Today we travelled on the Glacier Express, arguably the most famous panoramic train journey in Switzerland.
This morning we decided to partake in the hotel breakfast, because it was included with the stay, and with food prices in Switzerland being what they are, you don’t turn down food you’ve already paid for.
This actually turned out to be a great decision, because breakfast was amazing. It really put American hotel breakfasts to shame and cemented Hotel Bristol with the rank of best hotel thus far this trip.
There was this awesome selection of cold cuts (just can’t compare to the deli meats available in North America), half a dozen cereals, an entire cheese plate and bread board (that you slice yourself! So many options including baguettes and challah bread!), a pancake making station and an egg making station. Coffee and tea are served at the table, and you’re provided not just sugar in a shaker (screw those packets!) but milk that has been steamed. I even had watermelon, probably for the first time this summer.
We got to ride one of those cute little electric vehicles to get to the train station, where we boarded the Glacier Express.
The Glacier Express runs from Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, to St Moritz, in the canton of Graubünden. The journey takes about 8 hours, and the brochures proudly advertise it as being the slowest express train in the world. The point, of course, is the scenery. In fact, many times one feels that the train is going too quickly and the scenery just flashes by before a good picture can be taken.
The views were quite good, and the panoramic cars were very nice. But it wasn’t until I went into the bar car with Hide, who had gone to escape the ruinous sunlight, that I started taking somewhat better pictures.
The bar car was even more necessary when the AC broke in our car. To escape the heat, we also spent some time in a different car, where we met a couple of Oregonian farmers who grow onions and sugar beets. I had no idea more than half of US sugar production comes from beets, not sugarcane.
Trying to take pictures of all the panoramas exhausted me. The sun, heat and length of ride didn’t help. If I were to do it again, I would probably go in the winter for a shorter segment. But that might not be a good idea, because apparently we were lucky on this trip to get clear weather providing uncompromised views.
We got to our destination with quite a delay, maybe about 30 minutes? As I pointed out to Hide, the Glacier Express isn’t a real train, so maybe we shouldn’t apply the same standards to it that we would for other Swiss trains.
Even if Switzerland was a little disappointing with respect to train timeliness, the tap water makes up for it! Tap water in London and Paris tastes funny, and what with the heat and the apparent lack of water fountains, we started buying much more bottled water than we ever do at home. But finally in Switzerland we have tap water that’s really delicious and really cold, so we can just refill our bottles and go.
The tap water and the beamingly friendly receptionist are the only two redeeming qualities of our hotel in St Moritz, which is quite disappointing after our great Zermatt experience. I won’t bore you with details, but let me just say that they’re still using keys, rather than keycards.
Not only is it the worst hotel we’ve stayed at so far, it’s also the most expensive. It turns out that St Moritz is a playground for the rich, and the shops include not only typical luxury brands such as Armani, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and so forth, but also a Maserati dealership. Yes, in a town so small there is no laundromat, there are at least two car dealerships, one for a luxury make.
The lack of laundromat was a severe problem for Hide, just as cash and water were problems for us earlier on this trip. After discussing hikes with a wonderfully helpful staff member of the tourist office (the friendliness in this Italian-speaking region is in marked contrast to the German-speaking region we just left) and picking up yet another cold meal from the grocery store (I’m growing heartily sick of them, and despite the obviously mediocre and extremely overpriced fare here, I think we can hold out no longer), Hide spent all night washing laundry by hand. Poor guy. I had thought we could do laundry any number of places it turned out we couldn’t and consequently he ran out of clothes. Talk about getting a workout.