Local History

Savognin. Photo/Bild: TES.

Oberhalbstein or Surses

This region in the canton of Grisons (Graubünden) has many art treasures of national importance (the Carolingian church of St. Peter in St. Mistail, for example). The region is also an old transit route.

The Julier Pass was already in use in Roman times. Two Roman columns are the silent witnesses.

The Septimer Pass has always been a competitor, even in the time of the Romans. The Septimer Pass leads directly to Bergell and Italy.

After the opening of the Splügen Pass and the Gotthard Pass in the thirteenth century, the Julier Pass and the Septimer Pass lost their significance.

The increase of tourism caused and the renovation of the roads brought the Julier pass back to live again. Many coaches travelled from Chur to Oberengadin and crossed this pass.

The Posthotel Löwen in Mulegns bears wittness to this era.

The Gotthard tunnel (1882) and the Albula railway  (1903) drecreased the relevance of the Julier pass.

The probihition of cars in the canton until 1925 was not helpful neither.

Oberhalbstein or Surses in Romansh had fallen into a deep sleep until 1960.

From Tiefencastel (near the Carolingian monastery of St. Mistail) it goes via the canyon Crap Ses (or the tunnel) to the valley and the beautiful nature park Ela.

Romansh (Surmeirisch or Surmiran) is the original language, although German is gaining the upper hand.

The Julierroad still goes via Savognin and Rona to Mulegns and the Marmorera reservoir. The town of Marmorera disappeared into the waves in 1954 and was rebuilt elsewhere (after a referendum, of course).

Bivio is the last town at the foot of the Julier pass. Medieval Bivio was called Stabulum Bivio, the stable at the junction (bi via). With good reason, because there is a choice between the Septimer Pass, the Julier Pass or the Stallerberg.

Bivio is a junction of three cultures and languages: the German-speaking Walser of Avers, the Italian-speaking inhabitants of Bergell and the Romansh population.

German and Romansh are the dominant languages, although Italian is also spoken, even after the merger with other (Romansh-speaking) municipalities in the valley (Cunter, Marmorera, Mulegns, Riom, Salouf, Savognin, Parsonz, Sur and Tinizong-Rona).

This municipality is called Surses and has about 2 500 inhabitants.