18 day trip to Switzerland December 2017 - part 3

18 day trip to Switzerland December 2017 - part 3

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Posts: 11
longservice
longservice
24 posts
new member
Jan 15, 2018 - 2:10 PM

The journey from Zurich to St Moritz is a wonderful 3 hour spectacle of beauty and a most enjoyable trip. The viaducts, the bridges, the rivers, the forests, the weather, these all contribute to an utterly amazing journey. Upon arrival in St Moritz, it was clear that walking from the train station up to our hotel in the Township with luggage in tow was out of the question. There was just too much snow. The footpaths were hardly visible and that coupled with some roadworks made me realise we had to think of something else. I approached the information desk at the station and spoke with the lady behind the counter and she asked for the name of our Hotel and then kindly phoned them to bring down a shuttle van. In less than 10 minutes we were on board and soon arrived at our hotel.

We found a great place to find a reasonably priced meal was at the Hauser restaurant, and over the next 3 days it was a regular stop for us whenever we felt the need for a more substantial bite to eat.

The following day we were booked on the Bernina Express and needed to get to Pontresina to catch it early in the morning. However when we arrived at the St Moritz train station we were informed that all trains from Pontresina in the direction of Tirano had been cancelled as a further 50cm of snow had fallen overnight and there were fears of avalanche. Disappointed, we spoke to a very helpful gentleman behind the counter who encouraged us to wait 10-15 minutes for an update. So after a cup of tea at the store next door, we approached this same gentleman again who informed us that the line had just been opened, but we would still not be able to catch the Bernina Express from Pontresina and instead he suggested we take a standard train from St Moritz to Tirano, and then catch the Bernina Express from Tirano on the return journey. So this is exactly what we did. As it turned out, this was very good fortune indeed. The standard train was in fact the first train through after the line was opened, and at times we had to wait while special snow clearing trains were still clearing snow from the lines. We were also fortunate enough to sit right behind the driver and were able to have a fantastic view through the front window and once again I was able to catch some excellent video as a result. Often the train tracks were not even visible and the train was shredding the snow as it travelled, creating waves of snow cascading out to the sides of the train as we travelled.

I have to say that in terms of scenery and beauty, the trip from St Moritz to Tirano lived up to its reputation in all respects. Whether you travel by the Bernina Express or by standard train, it is a journey of a lifetime, and totally worth all of the extra expense of getting to this more remote part of Switzerland. We found the standard train to be far more comfortable than the Bernina Express itself, the views were equally unhindered but of course it was still great to have been able to experience both.

We found that nearly everything was closed in Tirano when we arrived, apart from a few restaurants close to the train station. It seemed odd to me that when the tourists were in Town, that there weren’t more stores open to exploit the tourist dollars. But this seemed to be partly due to perhaps the time of year we were there, and also that period of the day when shops close of an afternoon. After having a lovely Italian meal at a restaurant close by, we walked the streets with not too much to do until it was time to catch the Bernina Express for the return journey. By the time we arrived back in Pontresina, it was getting dark and we still had to find our way to St Moritz. We knew by checking the SBB app that the next train to St Moritz was an hour away, so we asked at the train station counter about the possibility of a bus. The girl behind the counter asked for the name of our Hotel and then instantly printed out a complete and detailed timetable of the two buses we needed to catch including where to find them, and then pointed us in the direction of where to wait for the first.

The next day was to be a “rest day” for us after a full days travel the day before. So we casually strolled around St Moritz in -13 degrees taking photos and then came across the funicular that goes to Corviglia and from there a cable car goes on to Piz Nair. We were informed at the ticket counter that the section to Piz Nair was closed, and that the section from St Moritz to Corviglia would cost us 50CHF each for an 8.5 minute ride…!!! No joke…. I’m serious..!!!

Did we go ahead……? Yes of course we did, we had no immediate plans to come back this way and there was no way we were going to go back home and later talk about how we wish we had done it despite its expense.

And while this turned out to be the most expensive trip we paid for in all of Switzerland. The 8.5 minute journey to Chantarella and on to Corviglia did surprise us with some wonderful views, and with the warm sunshine on our backs and beautiful clear blue skies, it turned out to be a lovely way to spend the afternoon in -13 degrees..!!

Our next trip was the Glacier Express from St Moritz to Zermatt. I have to confess to having been a bit nervous about spending 8 hrs on a train, wondering if it was really going to be as spectacular as advertised, and would we manage to stay awake the whole journey or just sleep through it all and make a pointless exercise out of it. But like every other train journey we took in Switzerland, it just did not disappoint at all. From the moment we were seated and on our way, the variety of scenery and weather conditions we encountered kept you glued to the window and continuously being captivated in every direction. We had researched the train menu prior to travel and were initially a bit undecided about purchasing a meal on board due to the cost. But once on board, we decided that it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to be seated in a restaurant with such incredible changing views. The meal is in fact delivered to your seat, and both my wife and I agreed it was some one of the best meals we had in our 18 days of travel. We both had a main meal and dessert, and the apple strudel was the best I had tasted in all of our travels.

It is here that I would like to say something about the struggle we often go through as travellers when trying to keep to a budget and yet also trying to enjoy every experience possible at the same time. My wife and I have travelled occasionally with tour groups and know what it is like to have to listen to the constant griping of some, about the cost of everything from a souvenir keyring to the cost of a T-shirt and getting the laundry done. It is tiresome being on holiday for some. But I am totally convinced it has so much to do with ones mindset. Our rule of thumb is this: If you think you will be disappointed tomorrow that you didn’t do it, buy it, ride it, go there, eat there or sleep there….. then just do it and do it now. The chances are you will not come this way again, and even if you do, it will be under different circumstances, different weather conditions, different economic times and there will always be a thousand other superficial reasons that could keep you from enjoying it now. Over the years we have often said to ourselves, do we miss that extra money now that we had to spend to do this or that, or to stay there or take that ride….? And the answer is always a resounding NO.

So when on holiday, have a holiday from your norms as well and do everything you can and stop counting the cost of every dollar along the way, or you will always keep looking back and wishing “if only”. Yes…. You can buy a Swiss watch cheap in Australia, but then you wouldn’t have bought it in that cute little place in that quaint little village in -10 degrees while it was snowing outside, and you wouldn’t have the memory that is permanently attached to that watch, of the shop keeper who was so polite and kind, and who offered to gift wrap it for you while you chatted about where to find the best restaurant in town and the tastiest apple strudel. I know we all have different budgets to stick to…. And I’m not suggesting we abandon common sense. But as a rule, when on holiday…. Take a risk, and just do it. I am determined that when I get to the end of my life that I will not say “I wish I’d spent more on my mortgage”.

More to come in the next few days.

A few pics below for those interested.

Last modified on Jan 15, 2018 - 7:21 PM by Chantal
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caro69
caro69
16 posts
new member
Jan 17, 2018 - 9:10 AM

Thank you for posting the reports of your wonderful trip longservice and your photos are beautiful. I've thorough enjoyed reading them. I love your holiday philosophy - I'm sure true memories will be made next week when me and my other half will be in Switzerland.

Caro

Lucas
Lucas
5628 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 17, 2018 - 10:37 AM in reply to longservice

Thanks again for a nice trip report longservice!

I'm surprised you found the regular trains to be "far more comfortable" than the Bernina Express!

I would have guessed, not having taken the Bernina Express, that they would be quite similar in comfort - only missing the larger windows on the regular trains that you get on the B. Express. What were the main differences you found?

longservice
longservice
24 posts
new member
Jan 17, 2018 - 11:59 AM

Hi Caro, thank you for your kind comments..... I have no doubt you will have a wonderful time on your trip to Switzerland, and yes..... for us too, its really all about making memories more than anything else, and what fantastic memories they are indeed. Have a wonderful trip.

longservice
longservice
24 posts
new member
Jan 17, 2018 - 12:37 PM

Hi Lucas, what a great question you ask.!!! My wife and I have been sitting here discussing your query for the last 10 minutes trying to recall what it was that made us feel that the standard train was more comfortable than the Bernina Express.?

The first thing we both agreed on was that the standard train that we boarded seemed to have softer or more plush seating. Whether it was just a new train or not I do not really know, but we both recall this was the case. Though checking my photos, I think this was purely due only to the surface material of the actual seats themselves.

But that being said, I am thinking that my main reason for thinking this may prove to have been a little unfair. The carriage we boarded, was the very first carriage and as such contained the front cabin where the driver sat, and then a very small cabin of 12 seats only. (This was a first class cabin but not exclusively a first class carriage, A second class cabin was behind the first, still a part of the same carriage) Perhaps the smaller space which was only occupied by 3 others in addition to my wife and I gave us this perception of comfort, I'm not sure. I do recall that the whole space had a very "comfortable" feel about it, and both of us commented when we boarded the Bernina Express that we thought the standard train was better. Our sense of what defined "comfort" could of course therefore have been very subjective. The fact that we also had a great view through the drivers cabin out the front of the train may have also impacted our "feel" as well.

There are of course quite a few subtle differences between trains that are easily overlooked. For example, while the panoramic trains have the larger windows for viewing, they are void of the luggage racks that are particularly handy for placing coats and small backpacks or bags. Though there is of course a very handy gap between the seats that is great for backpacks. The larger windows I also found made it more difficult for photography, as the more light that came through from the upper parts of the windows, creates greater reflection in the glass. One of the trains we travelled on during our journey, a train conductor/official came into our cabin and turned off the ceiling lighting once the train was under way, and this instantly made quite a difference to the amount of reflection on the glass and made outside viewing much more enjoyable even when not looking through a camera lens. Anyways.... I think in hindsight, your question has made me consider that with the exception of a few mountain trains we travelled on, pretty much every train we encountered in Switzerland was exceptionally "comfortable" overall. My comments I think were possibly quite subjective to our own "feel" and experience at that particular time and place.

Lucas
Lucas
5628 posts
expert &
moderator
Jan 17, 2018 - 3:56 PM in reply to longservice

Fair enough!

Those small 1st class cabins can be nice when you get them! Interesting note about the windows and reflection issues. I'm looking at doing part of this route in February on the regional trains. I'll see if the reflections are better than on my Glacier Express trip a few years ago.

Cheers!

maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
552 posts
top member
Jan 17, 2018 - 9:17 PM in reply to longservice

Hi again!

The hotel we have stayed in at St. Moritz for the last two years provides a shuttle taxi to the hotel from the station and we let them know in advance our arrival time so that it came down to collect us. In fact last year because I had some health issues making the climb up to the hotel difficult they even sent it down to collect us on several occasions when we phoned them after we got back from a day out - so kind and thoughtful.

We did a lot of mountain trips while there because the hotel provided us with an Engadine Pass which covered the cost so we didn't have to worry about whether we could afford it or not. But I do so agree with your philosophy about "do it now" as the opportunity may never arise again and there is nothing worse than the "wish we had done it" feeling on returning home!

We also enjoyed our meals on the GEX - we travelled as far as Brig before transferring to a train to Thun. I agree with your opinion on the apfel strudel - really excellent. Haven't tried Hauser in St. M. - must try it this year - thanks for the tip!

Reading all your posts so far has been great - such detail and good advice will be invaluable to other travellers!

Our trip for September is all arranged and booked up - your reports have inspired me to get busy on some research even though it's a long time off! Half the fun is in planning and you clearly benefitted from all the "homework" you did for your trip and it contributed to the wonderful experience you enjoyed.

Looking forward to your next instalment.

Maggie

rockoyster
rockoyster
3397 posts
expert
Jan 18, 2018 - 10:49 PM in reply to longservice

G'day longservice,

Just finished ready your first 3 reports.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. What a wonderful folio of facts, photos and philosophy.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Are you still on leave?

Last modified on Jan 18, 2018 - 10:50 PM by rockoyster
longservice
longservice
24 posts
new member
Jan 21, 2018 - 5:04 AM

Hi again Maggie,

Thank you for your comments. You mentioned the Engadine Pass, and I think that had we also possessed such, we would probably not have had to pay quite so high a price to reach Corviglia. I believe there are ski passes also available that entitle one to a discount as well.

Hi Rockoyster,

Thank you for your kind comments, I am sadly no longer on leave, having returned to work on the 8th January. I was fortunate to have had seven weeks off in total, of which we spent seven days in New Zealand and 18 days in Switzerland, The rest were spent at home here with the family and doing those things we do around the house such as mowing lawns and creating more storage space, both of which seem to be never ending.!! I still have a further four to five weeks long service up my sleeve for which we are already in discussion about where and when the next trip should take place.

Kind Regards

Longservice

Pickergal
Pickergal
49 posts
active member
Jan 21, 2018 - 8:41 PM

longservice,

Once again your pictures are exceptional! All of these beautiful places look so different covered in snow as when we visited it was in September. Equally beautiful; but different! Your trip reports have been magnificent. I am sure you will help a lot of people with the planning of their trips. Plus, it brings back such wonderful memories for all of us that have been so fortunate to visit Switzerland!

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
103 posts
active member
Jan 27, 2018 - 1:26 AM

I like your comments about 'do it now'... I remember thinking how extravagant I was being when I booked our hotel in Wengen for 8 nights. Now, we reflect back on our wondrous memories and they are not about the $, but the balcony with mountain and valley views, the incredible service, the amazing half board meals, the hikes, the unexpected moments, and we plan to return next year.

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