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Sleigh-ride through an Engadine wonderland

Schlitteda

(swiss-image)

It could be argued that the people of the Upper Engadine know how to celebrate winter better than anyone. The highlight of the social calendar is the "Schlitteda" - a procession of traditional horse-drawn sleighs.

About a dozen horse-drawn sleighs take part in the event, which begins in the first weekend of January in the village of Pontresina. It is then repeated in the other villages in the valley, including St Moritz, over the following weekends in the month.

The men, dressed in tails and top hats, take care of the steering from the back of small narrow sleighs, which are colourfully painted with flowers or the family coat of arms.

The women, wearing traditional hand-sewn costumes, sit in the front seat where they can best display their bright red dresses. Even the horses are kitted out in decorative harnesses and sleigh bells.

Each year, the procession follows the same route, making several stops at hotels and restaurants, where generous portions of mulled wine and the local specialty, barley soup, help to keep out the cold.

Sleighs were once the main means of transport in the Engadine, and in the 18th and 19th centuries became an integral part of the courting ritual.

As their ancestors once did, the couples taking part in the Schlitteda end the day with dinner and a dance.

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