Epic Ride Through The Alps On The Bernina Express (Part Two)

The Bernina Express is the only rail line through the Alps without a major (meaning kilometers long) tunnel.   That translates into stellar and diverse views.  There are so many amazing pictures that I’ve divided this train ride into a few posts.

After passing through the famous Landwasser Viaduct, we continued to climb toward Bergün/Bravuogn with its  onion-shaped 17th-century “Roman tower.”  We got a great look at it because the train continued climb, looping around the valley.  And climb some more.  And more.   After all, we were crossing the Alps.

After Bergün/Bravuogn, we gained more than 1,365 feet in altitude on the way to Preda.  To gain that much altitude required some clever engineering.  The train loops up through five spiral tunnels, passes through two other tunnels, crosses nine viaducts and travels under two galleries in almost eight miles.  The spiral tunnels allow trains to  ascend and descend steep hills.  It was amazing to look out and see the train we were riding on curving up the track through the stunning scenery.

Albula Pass the train enters the Albula Tunnel immediately and spirals down to Bever on the way to Samedan.  It’s another outstanding piece of engineering with more spiral tunnels, looping viaducts, galleries, and bridges spanning the Albula Gorge.  The views change.  It is more sparsely wooded with Arven pine and larch trees.  The train follows a river bed that was filling with snow melt.

The train continues through increasingly dramatic scenery, with steep cliffs and Val Bernina’s deep gorges on to Pontresina (1,774 m) and its view of Piz Bernina (the highest summit of the Eastern Alps).

I wish we could have gotten off at Morteratsch station (1,896 m), to do the one-hour hike to the edge of the  Morteratsch Glacier.  Apparently you can hike past posts that track the glacier’s recent retreat.   Our seats were reserved through to Tirano so we stayed put.  If I’d been smart, I would have booked seats  on a later train or stayed over in Pontresina.  Our day turned out pretty stellar anyway.  I even caught some glimpses of blue glacier ice like we saw when we were skiing in Saas Fee.

Continuing on, we saw Lago Bianco and its a broad riverbed.  The Lago Bianco dam marks the watershed between the Danube and the Po.

We even saw some frozen waterfalls.  They must be spectacular in summer when they are filled with snow melt.  This stretch is the highest public railway open year-round.  You have a great view from the Alp Grüm station.  Auf Wiedersehen Deutschsprachigen!  Ciao realtor italiani!

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Mountaineering Deaths

I try to read the paper every day to practice my French.  Almost every week, there is an article about some sort of mountaineering or hiking accident (usually resulting in death). Sometimes, the paper will note the discovery of a body from an accident decades ago.

 

When we were in Zermatt, we happened upon the town’s cemetary.  Four of the first seven people to successfully summit the Matterhorn died on the descent when a rope snapped.  Since then, over 500 people have died attempting to climb the Matterhorn.  Currently, about 12 people a year die at the Matterhorn.  These deaths are usually due to falling rocks, falls, bad weather, inexperience and the mountain’s difficulty. 

He Is In Love…With Zermatt

When we went to Zermatt, he fell in love with the town.  It is touristy, expensive and everything revolves around a single mountain (the Matterhorn).  Nevertheless, it is very pleasant and still has loads of charm.   They have kept some of the original buildings, which are very distinctive because they have giant stone discs in the pillars.  Their function was to keep the mice out!
 
 
Although there are lots of hotels and some larger ones, they are definitely cuter than hotels on the Vegas strip.  The Swiss use tons of wood in building and as accents, Zermatt is no exception.  There are also tons of flower boxes and small plantings.
 
 
Zermatt seems to welcome everyone from the ultra rich, to backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts.  For the number of people who visit, Zermatt is surprisingly calm and peaceful.  There are no cars. Vehicles are small electric vehicles.  We left our car in the valley and took the train to get there.  It felt as though you were, literally, leaving it all behind.

People use these baggage trolleys to walk their luggage from the train station to the hotel (some hotels will send one of the little electric trolleys shown above).  

It is public art in the form of a beaver fountain!  In case you are wondering what he is doing, he is having a drink.

I love public art.  He probably wouldn’t say that, but I do think it adds to the general beauty and pleasantness that he picks up on.  Finally, there is this.  Need I say more?

The Matterhorn from Zermatt