The Glacier Express
It’s no secret my husband loves trains; while I may not share his passion for Lionel trains, model train displays, or being in the engineer’s cab, I do love riding trains; especially in Europe.
So, riding the Swiss Glacier Express was naturally at the top of our list. This morning we left Zermatt before 7AM and headed east to St. Moritz. We went back along the route from the day prior, to Visp, bypassing it for a quick stop in Brig. Other scheduled stops included Andermatt, Disentis, Chur and Filisur.
At times, I felt like I had been miniaturized and dropped into the magnificent Swiss model train display at Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland; I expected at any minute to see a naked couple in a field of sunflowers, or a team of detectives investigating a body in a river.
The “slowest express train in the world” (at an average 22 mph), covers 291 kilometers (181 miles) in about eight hours and every minute is riveting.
The scenery is nothing less than spectacular and I will try to let the few pictures here tell the story. Unlike the Rocky Mountaineer, these cars have no option to stand at an open window for photos, so you cope with windows getting progressively dustier, awful reflection, lots of electrical wires and the fact you are in a moving train, to try to get any shots at all. Mostly, you just have to sit back and enjoy the experience.
From snow-covered peaks, glaciers, bright green pastures, cows collared with giant bells, expansive evergreen forests, workers building new spiral tunnels, a helicopter flying buckets of cement to a mountain top, sheer limestone cliffs, deep gorges, raging rivers and towering waterfalls, we crossed 291 bridges and viaducts and travelled through 91 tunnels. At our highest point, at the Oberalppass near Andermatt, we were 6,670’ high. The segment between Chur and St. Moritz is also part of the Bernina Express; one area, known as the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes, has been a World Heritage Site since 2008.
Once in St. Moritz, we jumped right back on another train and headed back to Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city, for the night. My lesson for the day – you pronounce Chur, “Kor”.
Tips for anyone thinking of going:
There are 3 trains a day, just before 8, 9 and 10 am, from each direction. Reservations are required (there is first and second class) and all food and beverages are additional, and served at your seat (the dining car was discontinued years ago). Commentary is skimpy and by headphone, and the guy reading the English script could put sheep to sleep. Thankfully, we read a good description in a book prior to going. Most of the souvenirs available on the train are not much to brag about and better off skipped. If you have room in your suitcase, the angle-bottom wine glass they formerly used in the dining car (to keep liquid even), is a conversation piece.
The Swiss Rail/Travel Pass, www.sbb.ch, is a good way to go, but keep in mind, you still need to pay a bit more for a reservation on any Swiss scenic route like the Glacier Express. www.glacierexpress.ch