SWITZERLAND PART TWO
RAIL TOUR



(Switzerland Flag)


(Switzerland Map)



MONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2011:

Our rail journey began today with the 90 mile trip to St. Moritz.


Of the twelve days that I spent in Switzerland, Monday was the only day of bad weather.
It was cloudy most of the day with a little light rain.
We took the train from the airport to Zurich's main railway station.
After changing trains again in Chur we arrived in St. Moritz at about 1:00.
Main railway station in Zurich, Switzerland Main railway station in Zurich, Switzerland Swiss countryside from train

14 minute video of my rail jounrey from Zurich to St. Moritz.

St. Moritz is a resort town with a population around 5000 people.
St. Moritz has been the host city for the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics.
We stayed at the small Bären Hotel.
I took a short walk around town after arrival.
Bären Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland The streets of St. Moritz, Switzerland St. Moritz Library in downtown St. Moritz, Switzerland

2 minute video of my accommodations at the Bären Hotel in St. Moritz.

A couple hours after getting settled in our accomodations in St. Moritz we embarked on a scenic rail journey.
The Glacier Express may be more famous, but Switzerland's Bernina Express is that train's equal or better
when it comes to spectacular scenery. This line is the highest rail crossing of the Alps, helping to make
it one of Europe's outstanding train journeys. Where else can you travel from glaciers to palm trees in
two hours? The climb is made even more astonishing by the fact that it is achieved without cogwheels.
The Bernina Express in the Swiss Alps The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express

The train leaves St. Moritz and takes the line to Pontresina. It ascends progressively the valley to the
Bernina Pass passing the Morteratsch station, where you can see the glacier of the same name and the
highest summit of the Eastern Alps, the Piz Bernina. Before arriving at the pass the train stops at
Bernina Diavolezza where an aerial tramway leads to Diavolezza. The Bernina Express reaches the summit
at the Ospizio Bernina station at 7392 feet above the Lago Bianco. Alp Grüm is the first station south
of the Alps, situated above the Lago Palü and right below the Piz Palü and its glacier.
After many hairpin turns the train reaches Cavaglia above the Val Poschiavo, then the
Swiss Italian-speaking town of Poschiavo. This is where we got off the train.
We had some wine & snacks at a local restaurant and then returned to St. Moritz by bus.
The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express Approaching Poschiavo, Switzerland on the Bernina Express

16 minute video of my scenic rail jounrey on the Bernina Express.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON AUGUST 15, 2011
Hello everybody,

We had some thunderstorms overnight and it was very cloudy this morning in Zurich. The highlight of my morning was spotting an A380 strolling by my hotel room window. I know that will probably mean nothing to you unless you are an airplane geek like myself. The A380 is the largest commercial aircraft flying and this is the first one I have ever seen. I was surprised to see one in Zurich.

Singapore Airlines A380 at Zurich Airport

Left Zurich this morning on the train. Our first train went from Zurich to Chur (pronounced Kur).

Main railway station in Zurich, Switzerland

By the time we got to Chur the weather had cleared up quite nicely. We changed to a slightly smaller train in Chur and headed for St. Moritz. The scenery was breathtaking all the way. It's hard to take pictures from the train window. There's always a tree or something getting in your way. But I was able to get a few good shots like the one below.

Swiss countryside from train

We went across the highest viaduct in Europe. I got a nice video of us crossing this viaduct and entering the tunnel.



We went by dozens of small villages and towns. We got to St. Moritz at 1:00. Below is a picture of my hotel. I have a nice view of the mountains from my small room. My cabin on the ship was bigger. But it's a neat little hotel. All pine floors and woodwork. It really feels like I am in Switzerland now.

Baeren Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland

At 3:00 we took an excursion on the Bernina Express. This is the highest-altitude railway in Europe. It is the only Swiss railway to operate a line top of the Alps. It does this without cog wheels.

The Bernina Express

Weather was pretty cloudy with some occasional light rain, but it was still beautiful. We passed by glaciers and waterfalls and stopped at the highest railway station in Europe.

The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express

We passed by more beautiful villages both going up and down the mountain.

The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express

The line ends in Tirano, Italy. But we got off a couple stops before Tirano and didn't actually cross the Italian border. We got off in the small town of Poschiavo where we had some wine and snacks before returning to St. Moritz by bus.

The Swiss Alps from the Bernina Express

We had a nice dinner at the hotel when we got back from the excursion. There is a nice mountain breeze coming from my open window as I am writing this. It was a very enjoyable day. Tomorrow we journey to Zermatt on the infamous Glacier Express, the world's slowest train.

Tim
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TUESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2011:

It was a bright and sunny day on Tuesday for our 7½ hour rail journey across Switzerland.
The Glacier Express is the most famous railway in the world. It travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt.
The train is not an "express" in the sense of being a high-speed train, but rather, in the sense that
it provides a one-seat ride for a long duration of travel. In fact it has the reputation of being the
slowest express train in the world. It is a day trip through untouched mountain landscapes, glamorous
health resorts, deep gorges, delightful valleys, 91 tunnels and across 291 impressive bridges.
The Glacier Express train in St. Moritz, Switzerland Southeastern Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express Southeastern Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

In the series of pictures below, left to right, the train approaches the Landwasser Tunnel,
the view out the window just before entering the tunnel and then the train exits the tunnel
while crossing the the Landwasser Viaduct. The Landwasser Viaduct is a single track six-arched
curved limestone railway viaduct. It spans the Landwasser River.
The Glacier Express approaching the Landwasser Tunnel View from the Glacier Express at the Landwasser Tunnel The Glacier Express crossing the Landwasser Viaduct



The scenery was spectacular all day. But the bright sunshine did make it very challenging to take pictures.
There was a lot of glare in many of my pictures.
Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

During the 169-mile narrow-gauge rail journey the trained reached its peak elevation of 6,670 feet at
the Oberalp Pass near Andermatt and then traversed the 9½ mile Furka Tunnel between Andermatt and Brig.
Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

The spectacular approach to Zermatt took us through eight tunnels and across 42 bridges, the gradient of
the ascent requiring cogwheels to be engaged. Finally we reached the grandiose scenery of Zermatt,
nestled below the tilted peak of the instantly recognisable Matterhorn.
Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express The Glacier Express approaching Zermatt, Switzerland The Glacier Express approaching Zermatt, Switzerland

16 minute video of my rail jounrey from St. Moritz to Zermatt.

We arrived in Zermatt around 6:00. We stayed at the Hotel Christiania.
Hotel Christiania in Zermatt, Switzerland View from my room at the Hotel Christiania in Zermatt, Switzerland The Matterhorn & Zermatt, Switzerland at dusk

2 minute video of my accommodations at Hotel Christiania in Zermatt.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON AUGUST 16, 2011
Hello friends & family,

When I woke up this morning the fog was so thick I couldn't see more than three inches out my window. But by the time we left the hotel the fog had lifted and we had perfect weather all day. Today was Glacier Express day. An eight hour railway journey between St. Moritz and Zermatt.

The Glacier Express crossing the Landwasser Viaduct

During the trip we crossed 291 bridges and went through 91 tunnels. The train is described as the world's slowest express train.

Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

The bright sunshine all day made it a spectacular trip. But the sunshine also caused a lot of glare on the windows and it was almost impossible to get good pictures.

Southeastern Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

As was the case yesterday we passed through dozens of villages and towns.

Southeastern Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

There's always a beautiful church in the center of every village.

Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

We saw a lot of people hand gliding off the mountains. We came out of this one tunnel at a high altitude and the valley below us was full of hand gliders. Unfortunately the pictures were all glare but it was around the mountains you see below.

Central Switzerland as seen from the Glacier Express

It was a great journey, but very long. Everybody was glad to finally get to Zermatt at 6:00 this evening. Below is my hotel where we had an excellent dinner of sausage and potato pancakes after our arrival.

Hotel Christiania in Zermatt, Switzerland

After dinner the sun had just set and I took a small walk around car-free Zermatt. Cars are not allowed here. That is the Matterhorn in the picture below.

View from the Hotel Christiania in Zermatt, Switzerland

We will be spending all day tomorrow here in Zermatt. I will be taking Europe's highest cable car to an altitude of 12,400 feet.

Until tomorrow,

Tim
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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2011:

The moon shined brightly over the Matterhorn just before sunrise on Wednesday morning.
Dawn looking at the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland Dawn looking at the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland The Matterhorn

Breathless is the word that best describes the trip to the top of the Klein Matterhorn, both the breathtaking
views of the Alps and the thinness of the air. The “Little Matterhorn” is a solid rock peak next to the famous
mountain with a shape that mimics its bigger brother and at 12,740 feet the highest point in the Alps that can be
reached by cable car. The ride requires three separate cable rides with changes at Furi & Trockner Steg stations.
The Matterhorn Looking down on Zermatt, Switzerland from the Klein Matterhorn cable car The Swiss Alps from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

Our first stop was at the Trockner Steg station. From here you get an excellent view of the Matterhorn.
We took a group picture with our new friend, Heidi the St. Bernard.
The Matterhorn from the Trockener Steg station Heidi & I across from the Matterhorn at the Trockener Steg station My tour group across from the Matterhorn at the Trockener Steg station

On the final stage of the trip the highest cable car in Europe glides over Theodul Glacier to the summit of
the Klein Matterhorn. As you exit the cable car you enter a tunnel through the solid rock of the mountain.
The highest cable car in Europe above the Theodul Glacier The highest cable car in Europe above the Theodul Glacier Theodul Glacier

When you exit the tunnel on the other side there are panoramic views of the Bernese Oberland beyond the
Swiss Valais to Mont Blanc in the French Alps to the Po River watershed in Italy. The Theodul Glacier
spreads out a permanent blanket of white between the Klein Matterhorn and the Matterhorn peak.
The Matterhorn and other mountains from the Klein Matterhorn Mont Blanc in the French Alps from the Klein Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at the summit of the Klein Matterhorn

The Klein Matterhorn is the crown of the ski area now referred to as the “Glacier Paradise” with skiing in
winter and summer on the glacial snows and one of the largest ski areas in Europe.
Glacier Paradise at the summit of the Klein Matterhorn The Matterhorn from the Klein Matterhorn cable car The Matterhorn from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

I was certainly blessed with an almost perfect day of weather for my visit to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Looking down on Zermatt, Switzerland from the Klein Matterhorn cable car Looking down on Furi Station from the Klein Matterhorn cable car Looking down on Zermatt, Switzerland from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

19 minute video of my journey up the Klein Matterhorn.

After returning from the Klein Matterhorn I had the rest of the day to myself. The village of Zermatt is
situated at the end of Mattertal at an altitude of 5,310 feet, at the feet of Switzerland's highest peaks.
The Matterhorn & Zermatt, Switzerland The business district in Zermatt, Switzerland The business district in Zermatt, Switzerland

I spent the afternoon walking around the car-free community and soaking up the abundant sunshine.
The Matterhorn & Zermatt, Switzerland Parish church of St. Mauritius in Zerlmatt, Switzerland Water fountain in downtown Zermatt, Switzerland

Behind the Parish Church there is a climbers cemetery for those that died in climbing accidents.
Grand Hotel Zermatterhof Parish church of St. Mauritius in Zerlmatt, Switzerland Climbers cemetery in Zermatt, Switzerland

The year-round population of Zermatt is only around 6000 people.
But in winter high-season it can host some 20,000 guests.
The business district in Zermatt, Switzerland The business district in Zermatt, Switzerland Chocolate shop in Zermatt, Switzerland

16 minute video of my walk around car-free Zermatt.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON AUGUST 17, 2011
Hello again everyone,

Today was an incredible day. Words can't describe how perfect the weather was. I got up early to get some sunrise shots of the Matterhorn. I didn't get the multicolored shot I expected, but I did get a nice shot of the Matterhorn with the moon shining brightly in the clear morning sky.

Dawn looking at the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland

After breakfast at the hotel we did the Klein Matterhorn. The Klein Matterhorn is a peak similar in shape to the Matterhorn. We rode Europe's highest cable car to the summit which is 12,740 feet up. The first step in the process of getting to the top is the gondola. The Gondola stops at various stations along the way. It is quite a long gondola. We were on it for about twenty minutes.

Looking down on Furi Station from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

We got out at the final gondola station. The views of the Matterhorn are better here than they were on top.

The Matterhorn

Just look at that crystal clear blue sky.

Heidi & I across from the Matterhorn at the Trockener Steg station


We took some group photos up here with our new friend Heidi. Yes David, Heidi is coming home with me. Get the guest room ready.

My tour group across from the Matterhorn at the Trockener Steg station

The final phase to the top was the tramway.

The highest cable car in Europe above the Theodul Glacier

Once on top we had a spectacular view of three countries, Switzerland, Italy and France.

Glacier Paradise at the summit of the Klein Matterhorn

Below is Mont Blanc, France's highest peak at 15,782 feet.

Mont Blanc in the French Alps from the Klein Matterhorn

There is skiing up here 365 days a year.

Glacier Paradise at the summit of the Klein Matterhorn

We spent about an hour on top before heading back down. The peak on the left is the Matterhorn. It's elevation is 14,690 feet.

The Matterhorn and other mountains from the Klein Matterhorn

Below is yet another view of the Matterhorn. It was taken from the gondola. I tried to spot some mountain climbers but I couldn't spot any.

The Matterhorn from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

Below is a view of Zermatt from the gondola as we neared the bottom.

Looking down on Zermatt, Switzerland from the Klein Matterhorn cable car

The entire Klein Matterhorn excursion took about three hours. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Zermatt.

The Matterhorn & Zermatt, Switzerland

Below is Zermatt's main street.

The business district in Zermatt, Switzerland

I was going to buy some famous Swiss chocolates from this shop until I discovered they cost over $50 per pound.

Chocolate shop in Zermatt, Switzerland

Below is my final shot of Zermatt. You're probably bored to death by now.

Parish church of St. Mauritius in Zerlmatt, Switzerland

Tomorrow morning we are taking the train to Geneva.

Tim
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THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2011:

It was yet another beautiful day on Thursday as we left Zermatt bound for Geneva.
We chained trains in Visp and arrived in Geneva before 1:00.
Geneva is the second-most-populous city in the country in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
The municipality itself has a population around 200,000 people.
We stayed at the deplorably AWFUL Cornavin Hotel directly across from the train station.
Train station in Zermatt, Switzerland Wine country between Visp & Geneva, Switzerland Cornavin Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland

2 minute video of my accommodations at the awful Cornavin Hotel in Geneva.

After getting settled at the flee bag I took a walk around the city.
Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland

The Jet d'Eau is a large fountain and is one of the city's most famous landmarks.
It is also one of the largest fountains in the world. Situated at the point where Lake
Geneva empties into the Rhone River, it is visible throughout the city and from the air.
The Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland The Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland

In the afternoon I joined back up with the group for a tour of the city.
Geneva is a global city, a financial center, and a worldwide center for diplomacy thanks to the presence
of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the
United Nations and the Red Cross. It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed,
which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.
The Broken Chair monument, represents the terrible destruction caused by land mines and
cluster bombs on human lives (and limbs) all over the world. It measures 39 feet high and
it sits right in front of the main entrance of the United Nation's office in Geneva.
Palace of Nations building (European headquarters of the United Nations) The Broken Chair Monument at Place de Nations Square Place de Nations Square in Geneva, Switzerland

The International Monument to the Reformation, usually known as the Reformation Wall, is a monument
that honors many of the main individuals, events, and documents of the Protestant Reformation.
The Wall is in the grounds of the University of Geneva, which was founded by John Calvin, and was built to
commemorate the 400th anniversary of Calvin's birth and the 350th anniversary of the university's establishment.
It is built into the old city walls of Geneva.
Geneva's Grand Theatre is a beautiful building located on Place Neuve.
The International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland The International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland Geneva's Grand Theatre located on Place Neuve

16 minute video of my day in Geneva, Switzerland.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON AUGUST 18, 2011
Hello everybody,

You're gonna get this email a day late. The hotel wanted $30 for a half hour of wifi so I passed. Thursday morning we left Zermatt on the train. We changed trains in Visp and traveled through wine country on our way to Geneva.

Wine country between Visp & Geneva, Switzerland

We got to Geneva a little before 1:00 this afternoon. It is quite warm here in Geneva. Definitely the warmest weather I've seen since I left home. Our hotel is in the center of town directly across the street from the main train station. I took a little walk around the city after arrival.

Lake Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland

Below is the Jet d' eau. The fountain is 40 stories high.

The Jet d'Eau in Geneva, Switzerland

We had a small tour of the city late in the afternoon. Below is the reformation monument.

The International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland

Below is the United Nations European Headquarters.

Palace of Nations building (European headquarters of the United Nations)

After our city tour we headed out of the city for dinner. We crossed into France and had dinner in a restaurant on top of a mountain overlooking Geneva, the lake and Mont Blanc. We cooked our own dinner on hot stones that they brought to the table. Everyone had a good time. Tomorrow we're taking the scenic Golden Pass line to Lucerne. Lucerne is my last stop on the trip. I will be there for four nights before flying home on Tuesday.

Tim
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Click on the arrow above to continue to part three of my Swiss adventures!

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