Meiringen to Saas-Fee
To get to Saas-Fee from Meiringen, I took the train from Meiringen to Brig, with changes at Interlaken Ost and Spiez, then a PostAuto bus from Brig to Saas-Fee.
The first leg by train was from Meiringen to Interlaken Ost. During my stay at Meiringen over the preceding 7 days, I had travelled on this sector a few times, and it had always been quite crowded, regardless of time of day. (This was in early September.) On the day I was leaving for Saas-Fee, the SBB Mobile app didn’t indicate how crowded this particular train was expected to be, but there were quite a lot of people waiting at Meiringen to board. So as I was waiting on the platform at Meiringen, I decided to purchase a Klassenwechsel (class upgrade) to enable me to travel first class to Interlaken Ost. This was quickly and easily accomplished using the SBB Mobile app, and turned out to be a good decision, because 2nd class was in fact crowded, but I easily got a seat and space for my suitcase in 1st class. (Thanks to Arno, from whom I learned about this option!)
At Interlaken Ost the train for Spiez was already in the station and was practically empty at that stage, so I just boarded and travelled in 2nd class.
At Spiez however, things were different. This train, travelling on the Lötschberger scenic route to Brig via Kandersteg, was already crowded, with standing room only in 2nd class. So I whipped out my phone and bought a Klassenwechsel for the Spiez-Brig sector, another good choice! By the time the train left Spiez, there was standing room only in first class as well, but I already had my seat! A lot of people had left the train by the time we were about half-way to Brig though.
The Lötschberger train originates in Bern, and is split at Spiez. The front section of the train goes to Brig, the rear section to Zweisimmen, so you need to make sure you board the correct part of the train. This also applies if you are boarding at Bern, or anywhere between there and Spiez. This sort of situation is denoted in the SBB timetable with the letters “FL”, which indicates “1 train-2 destinations: please check the destination displays”, or in German “1 Zug-2 Ziele: bitte Anschriften beachten”. The destination is displayed on the side of each carriage.
The scenery between Spiez and Brig is magnificent, with imposing mountains and traditional houses, especially in Kandersteg. Further south, the towns below in the valley are larger, with more modern buildings and industry. The best views alternate between left and right, but trackside trees and bushes often make it difficult to take good photos, and in places the mountains are so close and so high they are hard to capture in a photo!
The PostAuto bus to Saas-Fee leaves from outside the railway station in Brig, adjacent to the “extra” platforms from which the Glacier Express leaves. These extra platforms are just across the road from the main station building. There is no shelter at the bus stop, but you could shelter under the Glacier Express platform roof in case of rain. At the bus stop, bus-sized spaces are marked out on the road in yellow paint, and each is numbered. A departure board shows from which numbered section of the road your bus will leave. Luggage on PostAuto buses is loaded into a luggage compartment underneath the bus. Most people load their own luggage, but the driver will assist anyone who needs help with this.
The bus was not too crowded until we left Visp and travelled into the Saastal (Saas Valley), where it filled up quickly, with people getting on and off regularly along the way. The trip through the Saastal is superb, with best views on the left when travelling in the direction of Saas-Fee. The valley is steep and narrow, with the bus travelling high along one side of the valley, and lots of picturesque villages with traditional houses to be seen below or perched halfway up the mountains on the other side of the valley. From Visp to Saas-Grund, the bus climbs 900 metres. The winding road has many tight bends and a few avalanche galleries. On several occasions we met other buses or trucks on tight bends. You have to admire the skill of the bus drivers as they negotiate such tight bends safely. They sound the distinctive PostBus horn to warn oncoming traffic of the approach of the bus around a blind or tight corner, where the bus will need to use most of the road to get around the corner. On one occasion, an oncoming truck had to back out of an avalanche gallery on a bend to let the bus through: the PostBuses have right-of-way! During the final 10 minutes of the trip, the bus climbs another 250 metres in altitude from Saas-Grund up to Saas-Fee, making this last stretch a great way to end such a wonderful bus trip!
Saas-Fee bus terminal has an indoor waiting room and luggage lockers costing CHF 5,00. The lockers accept CHF 1, 2 and 5 coins.
Some photos of the PostAuto bus stop at Brig, and the Saastal, are attached.