The Glacier Express
The day of our big adventure on the Glacier Express got off to an invigorating start; our shower at the Hotel Victoria doggedly refused to deliver anything but cold water. The lady at reception later told us that “the man” was working on it.
Still, nothing like a cold shower to get you going after consuming far too much pizza for dinner the night before.
After breakfast and a quick stroll around town we settled on our hotel room verandah to enjoy the perfect weather and watch the arrival and departure of the Glacier Express (photo #1, #2). We were booked on the later 10:18 departure (photo #3) but thought we’d take the opportunity to get a look at how it all worked.
With most of the passengers having boarded at Zermatt, this was the only train on our entire holiday where we had any issues finding space for our luggage. Even in our first class carriage the available storage was chockablock but we managed to perch our suitcases on top of the pile. There are no overhead racks on the panoramic trains but there was plenty of room under the seats for our backpacks.
We were on the right-hand side of the train with a window seat each. The sun was streaming in from the south making caps and sunglasses mandatory. It was a bit like being in a greenhouse - bordering on uncomfortably hot. The angle of the sun also exacerbated the reflection on the windows which may account for why I hardly used my camera the whole trip. See: wife in reflective mood (photo #4);somewhere near Oberalp Pass (photo #5); the Rhine Gorge through a panoramic window (photo #6). Sorry - I should have done better
Despite the foregoing we enjoyed the sedate pace of the train and were soon rubbernecking with the best of them.
The journey from Brig to Chur (which we discovered is pronounced “koor” rhyming with “poor” as opposed to how you might imagine - like a Lancashireman referring to a piece of furniture designed for sitting on) takes 4 hours 24 minutes including a 15 - 20 minute leg-stretch stop at Disentis/Mustér. There is a lot to see.
Plenty of others have described the journey better than I could and there is a good description of the various legs of the trip at www.myswissalps.com/gl acierexpress/gettingth ere. For us the section from Andermatt over the Oberalp Pass was the stand-out. (for a fascinating take on this section see Alpenrose's excellent report at https://goo.gl/X1g8Y3)
Unfortunately our enjoyment of the much-anticipated Glacier Express experience took a turn for the worse once the meal service started. When making reservations I had ordered the “Plate of the Day” (the booking website only offers a very small subset of the full menu described at https://goo.gl/ock46n). The full menu does not contain anything titled “Plate of the Day” so I had mistakenly assumed it to be the Prättigauer Bauernteller (or Farmer’s Plate) offering a selection Grisons air-dried beef, Engadine raw ham, coppa and Grisons mountain cheese. Yum - the perfect light lunch to share between two. “Plate of the Day” actually turned out to be the “Daily Special” i.e. the main course component of the full-blown four-course lunch. Despite our protestations the "maitre d’train", who we felt was a little challenged in the customer relations department, decided that as we had ordered this “on the computer” that was what we were going to get. Furthermore as we had ordered only one plate to share, he ruled a separate set of cutlery for each of us to be out of the question. The whole incident left a bad taste and created an unnecessary diversion from what we thought was the most visually striking part of the overall journey - the Oberalp Pass. With hindsight we would have taken our own food, or simply ordered on-board. Should have realised that trying to predict what we would feel like for lunch two months in advance was never going to work out well.
At Chur we set off to locate the Hotel Post which, according to Mr Google, was a mere 350 metres from the Bahnhof. Upon arriving at the unassuming frontage of the Hotel Post Garni my wife was convinced we had reached the wrong place. Turns out the “Garni” suffix is pretty prevalent and just means the establishment only serves breakfast. We found the entry down a side street and were pleasantly surprised by the modern interior. The room was spacious and included a small kitchenette.
The people at reception gave us a city map (you can get one here https://goo.gl/BMkfgi) and off we set to explore the lovely old city. We got a bit lost trying to find the high vantage point in Arosastrasse, ended up in the grounds of a college and had to climb, much to the amusement of the passing students, a million steps to get back on track. My exhaustion level probably accounts for the lack of photos I took in Chur. In fact I can only find one (photo #7) which I took for novelty value. In Switzerland “Botty” obviously doesn’t mean the same as it does in Australia.
Relaxing later over a tall glass of cooling Calanda (Chur’s own beer) we reflected on how our lunch service experience might have made a perfect script for John Cleese if he ever decided to reprise his role of Basil in a railway-based version of Fawlty Towers. Oh how we laughed.
Dinner that night comprised some takeaway goodies from the excellent food hall in the basement of the Manor department store.
I had read on this forum of someone staying at the Hotel Post and being kept awake until the early hours of the morning by late-night revellers. No such problem for us and instead we were treated to a haunting rendition of Song for Luzern by a nearby alpenhorn group (not quite as large as this group https://youtu.be/ynP5b sDOLlg).
Coming up next . . . . The Bernina Express.
For previous episodes of The Reluctant Traveller’s Swiss Adventure see
Part 1 - Initial Report (https://goo.gl/8bw51n), Part 2 - Basel to Brig (https://goo.gl/626K1i)