Paul Girsberger (71) is already expecting a Blick in Chesa Rähmi in the upper village in Pontresina GR. The historic house was built in 1535 and is considered to be one building, even if the distance to the neighboring house at the back is only 80 centimeters. “In the past, homes were not so well insulated and heated. The proximity to the neighboring houses helped to combat the cold winter, ”explains Girsberger.
The Chesa Rähmi is the oldest residential building in the Pontresina commune in the Engadin. Paul Girsberger grew up with four siblings in this historic home.
The typical thick-walled Engadin house, painted with scraffiti, with a large circular entrance gate made of Swiss sand pine, is the legacy of Girsberger’s maternal grandfather, Simon Rähmi, who died in 1959 at the age of 62.
The house is almost like a museum
Entering the large wood-dominated entrance area feels like a different time. It looks like a museum. This is how “Schellen-Ursli” must have lived from the famous Romansh children’s book by Selina Chönz and Alois Cariget.
It was here that Girsberger spent his childhood with his siblings and lived until he completed his apprenticeship as a cook. The former hotelier who lives in Appenzellerland spends a lot of time with his wife Madeleine in his childhood home since his retirement and enjoys telling a lot about his parents’ house, the sometimes tragic story of his grandfather, and funny anecdotes from that time.
Traces of the founder of the ski and mountain school
In the right part of the house there is a small ski museum. This is no coincidence: Grandpa Simon was the founder of the first ski school in Pontresina and the climbing school in Pontresina. He also taught little Paul and his siblings to ski. “My grandfather was instrumental in shaping Pontresina’s tourism and boom,” says Girsberger.
A framed advertising poster for the community with Simon Rähmi adorns the modern staircase to the rear of the house, where Paul Girsberger’s modern holiday apartments are located on the ground floor and above them the duplex apartment of his brother Werner Girsberger (75).
Nostalgic elements from the past
To the left of the solera on the ground floor is the former lounge and kitchen with an old original stove in which Paul’s mother still cooked cabbage and soup for the family. “Everything still works and if we have larger groups to eat, I can prepare a five-course menu here,” says Girsberger.
Many of them are still in their original condition or, if necessary, have been faithfully restored to the original. In the kitchen there are still hooks on the ceiling on which the meat was smoked. Mum’s kitchen scale is decoratively placed on a Swiss pine cupboard. “In the past, the ceilings were completely black from smoking and wood heating,” recalls the homeowner.
Complicated renovation works over a period of three years
After their mother died in 2007, Werner and Paul Girsberger repaid their siblings and renovated the house for three years. “We hollowed out the house almost completely and had to support it from below in an earthquake-proof manner as it had no concrete foundation before,” explains Paul Girsberger.
The brothers jointly developed the concepts of the conversion, the plans came from Werner Girsberger, who worked as an architecture professor until his retirement. The historically valuable house has been modernized and equipped with a few refined details without losing its original character, and many have been refreshed and recycled. So also the wooden floors at home. “The wooden floors, originally eight centimeters thick, have been halved to four centimeters. This allowed us to reuse these original floors, ”explains Paul Girsberger.
What is new are the kitchens in the brothers’ private apartments and in the holiday apartment, as well as all bathrooms and a sauna for the owners in the basement.
Regular guests in the popular holiday apartment
Above the living room and kitchen, where little Paweł and his brothers used to have his bedroom, since the renovation there is a holiday apartment bedroom with its own kitchen, open living and dining area and a modern bathroom, as well as a balcony with a kitchenette. view of the Graubünden mountains.
Paul Girsberger is pleased that his parents’ house is attractive to the holiday apartment and that it is well booked: “The apartment is now fully booked for the season until 2026. We have many guests who book again every year. »
No chance for potential buyers
But potential buyers are also contacting Girsbergers. Vain. “Our mother was not yet in the underground when we were offered over three million Swiss francs for our house before the conversion, and then various inquiries came in. But selling is not a problem. It is my house.”
He and his wife have already handed over a vacation apartment in their home to their two children, who always like to spend their holidays in an Engadin house with their grandchildren. All heirs honor their grandfather with honor. Not only have you invested a lot of money in its maintenance, you have put your heart and soul into it.
You can clearly hear Girsberger’s pride in longing for his parents’ home. «The house is impressive. That is why we want to open our doors on “Open Days” and show the public our home in Engadin, and tell something about the history of the Engadin with our Chesa Rähmi.
Free guided tours of the Engadin
On June 25 and 26, from Bergellisch-Italian border village Castasegna to S-chanf in the Upper Engadin, more than 80 buildings will be opened as part of the first architectural event “Open Doors Engadin”, analogous to the concept of “Open House Zurich” or “Open House Basel “.
Like Paul Girsberger, they open their doors, offer free guided tours, and provide insight into historic and modern buildings in the Engadin.