What’s the most magically memorable train trip you’ve ever taken? Mine was a few years ago when I rode the Bernina Express in sunny, snow laden Switzerland on the Bernina line section that runs from St. Moritz to the charming Italian town of Tirano. Although the entire journey is a train lover’s nirvana, I thought the most mesmerizing section was the 45 minute journey from Pontresina to Poschiavo. The fascinating journey to the top of the Bernina Pass covers scenery that is a marvelous mix of landscapes that are bewitching and totally captivating. So much so, that it made me want to constantly jump off of the train and sample the beguiling beauty before me.
Some of the areas that slipped leisurely by, reminded me of a Scottish Moor, where rocks are strewn here and there, as if thrown around higgledy piggeldy by some giant mad at the world – then, as all that seemed to disappear in a momentous moment, I got the feeling that it was as if this was a play with multi on stage sets that had constant scene changes – and you wonder how they do it so fast. To validate that, in the next second I saw a herd of sleepy looking brown cows grazing in a field so fresh, green and serene, I felt sure it must have been either a make believe movie set, or that it had been painted on by some great Italian artist. I’d hardly been able to digest all this peaceful serenity, when my eyes became riveted to the sight of seemingly countless rushing, crashing streams and waterfalls that dot the mountain scenery.
The hilly, towering craggy peaks in the background were, the day I did it, ablaze with whiter than white snow sparkling like a thousand one and diamonds in the morning sunlight. While all this stunning scenery DOES indeed captivate the senses, the other fact that amazes virtually everyone who enjoys this incredible train trip, is that as steep as it is, there are no rack and pinion sections of the track. Brilliant Swiss railroad engineers designed it so skillfully that this type of track was not needed. You appreciate that fact when you arrive at the 7,400 foot level and the train comes to a halt at the Alp Gum station. Should you wish to do something really refreshing, get off and engage in some challenging and really exciting hiking.
As the train departs the Alp Gum station, at a snail’s pace so you can appreciate your gorgeous surroundings, the train enters a sort of forest like portion of the trip that convinces you that you’re in the heart of the countryside, and yet moments before you were enjoying the snow laden mountains. …then, minutes later you are still in the mountains, but now gazing down at rushing streams, greener than green forests, and a nature tranquility than you thought only existed in your dreams.
The train then descends into the Poschiavo Valley, where sweeping vistas of lakes, snow and verdantly green and virgin looking forests – gripped my visual senses – and I wondered how Mother Nature was able to come up with so many amazing sights. Certainly the most eye popping, is when the train twists and turns and doubles back on itself, as it traverses the Brusio Viaduct – a superb place for photo buffs to photograph this amazing train many times over.
Just make sure you are in one of the Bernina Express last, back-of-the-train carriages, so you’ll be able to photograph the train as it doubles back on itself. Also, and this is VERY important, be sure you’re in one of the carriages that allow you to open the window, as many trains in Europe have sealed, totally closed shut windows. See all this magic yourself at www.rhb.ch or just click on Google and type in Bernina Express for a variety of websites about this Swiss super train.
As awesome as this part of the journey is, perhaps an even more “Seeing IS Believing” Experience on this, the most extraordinary portion of this remarkable train trip, is when you near the Italian town of Tirano and find the train that, only moments before, was gliding over smooth mountain slopes and glacier like scenery, is now part of the heart stopping traffic, as the train in all its majesty, tiptoes down this town’s small, winding streets. Riveting and totally amazing!
When the train finally arrives in the Italian town of Tirano, you are suddenly confronted with the reality that the train ride of your lifetime, has ended. If you never take another trip anywhere, I urge you to visit Switzerland and enjoy this most fantastic of all trains.