Summer in St. Moritz

The town of St. Moritz, located in Switzerland’s Engadine Valley, is famous as a winter resort. It’s not just on account of the reference in the James Bond movie Goldfinger; the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics were held here. But when I visited St. Moritz, it was early September and the weather was still warm and summery. The town gets 300 days of sunshine a year (and it was sunny throughout my five days there), the valley was lushly green, and the lake was filled with sailboats. I know that winter is its most celebrated season, but I’d recommend visiting in summer, when the range of activities (golf, tennis, mountain biking) is wider. St. Mortiz is also a great starting point for day trips. From it, I took a train to Thusis, where I hiked through the Alps and saw Viamala, the place where Caesar made his historic crossing through the mountains. Closer to St. Moritz is the Valley of Fex, another great hiking spot (if you visit on a rare rainy day, you could visit the Nietzsche-Haus, where the German philosopher spent his summers, in Fex’s tiny town of Sils).

Because I was attending a conference in St. Moritz, I spent far too much time indoors. The conference meetings and events were spread among three hotels — the Kulm, the Kempinski, and Badrutt’s Palace — and all of them came through with celiac-safe meals for me. However, these are all top-notch luxury hotels with long practice in catering to their guests’ requests, and I had had advance discussions with them via phone and e-mail to ensure that they would be able to provide gluten-free meals.

One spot in St. Moritz that particularly impressed me was a place that didn’t have advance warning about my dining restrictions. The Hotel Misani is a three-star hotel that is a youthful, less-expensive alternative to the long-established local hotels. Its rooms are decorated in a mix of Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern styles, and each one is unique. The Misani’s main dining room is decked out in rustic local style with wooden panels on the ceiling and the walls, typical of the Engadine houses that date back a century. I had an excellent gluten-free dinner here, served by the Misani’s friendly staff. It was a nice reminder that luxury exists at all price points in St. Moritz.

Badrutt’s Palace [tel] +41 (0) 81 837 11 00 [email] [web]

Hotel Misani [tel] +41 (0) 81 839 89 89 [email] [web]

Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains [tel] +41 (0) [web]

Kulm Hotel [tel] +41 (0) 81 836 80 00 [email] [web]

Celiac Disease in Translation

In the four years since I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I’ve traveled to six countries where I didn’t speak the language. Asking the right questions about food preparation when you, your server and your chef all speak the same tongue can be challenging. When you’re dealing with translation issues, it makes the entire process that much tougher. Eating at a restaurant is always an exercise in trust; for the gluten-intolerant, it feels especially risky. I plan ahead by printing celiac disease translation cards before leaving home. Here’s how to do it — for free.

  1. Start by checking for free celiac information cards from national or regional associations. Both the Czech Coeliac Society and the Swiss Celiac Society offer such cards online. For other countries, take a look at the “International Celiac Societies” listed on the Resources page at Celiac Handbook. Only a few of them provide a card, but hopefully the number will increase. Print several copies so you won’t mind if a card gets damaged in a restaurant kitchen.
  2. The Celiac Travel website provides an impressive selection of cards in many languages (currently there are 38, including Arabic, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Urdu). I’ve used both the Hungarian and Spanish cards from this site and found that they worked extremely well. Given that several companies are charging money for celiac translation cards, I have to tip my hat to Roger and Lyndsay, who run this site, because they’re providing these detailed cards for free (a small donation is requested but not required).
  3. Gluten-Free Passport provides free cards online in French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. I like these because you have the English and the translated language side by side, though of course that makes these cards larger to print.
  4. There are several sites, including Clan Thompson’s Celiac Site and the Finnish Celiac Society, that provide or link to free information about celiac disease in different languages. These descriptions aren’t detailed, but they certainly get the point across in languages including Polish and Thai.
  5. If possible, learn a few words or phrases in the local language before you go on your trip. Knowing how to say “Tengo la enfermedad celiaca; No puedo comer harina o trigo” (I have celiac disease; I can’t eat flour or wheat) made my travels to Spain and Chile easier, because awareness of celiac disease was widespread. But I have to admit that I never managed this in Hungarian.

Has anyone bought the celiac translation cards from Triumph Dining, or paid for gluten intolerance or food allergy translation at Allergy Translation? I haven’t tried either of these options, but I’d love to hear your comments about them.