After a long day of hiking the day before, Dan and I were not only looking forward to the amazing scenery that awaited us on our scenic Bernina Express train ride on the highest rail crossing of the Alps but to sitting on our behinds all day and doing nothing more than ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ every five seconds at the spectacular scenery whizzing by. And maybe some laundry that night once we got to the hotel. That’s the unfortunate tradeoff for packing light on a long trip, but anyone who has cursed under their breath while lugging a huge roller suitcase across Europe’s many uphill cobble stone streets on the walk from the train station to the hotel understands!
Alright the deets.
The Bernina Express is a 4 hour, 90 mile cross country journey via a narrow gauge train with large windowed panoramic sightseeing cars that runs from Chur and St. Moritz in eastern Switzerland to Tirano in northern Italy. The Rhatische Bahn operated route winds through 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, 20 villages and the 110 year old railroad has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The promotional photos on Rhatische Bahn’s website are absolutely stunning and we had been looking forward to this rail trip for months.
Our seats were super comfortable and the nearly 2.5 meter high windows allowed you to gaze straight up to the tops of the snow covered mountains and gave every passenger a first row seat to the passing landscape. We splurged for first class seats and enjoyed endless cups of coffee from our personal carriage attendant.
A camera doesn’t even come close to capturing the breath taking beauty of this region. Literally. Even on a high shutter speed we were struggling at times to capture the grandeur of this route, fighting the speed of the train, the trees whirring by, the fog and the 55 tunnels that always popped up just as you were about to press the shutter button, but we managed to get quite a few gems among the million pictures we took. Dan took on the role of chief photographer for the day, camera in hand happily sticking his head out the window like a dog out for a country drive.
After departing from Chur the train ran along the crystal clear waters of the Rhine before crossing the Landwasser Viaduct, sharing the same route as the equally stunning Glacier Express route from Chur to Samedan, on its way toward the pretty town of Pontresina. Even in late May, we were treated to the sight of remnant patches of snow at this elevation, stark white against the vibrant greenery of the trees and the dark granite. It was absolutely beautiful. Everyone in the carriage was constantly craning their necks and running from one walled window to the other to take in the everchanging views.
Dear Bernina Express,
May I suggest the installation of swivel seats in your next train upgrade, Thanks!
The Cadys Abroad
Once south of Davos, the train clung to the mountainside as it climbed up toward Pontresina into the thin layer of fog blanketing the tree line before reaching the artificial lakes of Lago Bianco and Lej Nair where we broke through the clouds and were blinded by the dazzling sunshine reflecting off the thin layer of stark snow cover.
After passing through Pontresina, the train winds past the Morteratsch Glacier through the stark martian landscape, and then reaches its highest point at Ospizio Bernina, a dizzying 7,391 feet above sea level. As the train descended down the other side of the Alps, we were able to get off at Alp Grum for about 20 minutes to get some panoramic shots over Cavaglia and the Italian Alps before continuing toward the picturesque village town of Poschiavo, whizzing past fir trees and alpine meadows dottted with farm houses. On its final leg from Poschiavo, we followed the curves of Lake Poschiavo and twisted ever so slowly around the Brusio Spiral Viaduct before pulling crossing the border into Italy and pulling into the station at Tirano where we promptly dug into huge plates of pizza, pasta and tiramisu.
The Bernina Express runs year round with differing summer and winter schedules and offers a completely different experience each season, taking you from a snow covered wonderland in winter to idyllic green alpine meadows and rushing snow melt waterfalls in summer. Dan and I have already vowed to ride the Glacier Express through the Gotthard Pass en route to a scenic skiing holiday some winter in the near future. I’m already counting down the days!
So what do you think? Incredible and awe inspiring right?