|FROM PALM TREES TO GLACIERS: THE BERNINA EXPRESS|
|You might be as surprised as we were to discover all that can be experienced with a Swiss Rail Pass.|
Switzerland, in the heart of Europe, is a crossroads of cultures. Germany is to the north, Liechtenstein and Austria are to the east, Italy is to the Southwest, and France is to the west and northwest. There are four official languages --German, French, Italian, and Romansch, a legacy left by Roman soldiers.
For this trip, we were in the German and Italian-speaking regions.
It's a ticket to the best of what Switzerland has to offer, a complete transportation package that includes trains, buses, and boats, as well as local transportation in forty-one cities.
Swiss trains are renowned for working like clockwork, and it’s a breeze to step from a train to an awaiting bus or boat.
Schedules are part of a unique highly developed route network and a timetable synchronized with amazing precision.
If you want to rent a bicycle,
mountain bike, or power-enhancing electric Flyer bike and tour villages
along the way, you can take it onboard.
Available from 4 days to a month of consecutive travel or 3, 4, 5, or 6 days of travel within a month, prices start at under $300, and a wide variety of packages are available. The pass is available online at RailEurope, Swiss TravelSystem.com, or through a travel agent.
As with each of our visits to Switzerland, we designed our trip around one of Switzerland’s scenic train rides. This time we chose the Bernina Express, the highest mountain railway in the Alps.
The train maneuvers mountain slopes without the use of tooth-wheel mechanism, crossing the Alps and
traveling through a spectacular landscape ranging from glaciers to palm
|LUGANO AND GANDRIA, IN THE ITALIAN-SPEAKING CANTON OF TICINO|
We validated our Swiss pass at the
train station across the street from Zurich’a airport.
|THE BERNINA EXPRESS|
A baby on board laughed heartily when the AH-OOO-GAH horn sounded on the approach to villages with streets so narrow we thought we’d scrape the sides.
With about an hour in Tirano between the bus and train, we were glad to have brought along some Euros.
There was time to shop, sip an expresso, or relax on the piazza at a spaghetteria, Pizzeria, or gelateria.
For most travel second class cars, though generally more crowded, are fine, but for this scenic adventure, the first class observation cars are worth the premium for the panoramic views.
We had plenty of room to walk around and snap photographs of some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The Bernina Express links southern and northern Europe in a winding pathway that is a masterpiece of engineering--all without the use of cogwheels.
It is a synergy of technology and nature designed to harmonize with the landscape, and is the third railway in the world to be designated a “universally outstanding” UNESCO World Heritage route. Seat reservations are mandatory.
It travels the trilingual--German, Italian, and Romansch-- canton of Graubunden, Switzerland’s #1 vacation destination, and part of the Swiss Confederation since 1803.
The flag bears its symbol, the ibex, an alpine wild goat.
Brusio’s circular viaduct--the only one in the
world-- was but one adventure in altitude.
There are 55 tunnels, some spiraling through mountains, 196 bridges, steep inclines, deep Alpine valleys, viaducts winding high above gorges, hairpin turns...
as well as charming alpine
villages, stone farmhouses, castles, grazing cows,
The landscape and weather changed dramatically with elevation during our afternoon excursion. We began with sunshine and 80˚ temperatures at 1408’ above sea level in sunny, palm-treed Tirano.
It was a treeless alpine tundra on the nearly 7400’ high Ospizio Bernina, at the Bernina Pass, the highest point on our trip, and it snowed at well below freezing temperatures in the region around Kloster .
We stopped at the famous Alp Grüm station, which is surrounded by the Palü Glacier and Lake Palü, and disembarked to take some photographs in the howling wind.
We passed another favorite hotel, The Hotel Walter in Pontrasina
The Albula and Bernina engines use a different electric current and are changed in Pontracina. This Engadine area became renowned for mountaineering and skiing after the railway lines opened in 1904 and 1910, respectively.
Crossing the 450’ landmark Landwasser Viaduct, with its 300’ arches, was like riding into an iconic photograph.
We followed the Albula River and the Rhine past an area with Europe’s largest density of castles to Chur (pronounced koor).
Graubunden’s capital and the oldest town in Switzerland. |
A transportation hub, now and historically, there are archaeological finds in Chur going back to 11,000BC.
A Swiss pass is a ticket to travel wherever you please in the twenty-six cantons. We planned our adventure, but also had the opportunity to go where our mood took us. It's an extraordinary experience.
|All material including photography appearing on these pages is copyrighted and may be used only with written permission from Roger and Linda Fasteson.|