Today we took the Bernina Express, yet another panoramic rail journey. It’s short and sweet, travelling from St Moritz through the Bernina pass into Tirano, Italy. We then opted to continue the journey from Tirano back into Switzerland, although the service switches modes to bus.
Breakfast in St Moritz
Bernina Express (rail portion)
Glaciers, you think. I’ve seen glaciers before.
All too soon, the glaciers came to an end. But I suppose there is only so much awe that can be inspired before one is overwhelmed.
A few comments on the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express for those who are wondering how the services compare. If I had to choose from between the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, I would definitely choose the Bernina Express. It is far less touristy, far more relaxed and the scenery is, believe it or not, more grand.
The Glacier Express was so touristy that it had a freaking souvenir cart, which a crewmember pushed down the aisles in all the cars multiple times. The Glacier Express also had an audio program explaining sights as we passed them, and at the end of each segment, an obvious advertisement played for food or souvenirs on board. The Bernina Express also had some audio programming, but it was explanatory only.
The Glacier Express was very crowded, with nearly every seat taken, while the Bernina Express didn’t even have assigned seating. It became crowded only for brief segments of the journey, as most passengers appeared to use it for access to hiking and lifts than scenery.
The middles of the cars on the Bernina Express were wheelchair accessible and made for a great location from which to take pictures. Maximum freedom of movement and minimum reflections.
In all I enjoyed my ride on the Bernina Express far more than the Glacier Express. I wouldn’t do the Glacier Express again, particularly with the seat reservation fee, but I’m absolutely looking forward to doing the Bernina Express again. And next time, I’m going to use it for the access to awesome hiking!
We had over an hour before the transfer to the bus service returning us to Switzerland, and we were not going to pass up the chance to have Italian food in Italy. If there’s a cuisine I love almost as much as my native cuisine, it’s Italian.
We were seated next to a couple of elderly Swiss ladies. I don’t know what possessed me, perhaps it was the proximity or something, but I brushed off my rusty German and actually initiated conversation with them. They were perfect conversation partners, understanding and patient, speaking slowly and enunciating carefully. They left soon after, with happy smiles all around.
Talk about bang for your buck. The food is cheaper and way better in Italy. I can’t wait to go back to Italy for the food alone.
Bernina Express (bus portion)
The next stage of the Bernina Express was a bus taking us back from Italy to Switzerland, specifically the city of Lugano. It was also a pretty ride but it’s even harder to take pictures in a bus than on a train. I was hoping to sleep a little and take a break from looking out the window, but there were still much beautiful scenery, along the lines of lovely blue water.
When we got to Lugano, we made it five minutes away from the drop off point when I realized I forgot my cardigan on the bus. But by then the bus was nowhere in sight. I was extremely upset, but eventually stopped holding out hope. I’ll probably spend hundreds of dollars on inferior replacements for the next few years.
We checked into the hotel, which is even crappier than the hotel in St Moritz. Although it had been renovated, the lighting was completely inadequate and I could get neither natural light nor fresh air from the shuttered and rusted shut windows.
Gladly leaving the depressing hotel room, we went on our evening stroll to have some dinner and see a little of the city. Lugano is in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and it certainly has a far different feel than either Valais or Graubünden. Naturally the mountains are still visible, and in fact the city is so hilly that it has its own funicular, but it has a distinctly more Mediterranean feel, both with respect to the weather and the people.
We really wanted more Italian food after our moving experience in Tirano, so we went to a pizzeria for pizza.
It turns out that the night we were in town was the first night of the Lugano Longlake festival, apparently famous all over Switzerland. This was just happenstance, and not planned. So the streets were filled with people and music and, well, second-hand smoke.
Hide attempted to generate his own second-hand smoke with a cigar he had purchased before dinner, but tragically, he was foiled by the cigar that was kept too moist, a book of matches instead of a lighter and the wind.
To make him feel better, we got some chocolate and hazelnut gelato from a gelateria. Not the best I’ve had (a shop in DC has the honour), but decent enough and the hazelnut was delicious.