Walser Regions | Graubünden


Safiental is deeply cut into the soft Bünder slate. The east slope rises in sometimes abrupt and steep cliffs up to a height of 2000m. Therefore, on this side of the valley right at the very back you find the Höfe Zhinderscht and Enthälb at a height of 1800m and in Aussersafien Hof Grafa. All remaining settlements lie on the left side of the valley from Tall, Bäch, over the "Höfe" Camana, Hof, Bruschgaläschg, Zalön, Gün, through to after Neukirch. In the middle of the slope lies the principal village of the valley, which one can realistically call the only settlement. All other settlements lie scattered on the various terraces at a height from 1400m up to 1800m.

Deep canyons with avalanche and landslide routes separate the individual Höfe (smaller farms) and Geländekammern (Terraces).  The first Walser came in the time of the Donats von Vaz, who played a large role in the migrations to Safien: i.e. before 1338.  Donat von Vaz was at that time the sovereign owner of the area and protected the “dütschen Lüt im Savien” with the same rights as the Rheinwaldern had through the Freiheitsbrief (Liberty letters) from 1277.  After the death of the Donat von Vaz the responsibility for the area changed hand many times, firstly to the Werdenbergsargens, then to the Freiherrn von Rhäzüns.  Georg von Rhäzüns confirmed the rights of the Safier Walser in 1450 through the Safier Freiheitsbreif.  Later on the responsibility for the area fell upon Graf Triulzion from Milan and because they could no longer fulfil their obligations he had to take their rights away.  Responsibility for the area i.e. ownership of the land was controlled by the Kloster (monastery) Cazis.  After the clearing or cultivation of 1512, the Kloster had at that time in Safien 12 large stations and managed them by means of a contract.  Within large station not only large farms had exclusive rights contracted rather the neighbourhood and the smaller farms had contracted rights too: e.g. the Hof Zalön had around 14 smaller farms.  The smaller farms developed later into independent neighbourhoods with their own schools.  In Safien, before the Walser migration, it can be proven that a Roman speaking population resided here but just how far they were integrated is difficult to say.  Roman land area names such as Camana, Curtnätsch also point to the use of the Alps.  The names that are not of Walser origin are above all those which cover large areas e.g. the Höfe Camana, Bruschgaläschg, Zalön, and Gün.  The individual house and stables and also the county names, with a few exceptions, are mostly Walser in origin.  The names of the smaller farms in “Tall” i.e. in the rear section of the valley are called: „Bir Chilchä, bim Brunnä, in dr Steinetä, uf äm Gassli, bim Turrä, uf äm Büel, in dr Wannä, in Enthälb, Zhinderscht “. Individual land area names like Prau Siliasca (the name of Bruschgaläschg originally), Rong point to a settlement before the Walser use of the meadow land, but don’t tell us a lot about the length of such a settlement.

The entrance to the valley was made for topographical reasons, particularly the passes.  Research shows us that the Romans had already used the transit way from Splügen over the Safierberg, the Safieralpen and Günerlückli to Duvin and further on to Ilanz.  The transit way was also regularly used in the middle ages.  However, later in history this transit way was pretty much forgotten about and fell into oblivion.  The Safier however, had to carry on being self sufficient and carry their necessary food and supplies over the passes.  The connection between Rheinwald over Safierberg still held a great deal of importance for exactly this reason.   However, what developed as the most important entrance was “d Stägä” i.e. the transition from Safien Platz over Glas to Thusis.  For over 500 years the Safier were dependent on the passes for the transportation of goods.  The cattle were driven as far as the Lugano markets.  Only after the construction of a road to Versam in 1883/1885 was the valley opened to the north and thus relationships with the outside world could be developed further.  However, the Safierstrasse, despite the buildings of tunnels, galleries and the annual development from Versam penetrating further in this direction, is still to a large extent a tight and winding road.  Up until the end of 2005, from the roughly 25km of valley road from Versam to Thalkirch approximately 4km has been developed.

The main emphasis for further development came with the building of the power stations from 1953 to 1957.  Since that time the Gemeinde (municipality) has more means at their disposal to accomplish various tasks (large protection nets, supply of water, schools etc.).  Safien, together with the Gemeinde Tenna, makes up the circle Safien and at the last court reform by the Bezirk (District) Heinzenberg was made a part of the Bezirk Surselva (Bündner Oberland).  Due to the change in emphasis in relations with the outside and the development in present times, Safien works together increasingly more with the neighbouring Gemeinde of Tenna, Versam and Valendas.  The four Gemeinde Safien, Tenna, Versam and Valendas have one school for the upper level based in Valendas and co-operate in tourism too.  Safien has no ski lifts or gondolas.  Outside of agriculture there are very few job opportunities.  The decrease in population has left the valley with some large tasks to fill.  With different projects, which are mostly about promoting the tourism aspects, they hope to introduce positive development.

Text: Mattli Hunger

www.safien.ch (Kultur) www.safiental.ch

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