If somebody, anybody ask me what to do or where to visit when they are in Switzerland, I would always suggest to take the Bernina Express panoramic train across Swiss Alps if their budget permits. The price is on the high side but trust me, it’s worth it. There is no better way to travel across and see the Swiss Alps unless maybe, if you fly by helicopter. That’s what you want to see when you come to Switzerland, right? The magnificent mountainscapes you read on travel articles or the enticing pictures of Switzerland you see online. Swiss Alps and landscape – that is what Switzerland is famous for besides private banking facilities for the rich, cheeses and chocolates.
The railway connects from the north to the south of Switzerland passes through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges. There are 3 lines where you could start your journey from Chur or Davos or St. Moritz. Info here on Bernina Express website. If you take the Bernina Express to Tirano, you could also continue your journey to Lugano, Italy with a panoramic bus which passes through Italian wine valley and the short of Lake Como – the Italian paradise for the rich and famous.
If you are planning to travel to Italy from Switzerland, this train is really a great way to continue your journey. This is an excellent alternative to Interlaken or Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch trip would cost almost the same price. If you are a free and easy traveler – skip Jungfraujoch and take Bernina Express to get to Italy – in comfort and style. This is starting to sound like a sponsored post, I wish but it is not. Herr Hallo has been up Jungfraujoch so we could speak from our experiences. A little insight of the train – the train is the colour of Swiss flag, red and white. It is a luxurious train with wide glass windows on the sides and on the roof, partially so the landscape visibility from the train is almost 180 degree. The train is Swiss-standard clean [see note¹]. You could buy snacks and drinks from the food cart. The density of seats are low even on second-class so there is plenty of leg rooms.
Note¹ – I have not been to a dirty toilet in Switzerland unless it is a touristy place like the airport near international check in counters or major shopping malls off Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. Even the toilets in the mountains are clean.
Large windows for panoramic viewBernina Express – from the inside.
Bernina Express entering tunnel.One of the 95 tunnels throughout the journey.
Catching the train
We went for the Bernina Express during my first trip to Switzerland – during our courtship days. It seems like yesterday. The memories of jet lag and attitude sickness are still so fresh. Browsing pictures we took during that time makes me laugh and cringe. Back then I had this horrendous skinny set of eyebrows. And that picture Muesli topped with Yogurt – a breakfast that I never eat again. Herr Hallo was still fresh faced and looked so cute in those old pictures.
It was winter and very early in the morning, we made our way to Chur (starting station) from Rapperswil. I remember Herr Hallo grabbed my hand and we were running across the station so that we would not miss our next train. The floors were slippery because it was still snowy. I hate to run and rush to places. I can’t deal with the adrenaline, I suppose. I was scared I’ll stumble and fall down the stairs. We made it to Chur without accidents.
Being on board is quite an exciting experience for me. It’s like taking a flight for the first time. The wave of anxiety and excitement mixed together. The anxiety actually comes from the jet lag and also the altitude sickness. I did not feel well. I felt lack of ventilation in enclosed places during the trip. Sometimes I felt lack of breath and extreme lethargy. That’s what I thought but later I found out that what I had was altitude sickness. Hence, I was cautious about my body changes throughout the trip.
Winter SportsCross country Skiers spotted from our train. Photo by Herr Hallo
Village in the valley
There weren’t many passengers on our train. It was winter, the low season. Tickets are a lot cheaper during winter compared to summer but it is still a nice experience. The are vast difference between winter and summer. During winter, the mountains are snowy, white and pure like a dream. For someone who came from a tropical country, this is particularly enthralling for me. However, I would love to take the Bernina Express again during summer because now that I am armed with a a fantastic Lumix GX8, I am sure my pictures will turn out even better! We are planning to travel to Italy anyway and this is the most scenic way to get there.
Soon after we boarded the train, the personnel started to come down the aisle with the food cart. We bought 2 croissants and coffees for breakfast. The ride took 4 hours from Chur to Poschiavo. We would have lunch in Poschiavo (our final destination) so a small breakfast would be sufficient. As the train started to move away from Chur, the weather was foggy. We passed by many tunnels and bridges. The train makes stop at certain stations along the way, at ski destinations. We were seated at the mid-back carriage of the train. It was nice to see the front carriages of the train especially when it was taking curves. As we entered the valley in the Alps, the existence of us seems so insignificant. It is similar to viewing the world from a microscope. We are such tiny beings in this world.
Alps within the Alps
There are a few unforgettable sight from my Bernina Express experience.
This is the emerald lake in the featured picture (main picture of this blog post). This lake is also part of the UNESCO Heritage Site. The lake was frozen this year and there were so many pictures of people ice skating on the frozen lake.
We saw a Capricorn maneuvering the Alps from our train. It was my first sighting of Capricorn. I only knew them from the Horoscope. It was magical moment for me.
The Swiss Alps
Even though it was winter, the Alps was still so captivating. White snow covered almost everywhere in the mountains. So bright but yet so dreamy – like heaven.
Little Swiss Villages
Little Swiss Villages in the valley exactly like described in fairy tales. At that time it was hard to believe that all these are real. These are the things/places I used to see on TV from faraway land.
The comfort sitting in a beautiful heated train, in our sweaters and warm food, looking out our windows at harsh winter. That is luxury.
South of Switzerland.Also known as the Italian part of Switzerland.
Our trip took us to Poschiavo, also a UNESCO Heritage site in south of Switzerland. Also known as the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Much like Malaysia, the Swiss have four official languages; French, German, Italian and Romansh. If you travel to the south – bordering with Italy, the community speaks Italian. If you travel to the West of Switzerland – bordering with France, people speaks French. So, you get the idea.
When we arrived in Poschiavo, the town was ghostly. Poschiavo is a lively town especially during summer with plenty of visitors but because it was winter the town was very quiet. We had lunch at one of the restaurant near the train station. A typically Italian restaurant but we would like to erase our memories of the food.
We walked around for a few hours in Poschiavo. It is a perk to be in a quiet town. We walked around admiring the buildings, goofing around and posing pictures without shame as if there were only two of us in the world. Poschiavo has such strong Italian feel to it. I can only speak from the Italian pictures I saw and read because I have not been to Italy. I really love the rustic Italian vibes. The little alleys which always lead to somewhere are enticing and tickle my curiosity.
A few hours after, we returned to our train and head back to Chur then Rapperswil the same way we came. I was completely knocked out on the way back. I slept throughout the journey.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. Fingers crossed for next Bernina Express trip.
x Frau Hallo