The Bernina Express

We arrived in the Italian border town of Tirano by train from Como in order to enter Switzerland on the famous Bernina Express.

The whole town seemed to exist for the railway and the majority of people who frequented the place on that mid-June day were grey-haired German or Japanese tourists in identical tour operator issued yellow baseball caps, taking excursions to various destinations by train.

There are actually two train stations in Tirano – one for other parts of Italy (where we arrived) and the other the gateway to Switzerland.

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After a leisurely lunch (our last reasonably priced one of the trip!), we boarded our touristic train that would take us to Chur, from where we would take a normal scheduled train back down to St. Moritz.

The carriages had huge windows to give you the best view of the panorama and Mrs Wilbur and I had booked window seats opposite each other. Or so we thought…….

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An elderly couple with acerbic tongues claimed that we were in their seats and made a huge scene of trying to turf us out. My British stiff upper lip took hold and I refused to budge, insisting in my basic German that we were in the right place and their seats must be elsewhere. They were having none of it and sat beside us, continuing to argue on and make us feel uncomfortable.

I offered to compromise and sit two by two so they could have one window, but they were having none of it. They had booked fensters and it was both they demanded. I of course started to wonder whether I had made a mistake. I was confident I had not, but then again……

The ticket inspector eventually confirmed that we were right and they were wrong. They huffed and hurriedly left indignantly, no hint of an apology of course! My satisfied smile spoke volumes!

We were now free to enjoy the stunning scenery. First up the iconic Brusio viaduct, the circular viaduct that was designed to allow the train to get maximum elevation up the mountain over a short distance.

It resembles the toy racetrack that I used to have as a kid, the sort of hairpin bend that used to find my racing cars flying off as I drove too fast.

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Wikipedia

I was tipped off by the guard regarding the best place to stand to film the train bending round the  viaduct. This allowed me to hang out of the window and take the video that you can find following this link – Brusio Viaduct

We had bought a four day Swiss Pass for about £199, plus had to pay a £10 supplement due to us being on tourist central.

The journey was brilliant as we climbed high into the mountains. The scenery was beautiful and the bridges, tunnels and viaducts represented miracles of engineering.

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The Landwasser Viaduct near Filisur was particularly stunning. Completed in 1902 it is 65 metres (213 ft) high, 136 metres (446 ft) long.

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Wikipedia

After four hours of eye popping panoramas, we arrived in Chur, said to be the oldest settlement in Switzerland, but just a thirty minute train change for us.

I got my first wake up call regarding Swiss prices when purchasing two sandwiches and some water for £18, before boarding the train for our two hour journey to St Moritz.

The standard train was a pleasure too. We retraced many of our tracks, only this time without all the chatter and jockeying for position to get the best shots. I just based myself between two carriages, felt the wind in my hair and leaned out of the window whenever I thought the photo opportunity warranted it.

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Mrs Wilbur was quite happy to watch the world go by from her seat whilst listening to music, so we were both entertained.

If I am honest, if I planned a rail holiday in Switzerland again, I would forego the tourist trains and travel on standard versions wherever possible.

We arrived at our destination at 9.30pm for a fabulous 36 hours in the Swiss countryside and one seismic result from the UK…….

19 comments

  1. How cute this train!!
    xx
    Umberta
    http://thesecretlifeofanactress.blogspot.fr/

  2. What glorious skies! And you’re right that track does look like the toy ones – looks a beautiful place #mondayescapes

  3. Well done for standing your ground – it would have been tragic to miss out on those views. My husband is a train fanatic and I would love to take him on this trip once the kids are old enough/have left the house!

    1. You will both love it. I can’t get enough of overseas train journeys!

  4. The first time I saw this, I knew I wanted to do it and one day I will! I’ve heard the views are amazing and your pictures definitely show that!! #CityTripping

  5. This is lovely thanks so much for sharing. I have two train obsessed kiddos and I’m constantly looking for Europe trains they may enjoy. Its nice to know we could do this trip in a regular car and avoid the tourist supplement. #MondayEscapes

    1. I am now over 200 overseas train journeys and you will find some more described on my blog. Spain, France & Italy are all brilliant fun, Scandinavia & Switzerland stunning but expensive and Eastern Europe a real adventure, especially crossing borders e.g. Budapest to Bucharest or Bucharest to Chisinau in Moldova. Basic and very cheap but a real rail throwback.

  6. Wonderful account of your trip – brings back happy memories! We’ve done the Bernina twice and the first time paid the supplement to go on the panoramic train and then this last time we were on the ordinary scheduled one. We honestly didn’t realise until we were about half way along the route that we weren’t in the glass topped carriage so I agree that it really makes no difference to your enjoyment. I remember all those switchbacks from Chur to St Moritz – – it was incredible! Interested to see the route in the summer months – we’ve always been there low season in April so quieter and still quite snowy!

  7. An amazing train ride! (at least after the seat controversy was resolved!)

  8. How beautiful!
    And how many memories, for me…
    Here ,in northern Italy , it’s a must to take this train once in a while…..!

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