(CNN)Scuol is one of those perfectly preserved semi-isolated communities in the Lower Engadine valley of Switzerland, separated from Italy by a series of Dolomite peaks.
Hom Strom: Switzerland's 'Wicker Man' on Ice
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Until the advent of the 19-kilometer Vereina Tunnel in 1999, the longest meter-gauge tunnel in the world, the passes to these villages were frequently unreachable in the winter.
It comes as no surprise that these isolated communities -- Europe's version of Central Asia's tribal areas -- have also kept customs that reach deep into their pagan past.
One of the most remarkable festivals in Europe takes place here on the first Saturday in February.
It's the burning of Hom Strom, Man of Straw in the local dialect, echoing pagan sacrificial traditions that sit uncomfortably with us today.