PostBus through four passes of the Central Alps

PostBus through four passes of the Central Alps

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Posts: 26
Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
top member
Mar 10, 2017 - 1:11 PM

The round trip by PostBus through four passes of the Central Alps counts as one of my most memorable experiences in Switzerland! The thrill of the ride up and down steep, narrow, winding mountain roads and the beauty of the mountains, valleys, gorges, waterfalls and glaciers is something I will never forget. You wonder how a full-size bus can possibly make it around some of those hairpin bends, and can’t help but admire the skill of the drivers who do this on a daily basis!

It’s a full-day round trip of 208 kilometres, leaving Meiringen at 9:25 in the morning and returning at 18:10 in the late afternoon, but you are never on the bus for longer than one hour at a time without a break for stretching your legs and buying refreshments or souvenirs. All stops have toilet facilities.

My trip started at the PostAuto terminus in Meiringen, adjacent to Meiringen Railway Station. The destination on the bus read „Vierpässefahrt“ („Four Passes Trip“). The bus was completely full, my fellow-passengers being mostly German-speaking, including a retired Swiss lady from Luzern, who was doing this trip for the first time.

Grimsel Pass

The bus first travelled from Meiringen (595 metres above sea level) to the Grimsel Pass (2165 metres above sea level), which took about an hour.

Initially, we travelled through green valleys surrounded by forested mountains, before turning on to the Grimsel Pass road. As we approached this road, there was a collective gasp of excitement mixed with horror, as people saw the road - which seemed to be nothing more than a narrow ledge cut into the side of a rock face - and realised we were about to turn onto it! It was a two-way road, but it seemed unlikely that two cars could pass on it, let alone a bus and a car! But we lived to tell the tale!

Forested mountains gradually gave way to rocky landscapes as we climbed above the tree line. Before reaching the top of the pass, we passed the milky-green Räterichsbodensee (Lake Räterich) and Grimselsee (Lake Grimsel), which are hydro-electric dams, and the picturesque grey stone building of the Grimsel Hospiz, with its red shutters.

Not long afterwards, we reached the top of the pass, where there was a small blue lake called the Totensee (Lake of the Dead) and a hotel/restaurant. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, and there was quite a crowd enjoying refreshments on the restaurant terrace, many of whom had arrived on a motor bike, judging by the large number of motor bikes in the car park. There is also a lovely stone chapel there, called St Christophorus.

Some photos of this sector of the trip are attached.

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:23 PM

Nufenen Pass

After a half-hour break at the Grimsel Pass, we were on our way again to the Nufenen Pass, which we reached after about an hour, along the way passing some herds of cows grazing on the high alpine pastures, a wind farm, and the Gries Glacier. Gradually, instead of the mountain tops towering above us, we were looking down on them, and had extensive views of more mountains and glaciers in the distance.

The Nufenen Pass, at 2478 metres above sea level, is one of the highest road passes in Switzerland and we had a 15-minute break here, where there is a small lake, a restaurant and kiosk, and wonderful views that include the Gries Glacier.

Attached are some photos I took during this part of the trip.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Mar 10, 2017 - 2:23 PM by Alpenrose666
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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:27 PM

Airolo

Leaving the Nufenen Pass, we continued on our way with a 30-minute drive down to Airolo (1175 metres above sea level) for lunch. The landscape gradually became less barren and more green, with forests gradually reappearing as we returned below the tree line.

The bus parked outside the post office adjacent to Airolo Railway Station. Opposite the station is a row of restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating, where we had almost an hour and 20 minutes for a leisurely lunch (at our own expense). If you want to know which restaurant is the best one, follow the bus driver!

Having started out that morning in German-speaking Switzerland, most of the people around us now were speaking Italian, because Airolo is in Italian-speaking Switzerland!

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:32 PM

Gotthard Pass

The adventure continued after lunch with a 20-minute drive up to the top of the Gotthard Pass at 2108 metres above sea level.

As we climbed, we looked down on Airolo, with its multitude of modern raised motorways with looping access ramps. It looks much more picturesque from above than at ground level, where it feels incredibly cluttered! So different from Meiringen, from where we started our journey only a few hours ago!

Soon we could see the amazing old Gotthard Pass road, called the Tremola, snaking its way up the mountain in the distance. Apparently it is paved in cobblestones the whole way, and is no longer used by normal traffic.

At the top of the Gotthard Pass is quite a large lake, called Lago della Piazza, a hotel, various restaurants, and a small museum. The car park was full of people, cars and motor bikes, probably because of the lovely weather.

There are couple of interesting monuments up here too. One features Alexander Wassiljewitsch Suworow, a Russian military leader, mounted on a horse. Apparently he led the Russian troops into battle against Napoleon’s troops in 1799 at the Schöllenen Gorge (where there is a monument to his fallen soldiers, see below). The other is a stone cairn surmounted by a pair of eagles, in memory of Adrien Guex, a Swiss aviator who crashed his plane and died nearby in 1928.

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:38 PM

Andermatt

After our 20-minute break, we began the 20-minute descent to Andermatt at 1437 metres above sea level, passing herds of grazing cows as we went lower.

Shortly before arriving in Andermatt, I noticed a small grey-roofed village below, with a castle tower and a church as the most prominent features. This turned out to be the village of Hospental, and the tower belongs to the ruined 13th-century Hospental Castle. The bus wound down the road into this pretty village and drove through it.

Usually there is a break at Andermatt for almost 30 minutes. However, on the day I did the trip, there were long traffic jams in the area due to construction works, and we were running 20 minutes late, so we spent our time in Andermatt stuck in a traffic jam rather than stretching our legs!

But they say every cloud has a sliver lining, and the silver lining in this case was being at a standstill long enough to observe a train on the Glacier Express route snaking its way up the long hill out of Andermatt and heading towards the Oberalppass. I’d been up and down that hill many times in the train, but this was the first time I had seen it from another perspective and without snow cover. I enjoyed watching the train heading up the hill, disappearing into a tunnel, and (having looped around inside the tunnel) emerging a short time later further up the hill, travelling in the opposite direction. (That climb out of Andermatt, when the landscape is covered in snow, is one of my favourite moments on the Glacier Express trip).

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:46 PM

Schöllenen Gorge

The bus then travelled through the Schöllenen Gorge, which, despite being something of a large construction zone when I went through it, still looked ruggedly beautiful. Any one who has travelled by train between Flüelen and Andermatt (part of the Gotthard Panorama Express route) might know this gorge between Göschenen and Andermatt, as the train also goes through it.

The Teufelsbrücke (Devil’s Bridge) is a famous feature here. I was seated on the right-hand side of the bus, so as we went over the Devil’s Bridge, I had a good (though fleeting), view of the 1956 mosaic artwork on the rock face, called „Der alte Weg zur neuen Zeit“ (“The old road to the new time“), as well as the Suworow Monument to the Russian soldiers who fell here in the 1799 battle against Napoleon’s troops. (Suworow is the Russian military leader featured on the equestrian monument at the top of the Gotthard Pass).

Those seated on the left of the bus had the best view of the painting of the devil and goat on the rock face of the tunnel entrance at the end of the Devil’s Bridge. This painting depicts an old legend about how the bridge was built in this very challenging terrain, by means of bargaining with the devil.

Shortly afterwards we reached Wassen, which might also be familiar to those who have travelled by train between Flüelen and Göschenen. When you are on the train, you see the Wassen church three times, each time higher or lower, and out of alternating sides of the train, as the train negotiates a series of loops to gain or lose height within a short distance.

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
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Mar 10, 2017 - 1:56 PM

Susten Pass

From Wassen, at 930 metres above sea level, we then turned on to the Sustenstrasse and began the climb to the top of the Susten Pass at 2224 metres above sea level. The Sustenstrasse was specifically designed as a scenic route when it was built in the 1940s.

The bus did not stop at the top of the pass, but drove on for about another 5 kilometres to the stop called „Steingletscher“, which means Stein Glacier, where there is a hotel, restaurant and Alpkäserei (alpine cheese dairy).

The Stein Glacier is not actually visible from here, but we had seen it on the way from the top of the pass to the Steingletscher stop. There is a pretty little fast-flowing rocky stream here called Steinwasser, which flows from the Stein Glacier.

After a day of literal ups and downs, it was all downhill from here after our half-hour break, as we made our way down the mountain pass and back to Meiringen, passing some amazingly craggy mountain tops on the way.

Alpenrose

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
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Mar 10, 2017 - 2:01 PM

General information

This trip doesn’t run all year, as the roads are impassable in winter. In 2017, the dates of operation are 24 June to 15 October. It runs daily.

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, this trip is free, but you need to make reservations, as once all the seats are full, no more passengers can board. Reservations are free and can be done within the PostAuto app or online.

PostAuto app

www.postauto.ch/en/tra vel-information_clever-on-the-way_postbus-app

Online reservation

www.postauto.ch/en/exc ursion-tips/central-alps-passes-grimsel-nufenen-gotthard-susten-pass-route

Your reservation guarantees a seat on the bus, but it is not an allocated seat. First on, best seat! So don’t be the last to board!!

The driver provides a commentary in German, but you can also get an audio guide for this route in English, French and Italian within the PostAuto app, and can download it before your trip.

Alpenrose

Minnie
Minnie
18 posts
new member
Mar 10, 2017 - 9:31 PM

Many thanks, Alpenrose. We have never been in Switzerland when the route is open but this year our dates coincide. I'm very grateful for your interesting and helpful trip report - you're a marvellous correspondent and you've whet my appetite! Roll on September!!

Cheers,

Minnie

Mageo
Mageo
30 posts
active member
Mar 10, 2017 - 10:24 PM

Hi Alpenrose,

Thanks for your amazing report! The information is exactly what we have been looking for, as we have been researching the routes to include the passes during our trip.

It is most helpful that you have included the booking details. We plan to visit that part of the country early September.

Mageo

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
86 posts
active member
Mar 11, 2017 - 3:28 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

What a day! Love your photos, and your helpful narrative. 'Saved' for my bucket list :-)

Annika
Annika
4880 posts
expert &
moderator
Mar 11, 2017 - 3:17 PM

Hi Alpenrose,

Thanks so much for your detailed bus trip reports! They're very helpful to fellow travelers and we'll make sure to mention this thread to visitors who are interested in these beautiful pass rides.

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
top member
Mar 11, 2017 - 11:45 PM in reply to Annika

Thank you for your comments Minnie, Mageo, Adelaidean and Annika!

Minnie and Mageo: My trip was done in early September 2016. I hope you both have the same lovely weather for your September trips!

Alpenrose

Lucas
Lucas
3365 posts
expert &
moderator
Mar 12, 2017 - 11:06 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

Fantastic report Alpenrose! I need to get into this area!

Lucas

maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
470 posts
top member
Mar 13, 2017 - 10:23 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hello again Alpenrose

Yet again a lovely report with lots of detail and great photos. Much better than existing guide-books - I would certainly buy one if you went to print with your reports and photos!

We did the 4 passes tour ourselves a few years ago and it was indeed a special day. I think we were given audio gadgets you could set to different languages to hear commentary. Our driver was highly entertaining, putting on little performances at every stop! He had an alphorn with him, a unicycle of all things and a flag to do flag-swinging. He also sang to us en route! We bought a CD of his music I recall. An extraordinary character. Added to what was already a special day. Would love to repeat the trip, but getting to Meiringen in time to catch the bus will mean a very early start from our base - still on the possible list though.

Best wishes

Maggie

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
top member
Mar 14, 2017 - 12:48 PM in reply to maggiehorswell

Thanks Maggie :-)

Very interesting to hear about your experience of the trip! Your bus driver sounds like quite a character!

I would love to repeat the trip one day too, as well as do the trip that goes through just three passes, but includes the Furka Pass.

Alpenrose

OHGeologist
OHGeologist
95 posts
active member
Mar 14, 2017 - 4:31 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hello and thank you so much. We will be doing the Meiringen to Wassen/Goschenen portion (so just a regular post bus trip, then heading north. Is there a best side of the bus to sit on for that portion?

The pictures are stirring...can't wait.

OHGeologist

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
top member
Mar 16, 2017 - 12:31 AM in reply to OHGeologist

>> We will be doing the Meiringen to Wassen/Goschenen portion (so just a regular post bus trip, then heading north. Is there a best side of the bus to sit on for that portion? <<

Do you mean you are travelling through the Susten Pass? If so, in my opinion the highlight of that sector is the view of the Stein Glacier and its small lake, the Steinsee.

Because of the way the road twists and turns in long switchbacks, you can see the glacier from both the left and right sides of the bus, but coming from Meiringen you will probably get better views from the right-hand side.

Have a great trip!

Alpenrose

OHGeologist
OHGeologist
95 posts
active member
Mar 16, 2017 - 10:44 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

Thanks very much. We appreciate and benefit from your joy in Switzerland!

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1184 posts
top member
Mar 16, 2017 - 10:50 AM in reply to OHGeologist

You're welcome!

Alpenrose

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