Thursday, December 04, 2008

the bernina railway

The train at St Moritz.

1st class luxury observation coach - fantastic!

Typical view from the window.

The return train at Tirano.

We made a fantastic trip from St Moritz to Tirano over the Bernina pass today.

The observation car on the down trip was incredible - hard to believe the line is metre gauge. We were shadowed most of the way to the summit by a helicopter filming the train. At the summit the snow cuttings were a good fifteen feet deep. After the summit we entered Italian Switzerland with the language, architecture and culture changing. The last mile or so is actually in Italy and is a former Italian tramway so runs through the streets, quite impressive with a 9 coach train!

At Tirano the Rhatische Bahn has its own station, next to the Italian State Railways standard gauge one. Customs and passport control consists of two genial Italian policeman standing by the front door of the station who just waved us and everyone else through with a smile. This will all finish in ten days' time when Switzerland joins the Schengen group and passport and customs control will stop altogether.

Tirano's a lovely small Italian city with nice shops, a great atmosphere, dozens of restaurants and all surrounded by towering mountains.

The train back was very different. A power unit pulling one coach. It was very congenial, we were sat with an American, his Croatian wife and Italian-speaking 6 year old son, and we chatted most of the way. All in all a great advertisement for both swiss trains and Alpine scenery, with the added benefit of a very nice Italian town at one end and the glistening Swiss number one resort at the other.

The scenery all the way is, needless to say, breathtaking!
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