In summer, it gurgles, splashes and flows; in winter, it shows its icy aspect: the mineral-water spring of Scuol. Passengers getting off at the RhB terminal in Lower Engadin are quite literally at the source of today’s spa-town tourist industry, and can take a drink to quench their thirst. Always and everywhere.
Lucius, Carola and Boniface: Scuol has these three striking names to thank for what it is today. They are just three of the approximately twenty mountain springs that bubble out of the ground in the famous spa town of Scuol. Lucius & Co. show the light of day to water that has undergone a 25-year subterranean journey, enriching itself with minerals such as sulphate, carbon or magnesium along the way. This concentration of springs in such a small area can be traced back to a unique geological phenomenon of the Alps: the Lower Engadin Window. This underground geological layer was formed by a clash between the continental plates of Europe and Africa.
Water with a history
The health-giving properties of Scuol’s waters were first recorded in the 14th century, and people of means were soon taking annual trips to sample them. But the golden age of spa-town tourism was to take place in a later age. In the second half of the 19th century, with the road through the valley completed, the rich and powerful began to flock to Scuol to sample its mineral-water cures. These included many of noble birth, such as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Queen Carola of Saxony was also a frequent visitor, and one of Scuol’s mineral springs is named after her. These blue-blooded visitors naturally also wanted to be able to take the waters at home, be it in Berlin, London or New York. So Scuol water became a leading export item, and the town was dubbed the „Queen of the Alpine Spas“, leaving even St. Moritz behind in terms of visitor-numbers. The 150-year-old assembly rooms in Tarasp and the Hotel Scuol Palace still bear witness to this golden age.
The rankings have meanwhile changed again however, as Scuol can no longer compete, with just mineral water, with the champagne climate of its flashier counterpart in Upper Engadin. But bubbling spring water is now only part of what Lower Engadin has to offer visitors, and its attractions are fortunately no longer limited to the rich. Visitors can now come to Bogn Engiadina Scuol, with a spa right in the middle of the village. After comprehensive refurbishment in the early ‘nineties, the owners turned this old bathhouse, complete with wooden bathtubs, into a modern temple of wellness, and one of the first of today’s state-of-the-art spa facilities. The main attraction is its Roman-Irish bath, the first to be opened in Switzerland. A culture of bathing rituals has grown up around the waters, allowing visitors to relax in combinations of steam at different temperatures (like the ancient Romans) and the dry heat by which the Irish once swore. Visitors to Bogn can also enjoy the more than 6,000 m. of water contained in twelve indoor and outdoor pools, with spectacular mountain views. This Engadin spa is now gradually being renovated, with new facilities becoming available by 2012.
A question of taste
The water continues to offer the same benefits as it always has: wellbeing and health. This „blue gold“ has in fact now been found to have even more beneficial characteristics. Bathing in spa water toughens you up, while stimulating the circulation, massaging the skin, relaxing the muscles and improving stamina. It also offers internal bodily benefits, including – for example – its effects on the bladder. Boniface spring-water is a natural diuretic and recommended iron-supplement, while the Lucius and Emerita springs are two of Europe’s richest sources of Glauber’s salt, which is used to treat various gastric, intestinal and gall-bladder conditions. The Lischana spring, with its high magnesium content, is of significant benefit to various metabolic, muscle-control and nerve functions. A tasting session involving the mineral waters of Scuol is in any case highly recommended. The basic rule of thumb is: the stronger the water’s mineral concentration is, the more it becomes an acquired taste. You can sample the various mineral waters virtually anywhere in the town. Possible venues include the Bogn Engiadina Scuol spa assembly rooms, or their splendidly-decorated counterparts in Tarasp, dating from 1875 / 76. This is, literally, the original source of the detox cure. The health-giving water also flows continuously from the village fountain. A guided tour through the historical Old Quarter provides interesting information about the various waters and their nearby springs. And the restaurants of Scuol all serve the local „Aua Minerala“, either on tap or bottled at the Carola spring.
If you have a thirst for knowledge …
Visitors interested in knowing how the water gets to the assembly rooms or the village fountain can follow the Mineral Water Trail. Starting at the Boniface Spring, which occupies a small building to the west of Scuol, it follows a 30-kilometre route that takes in the various springs of Lower Engadin. Bilingual signs provide information on the origin of each name, the type of spring, the main ingredients of its water and its possible applications. The Trail is operated by the „Fundaziun Pro Aua Minerala“, a foundation set up by Scuol and its neighbouring municipalities on 22nd March 2002 to celebrate World Water Day. The Foundation has various founding objectives to fulfil. It concerns itself with the conservation of the springs and the quality of their water, while stimulating interest in, and promoting knowledge of, mineral water. However, the most important part of the Foundation’s mission is to show what a valuable treasure the region of Lower Engadin has in its mineral springs.