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!
- Switzerland’s Panoramic Train, The Bernina Express (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)