Thursday, October 12, 2023

Grand Tour for 30th Wedding Anniversary - Bernina Pass

Chur, Switzerland. Wednesday/Thursday 11/12-October-2023.

The fourth stage of the Grand Tour: Tirano to Chur through the Bernina Pass. The one fixed element of this 3 week journey since planning began 11 months ago and it lived up to all expectations.

The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightfully so. It is an awesome feat of late 19th century engineering, breathtaking scenery and a bit scary at times especially if, like Mary, you are a bit scared of heights! The track snakes along vertiginous mountainsides with sheer drops alternating with tunnels and towering viaducts over deep valleys.

We travelled on a regional train rather than the Bernina Express. You pay a premium for the express with panoramic windows but the normal train has openable windows! We kept flipping from one side of the carriage to the other to look out at the best views. Before too long we reached the Brusio spiral viaduct, an elegant and graceful solution to the limits of gradient that the trains could manage.

Our train partway round the the spiral.

As you leave the spiral you can look back and get a real feel for the curve and height gain.

This aerial shot lets you see it in its entirety with the Bernini Express rather than the regional train that we took. 

All along the route is fantastic alpine scenery, beautiful serene lakes.

Despite travelling in October we had perfect weather for this journey, no misty mountains; excellent visibility the whole way.

There were pretty little stations along the route, mostly request stops, I can't see them getting much footfall apart from maybe some hardy hikers.

We saw glaciers! Admittedly in the distance and apparently not what it was thanks to global warming.

We had a planned lunch stop at St. Moritz, playground of the rich and famous. I have to say I was disappointed, the setting was stunning but the bit of the town we saw was lacking in character and facilities. We walked some way into town not passing any cafes and ended up buying a salad in a supermarket and having an impromptu picnic on a park bench overlooking the lake. 

Then it was back on board the next train and continuing our journey to Chur. We passed over the spectacular, curved Landwasser Viaduct, 65 m tall - best not to look down!

Chur was a single night because of the cost of accommodation (and everything else) in Switzerland. We rented an airBnB near the city centre, above an Italian pizzeria - the easy choice for our evening meal. The centre of Chur had some lovely old buildings.

The apartment was basic and made less enjoyable by a leak from the flat above. I was woken at around 2:30 am by a dripping sound; water was coming through the ceiling in the hallway of our apartment. Several visits upstairs elicited no response - pretty sure it was unoccupied. So I put a dustbin out to catch the dwindling leak and a towel to muffle the plink, plink. Mary slept through it all! We let the owner know but reading the reviews apparently it had happened before.

Next morning it was up and out for the next leg: out of Switzerland, passing through Germany and into Austria, ending up at our next stop, Salzburg.

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