggly nestled between small mountain ranges and protected from avalanches by forest areas, Evolène is a town that has been around for a very long time indeed. It is located on a plateau just above a river, which we enjoyed a nice walk along. The town is full of old, traditional Swiss village buildings, including a small "corner shop" that looked like it hadm't changed since the 1950s.

Indeed, the owner told us that the cash register was still the original one, and it looked like she was telling the truth - the register still had push buttons and no electrical display, much like the register you would see Ronnie Barker fighting with in Open All Hours.

The Pyramides d'Euseigne
rock formation

On the way back from Evolène, we passed under the Pyramides d'Euseigne, a staggering natural rock formation that really captures the eye. Apparently these rocks were originally formed by a glacier that then disappeared at the end of the last ice age, leaving the rock open to erosion. Parts of the rock were then eroded away in the areas that didn't have a boulder on top, forming the "pyramid" shape of this natural phenomenon.

The boulders themselves prevent the spikes from being eroded, so should a boulder ever fall off it's supporting spike would then start to erode. Fascinating stuff from a geological point of view, and an interesting thing to see for tourists. The main road actually goes through a tunnel underneath the Pyramides d'Euseigne, so you can't really miss it!

A suspended bridge at
the Torrent-Neuf

Along with my father-in-law, I also went to do the Bisse de Savièse, also known as the Torrent Neuf. In Switzerland, a "bisse" is basically a man-made construction from many centuries ago designed to direct water down from a water source in an elevated area (such as a mountain) to a town or village below, notably for the purpose of irrigating the land and providing drinking water for the population.

Today, these bisses have become excellent locations for people to enjoy a good walk, as they are generally in wooded areas that accompany mountains or large hills, so allow people to get back to nature. The Torrent Neuf has a small chapel along the walk, and also three suspended bridges - not for those with vertigo!

Their website has many photos and videos, giving you a glimpse of what this bisse is like. I found it really interesting to see how they actually built the original bisse, which was basically by hammering spikes into the side of the mountain and attaching wooden planks to them. During construction, single men would go first while those with families followed behind, the logic being that someone without dependents is more expendable! A priest would also accompany the construction crew, so it gives you an idea of how dangerous it was to work on a bisse.

We also spent one day in Sion having a look around the shops and the market. Sion is a town with roots dating back thousands of years, and has the prominent feature of two large, rocky hills, with a castle nestled on top of each one. It's an interesting town to spend a couple of hours wandering around, checking out the old buildings near the river or scouring the market for fresh fruits and vegetables. The Valais region is particularly known for it's apricot production, although it was a little too early in the season for that when we were there (June is the start of the season for apricots from Valais).

Nax itself was a beautiful little village in an idyllic location for those who love peace and quiet and a good view, while the surrounding areas had more natural beauty and interesting sights, as well as the possibility for some retail therapy in Sion.

1 comment:

Isabelle delucys said...

The first image is amazing.
I could appreciate a beautiful living room like that, when it's snowing outside. :)

Chalet Gstaad
Chalet Switzerland