Bronze age spearheads and axe type tools, objects that were also used as weapons, such as the “Paalstäbe” that were found on Vergalda and Schlappiner Joch, enlighten the secretive darkness of prehistoric times and narrate the Pass’s former history as a transportation route and likewise as a stage of warfare between the Montafon and Graubünd areas from thousands of years ago.
For hundreds of years, the pass, which even then was designated by a court’s ruling in the year 1779 as a main highway, was a much used connection between Vorarlberg and upper Italy, being the shortest distance from Lake Constance to Lake Como and further to Milan.
Countless loads of merchandise and over a thousand cattle were annually on their way from Montafon and into Prättigau. From Veltlin, through the Puschlav and the Engadin, then further on to Klosters in Prättigau and over the Schlappiner Joch, came the heavily loaded pack horses, laden with wine, into the valley and continued beyond to the Lake Constance region. When traveling in the opposite direction, this long-distance hiking trail is known today as the beautiful “Via Valtellina”: the footsteps of the “Säumer” (the leaders of the pack horses).
The starting point is the sunny, snow blessed and delightfully charming tourist village of Gargellen, at 1500 meters altitude, high up in the upper Gargellen valley, bordering to Rätikon and Silvretta and in the municipal territory of St. Gallenkirch. Yet with little more than a hundred years ago, the erstwhile Maisäß boasted just five year-round residents. The busy traffic route over the centuries had resulted in but two Säumer harborages: the “Harborage in Vergalda” and also the “Tavern to the White Cross” named “Osteria da Croce Bianca”, whose paneled room ceilings are adorned with the old tavern sign dated with the year 1782, and the “Zuggawaldhaus” whose arches are unequaled anywhere else in the valley. On the building’s well is the engraved date 1602 and also the building’s emblem.
At the turn of the 15th century, there was already reported to be a chapel on the right side of the Suggadin where masses were held. Today’s church in Gargellen goes back to the year 1611. Barely finished, it was plundered by enemies from nearby Prättigau, and destroyed. After its renovation in 1644, it was sanctified by the Bishop from Chur, Johann Vl. Five years later, David Bertle from St. Gallenkirch, the forerunner of the famous Montafon artist family, created the popular Sebastian Altar.
And then there was also a small Säumer inn named “Rößli” that was situated directly next to the small church. According to the local researcher Ludwig Vallaster, Johann Josef Bahl of an old Montafon lineage, was the first traceable Wirt or host of this small inn, that the “France going” Franz Xaver Schwarzhans, in the year 1889 acquired from Thomas Tschofen of Schruns. In1889, Schwarzhans built, instead of the “Rößli”, the first real hotel in Gargellen with 50 beds. He named the hotel after the resounding Madrisa, the powerful and imposing Gargellen valley landmark.
Then the recovery vacation came into fashion. The hotel’s clientele arrived from London, Rotterdam and Naples, from Bohemia and Germany; from Tbilisi in “Tran Caucasus” came a Mr. N. Orlowsky, from Paris a Mr. Boeglin and from Basel, a professor of Zoology with a group of students and their alpine guide. Later on around 1900, Vorarlberg and Schruns families, such as the “Kronen-Mayers”, who also were originally Marisa guests, constructed summer houses in Gargellen and vacationed here as well.
The manufacturer, Richard Sannwald Sr. of Bregenz, acquired the lovely Walser building (which for those days had a completely unusual room height probably due to the builder being very tall), from Ludwig Schreiber, the publisher from Eßlingen and great friend of Montafon who is also mentioned in the introduction of this volume in the “Memories of a Summer Guest”.
By means of the entertaining, former guest book based notations of the long time Madrisa regular Winfried Berning, we also encounter Hans Bertle again, the Schruns painter who lived in Munich. Berning writes: “1901: from May 25- October 3, there are already 384 recorded guests. The entries…occasionally break through to the heights of guest book poesy. Professor Bertle of the DÖAV (German- Austrian Alpine Society) in Munich appears with the “lieblichen Mädchenblumen” (lovely flower girl); also amongst these, the independently wealthy Rosel Adam characterizing her professor shamefacedly in Gabelsberger shorthand as the “to be sure, the absolute best in the world”.
Dr Karl Blodig, the well known eye doctor from Bregenz, mountain climber and alpine author, who climbed all on the “list of the mountains of the alps”, some being the first time ever scaled by him, had logged into the guest book on September 1900 as “coming from Gafiers over the Madrishorn 2803 after 1611, then Madrisa 2774 and over Valzifenz towards Gargellen” and was accompanied by his family and the English landscape painter and mountain companion, E. T. Compton.
Text excerpts were taken from the book
“Tavernen an Landstraß und Sömersteig”
by Krista Vonbank
...Hotel Madrisa around 1912
The Braun´sche art nouveau style
is a Gargellen landmark