I’ve been looking forward to saying ‘Want to duck over to Switzerland and Italy next week?’ It is such a novel thing for an Australian to travel to another country in a few hours and not have to fly. The Glacier Express and Bernina Express were both on my list and I also had a hankering for pasta so we did a little loop around the Alps, via Zermatt, Chur, & Milan – all covered under our Eurail pass.
Zermatt is a gorgeous chocolate box of a town and fittingly the Matterhorn, which looms majestically over the town, is featured on the Toblerone box. It has a very old ‘old town’, mostly old barns and store rooms that look like they are about to topple over because they are built on stilts and rocks. They have been that way for 500 years and now some are used as apartments and bars so they must have done something right.
We had a fabulous day of snowboarding. I think Zermatt takes the cake (I’ll stop with the sweet references soon) in the number of ways to get up the mountain. We took a Funicular through a rock tunnel, a cable car so big it has its own Wikipedia entry, a very scenic mountain railway, lots of different Gondola types, and then the good old chair lifts and Pomas.
I wanted to do both the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express so I would know which one to recommend, and we had the time (not sure if I’ve mentioned I’m having 6 months off ;).
There is something so pleasing about train travel when done right. It is such a privilege to sit there, gently rocking back and forth with nothing to do but admire the breathtaking scenery with a sparkling wine in hand.
Both trains were fabulous, The Glacier Express is on a more practical route, you can have a nice lunch service at your seats, and it has a better name. The Bernina Express wins on the dramatic scenery front and seems to have more glaciers than the Glacier Express. It will also satisfy anyone with an inner train nerd (or traveling with one). It climbs to 2253m without using rack and pinion (360 degree spiral viaduct anyone?). This was all very exciting to my husband whose inner train nerd is becoming more and more like a regular train nerd.
One of the 196 bridges and viaducts on the Bernina Express
Spectacular views of the glistening snow from our seat
Souvenir Swiss Army knife with our Swiss Cheese
After the Bernina we had a couple of nights in Milan. I had pretty low expectations of Milan, no-one I know has raved about it but we really enjoyed ourselves. We were good tourists and did La Scala and the Duomo which were beautiful, but the highlight for me was the food. I definitely got my pasta hit and feel ready to go back to French cheese and baguettes.