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The Bernina Express

Sun, 6 Dec 2015, 10:59 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

1. Departure 

The third leg of our trip from Florence to Switzerland was on the Bernina Express from Tirano to Chur

Let’s be clear. This is not a work-a-day train. It’s for sightseeing in the Swiss Alps. It runs on the Rhätishe Bahn and consists of comfortable coaches with huge windows that extend from about knee-height up to the (tall) ceilings of the coach and indeed wrap around the top so that you can look straight up the cliff faces as you go.

As our appointed departure time approached, we checked in, made our way to the platform and boarded the shiny red train.

And we waited for 2:33.

I wear a running watch that synchronizes with GPS. It keeps time very accurately. So as the 2:33 departure time arrived, I looked down and watched the final seconds tick by: 2:32:57, 2:32:58, 2:32:59, 2:33:00. And as :00 gave way to :01, the train began to roll.

On time to the second.

2. The Trip

No I must confess up front that our photographic record of the journey is limited. Although the ride and the views and the scenery were spectacular, the wrap-over window and well-lit coaches made for pretty bad glare. So although I tried mightily at first, no photos could really do the trip justice.

Use your words, David.

Oh. Right…

There were roses blooming behind stone houses along the railroad tracks — houses that could have been there centuries.

There were orchards laden with ripe apples.

There were pastures so spectacularly lush and green that the always jesting Trudy exclaimed at one point, “Look how many golf courses there are!”

There were castle ruins perched atop precarious outcrops of rock.

There were bell towers rising up from the villages and towns below us.

There were was a blue lake of glacier melt water and rushing rivers and cascading rivulets tumbling down the mountainsides.

There were trees creeping up steep rock walls and standing in dark silhouettes on sharp ridges.

There were snow-capped peaks periodically peeking out from behind the clouds.

There were long tunnels dug into rock. And short tunnels. There were straight tunnels. And winding, cork-screwing tunnels.

There were arched stone bridges over deep canyons. And sleek modern bridges with highways sometimes crossing the valley alongside the tracks.

There were stacks of wood split and neatly stacked against out-buildings in preparation for the coming winter.

There were autumn storms laden with rain drenching distant valleys.

There were wisps of cloud hanging over the mountain tops and floating in the valleys.

There were rows of yellow-tussled corn in neat fields between winding two-rut roads.

There were farms perched on the mountainsides far above us, with pastures that climbed even further up the mountains and disappeared into the clouds.

We sometimes sat and sometimes stood and watched all this go by. We moved from one side of the car to the other and the views here gave way to better views there. We looked up at the cliffs and the trees clinging to the rock. We looked down into the canyons. We looked across the valleys at the mountains on the other side, and those beyond them, and those beyond them. 

And at the end of the journey, as the train pulled into the final station at Chur, we hiked our backpacks up onto our shoulders and pulled our suitcases behind us and stepped down onto the platform where Gabrielle and Jerry were waiting for us with wide smiles and warm welcomes.

3. And a few photos

Here are a few miscellaneous pictures that I was able to salvage.

© jumpingfish by David Hasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License