Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Bernina Express

A panoramic journey with a UNESCO World Heritage status.

September 2011. I wanted to make a special railway journey. Searching the web I decided some of the nicest one-day trips are in Switzerland. And one of the nicest is The Bernina Express from the Rhaetische Bahn. It starts in Chur, Switzerland, travels over the Alps to end in Lugano. I did not plan to go that far though. Poschiavo would be my turn around point. 

We start early in the morning in the oldest city of Switzerland, Chur. The train is already waiting for us on its platform. Bright red, in the sun. We take off and start looking at the landscape. At first everything is in the shadows of the giant Alps. The province (Kanton) of Graub√ľnden is very spectacular, and after the town of Thusis it really takes our breath away. It is a perfectly clear day and the views are stunning. We pass the old Albula track, which is a World Heritage Site since 2008. It is one of the most spectacular trips I have ever made. The track is 61 Kilometer long and passes 55 overpasses and 39 tunnels. One of the most impressive ones being the Landwasser overpass, with its 65 meter high and already over 100 years old (build around 1902).


For the second part of the journey the train takes the Bernina Railway, also part of the WHS and for sure not less impressive. It passes the Bernina Pass (Ospizio Bernina) at 2328 meter altitude, the highest point in this trip. There is no snow anymore, but we are well above the tree line. It is super to see the red ‘snake’ glide through this landscape, passing Lago Bianco just before the pass. Through the large panoramic windows views are not blocked at all. Once we have passed the pass, we slowly descent to Italy. 

The environment is fabulous. High mountains, snow on the tops, green alps. Rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Every corner we turn gives more spectacular views. The train slides into the V-shaped valley of Valposchiavo were we pass one of the technical highlights on this trip: the spiral shaped overpass at Brusio. This overpass makes a 360-degrees turn in order to be able to overcome the difference in altitude in the small valley. This way the maximum grade the train has to climb stays within its limit of 7%. Our journey ends in the small, but pleasant town of Poschiavo (with palm trees). Here we get a few hours to explore before we go back, same route, same track, but with different views. All in all during the whole ride we pass lots of spiral loops, many, many tunnels and hundreds of bridges. 

After a long day I look back with pleasure. I realise I like train rides a lot. I even realise I have made nice train rides in some of my journeys already: USA, Zimbabwe, China, France and now Switzerland.

Life is a  journey not the destination.