St.Moritz to Zermatt : The Glacier Express.
Swiss Alps Travel Blog› entry 25 of 268 › view all entries
Of all the little moments. The tiny pebbles of consideration and inspiration that tumbled through my mind, eventually turning into the avalanche of conviction and desire that set me off on this journey there is one moment I remember exceptionally well. Lying on my bed in a Lake District B&B in February watching Ski-Sunday on the TV one of the articles was of what looked a phenomenal railway journey through the Swiss Alps. It was the Glacier Express running between the two famous ski resorts of St.Moritz and Zermatt and I knew there and then that this was one experience I HAD to have, and this is my journey today!
The morning is clear and sunny.
The Glacier Express marks the culmination of over a century’s development of the mountain rail network through the Swiss Alps. Building commenced on the first line in 1889 and only in 1982 was the Furka basis tunnel completed permitting all year round travel the full 291 kilometres (as the crow flies) between the two principle ski resorts. On route it crosses an incredible 291 bridges and goes through 91 tunnels.
I feel it cannot be overstated how just about every mile of this luxurious 7 and half hour journey is mind-blowingly beautiful, viewed at ease all the way through the fabulous airy and light ‘panorama’ carriages that in their present form, upgraded, have only been rolling since 2006.
The excitement of everyone on board is tangible in the air. The carriage is surprisingly uncrowded at this stage of the journey - it is only once we get to Chur and byond that it starts to fill up a bit but that's a while away and I just love kicking back in luxury and chilling out with the views,a whole 8-seat section of the carriage aaaall to myself so that I can scamper from side to side to get the best of all views.
The weather today is pretty darned good. Despite the sun and baby-blue skies in St.Moritz the first leg of the journey is a little disappointingly mist drenched although still scenically powerful, but as we continue to head west through Disentis, over the incredible Oberalppass and through Andermatt towards Brig a beautiful battle between sun and cloud is occurring and all of the mountain peaks are in clear view. Exiting the tunnel onto the highest point of the journey on the Oberalppass everyone on the train is momentarily blinded, our pupils fully dilated from our time in the dark tunnel, all of a sudden we are surrounded by radiant sun-reflecting snow! Quite a bedazzling moment to behold.
The facilities are quite luxurious (even in supposed second class) and there is even a panoramic restaurant carriage you can book a meal on, or a standing table panoramic bar carriage. They even have these sweet, specially crafted wine glasses that stand at a slant so that even on the steepest parts of the various rail ascents your wine will not spill over the lip. Ingenious. The journey costs approx 166 Euros but is worth every single penny, and frankly for the same money sometimes you won’t travel half this far or long from point to point in other parts of Europe and that’s before you even factor in the unbeatable scenery and luxury ride. You also get a brochure and a set of headphones included which means throughout the journey there are interesting and informative talks on the in-train audio-guide that you can take in and keep track of where you are on the various maps.
It’s a great communal experience for witnessing pure unadulterated human excitement and awe (sorry there’s the ‘A’ word again!). The whole carriage gasps in unison as mountains flash into view at the turning of a wooded hillside corner, or as the sun breaks through and rolls a golden carpet across the valleys, crevaces and rivers that you pass all along the way along with the innumerable quaint mountain towns, villages and hamlets and hilltop castles and churches.
And then sadly after 7 hours plus it’s nearly over and we’re approaching the legendary ski resort of Zermatt, a mercifully car free town nestled in arguably the most spectacular seat of the whole alpine range.
4,545m), Weißhorn (4,505), Zinalrothorn (4,221m), Dent Blanche (4,357m) many others and most famously of all of course the iconic Matterhorn sat (not the highest) at 4,478 metres high. We are in great luck with the weather as I later learn that rain and mist have rendered the Matterhorn invisible most of the week and the cloud-shroud has been completely impenetrable to the gaze in the last 2-3 days. However on stepping out into the cool mountain sun in Zermatt there she is in all her glory. The magnificent Matterhorn with a halo of golden sunlit mist wrapped around the nape of her neck, as she reaches up into the clear blue sky. She must've known the Sunshine Kid was on a train into town! It really is quite an unbeatable crescendo and finale to a day of wonder for the eyes.
My word! How to follow up on such a day tomorrow?!! I guess I better get me up into them there moutains tomorrow and have me a better view J