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partly due to the tournament taking place midweek

Time:2018-04-05 20:57Shoes websites Click:

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Switzerland has long been a popular travel destination with Indian tourists, largely thanks to its use as a backdrop in Bollywood films, its hills coming alive with perfectly choreographed and synchronised dancers. The young couple from Mumbai, however, sitting next to me on the Glacier Express train, are visiting the chic Swiss resort of St Moritz for a very different and highly unusual reason: a cricket tournament … played on ice.

As our train navigates the lofty mountain passes, vertiginous viaducts and lengthy tunnels of the Unesco-recognised rail route, Arjun and Anjali are deliriously excited at the prospect of getting up-close to Indian cricketing legends such as Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif in one of Europe’s last remaining playgrounds of monarchs, magnates and movie stars.

Switzerland is renowned for its landscapes and efficiency, of course, and for its sensational cheeses, its watch industry and even its wines. Less well known is its ice cricket, a sport that has been played in St Moritz since the 1980s, originally by British enthusiasts. The 2018 St Moritz Ice Cricket tournament, held in February, is the first time that professional cricketers have pulled on their bobble hats and thermal underwear and made for the towering Swiss Alps in winter.

5 great European trips for culture and skiing

Part of the allure of glitzy St Moritz, which nestles in the mountains at an elevation of 1,820 metres, is, in fact, its inaccessibility. If you do not fancy the ridiculously pictur­esque train journey among Europe’s highest peaks, it is a three-hour drive from the nearest international airport, in either Zurich or Milan, in Italy. The other alternative is the town’s small Engadin Airport, ideal for landing a private jet. All of which means that travellers rarely visit St Moritz on the spur of the moment.

Once on the ground, however, St Moritz offers five-star opulence of a level that only the Swiss seem able to deliver. Nowhere typifies such rarefied luxury like Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, a hospitality institution and host for this year’s St Moritz Ice Cricket tournament. Stepping from the train onto the station platform, I am met by an impeccably dressed chauffeur holding up a wooden sign with my name on it. As he carries my bags to a navy blue vintage Rolls-Royce, he explains, to my dismay, that the property is only two minutes’ drive away. 

The Badrutt’s Palace lobby feels like the inside of a church, with elegant woodwork, artworks that include a 16th-century painting of the Madonna from the school of Raphael – possibly by the Italian artist himself –  and soaring windows looking out towards the Piz Rosatsch mountain. Down below, I spy that the frozen white surface of Lake St Moritz has been topped by an incongruous strip of green – a wicket made of artificial turf – and as if on cue, a slightly chubby Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler in cricket history and a Pakistani legend, walks past, staring intently at his phone. 

Badrutt’s Palace has been the definitive see-and-be-seen spot in St Moritz since it was opened, in 1896, by pioneering tourism entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt. With 157 rooms and suites, the property is still owned by his family today. 

St Moritz’s history as a travel destination began earlier still, in 1864, with construction of the first spa rooms, the crystal-clear water from the surrounding Engadin mountains having gained a reputation for having curative properties. Cold-season sports then took over, with the small town even hosting two early Winter Olympics (in 1928 and 1948).

Switzerland by train: cutting-edge railways deliver glorious alpine vistas and history galore

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