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.