Our Glacier Express miss-adventure…

Finally, the train ride that I had always wanted to do … ever since I heard about it … several years ago … was finally realised. Well … not fully!!

With a name like GLACIER Express … how can you not be fascinated and be tempted to want to do it, no? Well, if not you … I most certainly did! Especially when their website promotes this train ride as the most famous in the world! During the more than 7 hrs ride from Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz, it is supposed to travel “through untouched mountain landscapes, glamorous health resorts, deep gorges, delightful valleys, 91 tunnels and across 291 impressive bridges“. Now … tell me if you are not impressed by this!!

So … are you excited to hear about our trip … on ( … but mostly off) the Glacier Express?? 🙂

Well … certainly it was a trip that the hubby and I … (and most definitely, the mum, whom we took with us on this trip) … will never forget!! Not just because of the train trip itself, with its beautiful and scenic landscapes, … but … for the fact that we actually … missed catching the Glacier Express train!! Not once … oh no … that would be so … typical (and our travel adventure has never been a typical one) … but twice!!! Yup, that’s right … we missed both trains … the one leaving from Brig towards St Moritz … and then again, the next morning … from St Moritz back to Brig!! Can you believe it?? I can’t … but somehow we managed to do it! Hahahaha … It is funny looking back now … but not then, after having realised we had missed both trains by a mere 2-3 mins!! 🙂 Poor mum … she was furious when we missed both trains … and so was I, too. But … thinking back … I think I felt more disappointed rather than furious at missing it! Of course the hubby promised that we will try and do it again …which I most certainly hope we will!

Now … the things to note about the Glacier Express which sets it apart from the Mont-Blanc Express and the Golden Pass Panoramic trains which we had taken before are:-

One – that in winter season it runs only once a day from Zermatt to St Moritz (and from St Moritz to Zermatt); and once from Brig to Chur (and from Chur to Brig). However, in summer, there are 4 time slots to choose from.

Two – that except for the few stops on both ends of the journey (between Zermatt and Brig….and between St Moritz and Chur), where passengers can board or get off the train, … the rest of the journey is a non-stop travel through picturesque Swiss landscapes.  So … basically once you missed the Glacier Express train in the morning … the only way to make up for it (if you want to do the full stretch) … is to do it the next day. Which was what we thought of doing when we missed the train that Sunday morning. Unfortunately … we missed the train the next morning, too. By the way … this also means that if you missed bringing your own packed food from home … you will have to buy your lunch on board! The mum had actually made pizzas and apple tart for us to have it for lunch on the train … but we ended eating them at the train station in Chur, instead!

And three – that one has to pay for seat reservation on the Glacier Express. Everyone, except for children below 6 yrs (presumed not to require a seat) must pay this reservation fee. So … imagine having to pay the reservation fees for the train … twice … but missing it both times!! Aiyoh … are we unlucky or what?! Fortunately, the reservation fee is cheaper in winter season than in summer. How much cheaper? Well … for the same amount that we paid in winter for the 3 of us to travel on the Glacier Express … it would only pay for 1 person to travel on the same train, in summer. Basically seat reservation costs CHF 13 in winter but CHF 33 in summer. So … if you are thinking of taking the Glacier Express in big groups … it might be more economical to do it in winter. But their winter season rate lasts until May … so … if you are not keen to travel in the middle of winter when it is very cold, you can do so in spring for the same rate. But personally, I think it is more beautiful to do the journey in winter when the landscapes are dotted with snow.

But … all was not lost, though! We tried to make the most of what little options that we had … after missing both trains.

For the first day … we managed to do the last leg of the Glacier Express … from Chur to St Moritz. But … we had to wait in Chur for more than 2 hrs for the Glacier Express to arrive from its longer and more convulated but very scenic route than the one that we took to Chur. We took the normal commuter train, by way of Yverdon, Neuchâtel, Biel etc to Zurich. And since I had never been on the route from Zurich to Chur, I found this part of the train route quite interesting and pretty, especially when we were passing by the areas of Lake Zurich and Lake of Walen.

And the next morning after missing the Glacier Express train (again) … we took the same Glacier Express route back … but this time with the regional train. And … instead of getting off at Chur to take the normal commuter train back to Lausanne via the same route … we were told by the kind and helpful train conductor that we could take another route which would be quite as scenic, too … by changing track at Reichenau-Tamins and then changing to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn trains at Disentis and Andermatt (which would take us to Brig where we could then take the commuter train back to Lausanne).

So, we did just that … and were so glad to have done so … because this route was just as awesome … especially when we passed over the Oberalp pass and through the Furka area. Of course, I later realised after reading a bit more on the routes and the trains that we took (and confirming it with the hubby) … that we basically did most of the Glacier Express route on our way back … but sans the Glacier Express train, hence the beautiful landscapes that we went through. Awww … what a blur blop I am!!

Naturally we took loads of photos during the trip … with my camera … the hubby’s camera … and when the batteries of both our camera’s ran out …with my handphone camera, too!! 🙂

Since there are lots of photos to share, again, I thought I will share it over three separate posts, ok? Below are the photos of the landscapes that we took as we passed by the area near Lake Zurich, Lake of Walen … and the Glacier Express route between Chur and St Moritz.

So, enjoyzzzzz….

The scenic views as we left Zurich heading towards Chur, the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden (or Grisons, in French)

An ice skating rink situated beside Lake Zurich and not far from a small harbour and the train station of Wädenswil.

A tiny island on Lake Zurich.

Beautiful lake view along the lake of Walen (Walensee in German), the lake after Lake Zurich … between the cantons of St. Gallen and Glarus …

… which would have looked even more spectacular … if there had been more snow on top of the mountains.

Hmmm .. .difficult to avoid the light reflection on the window … but still … I love this shot! 🙂

One of the many small castles or châteaux … that dotted the Swiss landscapes … (in this case, at  Sargans, canton of St. Gallen).

As you might have noticed … not much snow around, huh??

And then after waiting impatiently for more than 2hrs at Chur train station … we finally got on board the Glacier Express … even if it was only for the last leg of the journey, from Chur to St. Moritz … which nonetheless took 2 hrs. Well … better some than none at all lah, huh? 🙂

In fact … in our eagerness to make sure that we would not miss this last stretch of the Glacier Express journey … we actually boarded the train on the platform where some of the commuters got off the train. Only after getting on board did we realise … that the train later changed to another track and remained there for at least 10-15 mins! What can I say … better be a kiasu than miss it a second time in one day!!! 🙂 If we had miss this one, too … that would have made it 3 times that we had missed the Glacier Express in 2 days!! That would have been a difficult record for someone to beat … I think … hehehe….

And guess what did the hubby buy while waiting for the Glacier Express train in Chur??

Tadaaa …

The Glacier Express book!! Quite big and heavy … and not cheap, either! Despite the hefty price tag (CHF 82), the pictures in the book made it worth it. They are really splendid – the photographer, Robert Bösch, worked on the project for a year, capturing photographs of the train and its settings through the four seasons and from so many different vantage points!!

The view inside an empty Glacier Express second class carriage near the rear of the train. Somehow there was not that many people taking the Glacier Express that Sunday. And after a number of them got off at Chur … we got this particular carriage (that has our seat numbers) nearly to ourselves … save for 3 other passengers.  Sure made it easier for us to move around freely to take snapshots of the lovely landscapes that we passed through. 🙂

Every seat has a headset (to be plugged into the audio set beside the seat) to provide info and commentary of the places the Glacier Express passes through. We could choose the language that we want to listen to and adjust the volume (like in an aeroplane lah!). Plus … a small booklet about the Glacier Express for every passenger. And of course, the menu of the food and drinks served on board, too!

But you know what I found was the nicest thing about taking the Glacier Express?? That the restaurant staff and even the conductor actually bid goodbye to all the remaining passengers on board … before they got off the train, one stop before St Moritz. Great customer service, I’ll say! 🙂

And here are some of the more scenic views as we travelled from Chur to St Moritz … on the Glacier Express …

Leaving Chur train station behind … and heading towards St Moritz.

Passing through beautiful landscapes … some pretty flat … like this one …

… and others … quite hilly like this one … but always with mountains as their backdrop.

Another castle … this one perched on top of a hill … with a church (in white) in the background.

Crossing the Landwasser viaduct between Avaneu and Filisur … probably the stretch of the Chur to St-Moritz railway track that is the most often represented on postcards or other printed materials (you can see the cover page of the book that the hubby bought, above). The viaduct is 130 metres long and is built on 6 stone arches, some 65 metres above the ground … and espouses a curve with a 100-metre radius. Built from 1901 to 1902 …it is a signature structure of the World Heritage-listed Albula railway.

The sun slowly setting to set as we moved through the Engadine and Albula valleys …

… as we made on our way towards St Moritz.

It was quite dark … by the time we arrived at St Moritz at 2 mins before 6.00pm.

And then from St Moritz to Reichenau-Tamins … the next morning.

After missing the actual Glacier Express train itself … we decided to sit ourselves in a Glacier Express carriage with its panoramic style window on the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) train … so that we could better enjoy the view. Since we already paid for the Glacier Express reservation fee … we did not have to pay the CHF 5 surcharge to sit in this special carriage. The only difference from the trip we took the evening before was that there was no audio commentary on this one .. .even though the carriage was exactly the same.

The little town before (or after .. .depending on the direction that one comes from) St Moritz … called Celerina or Schlarigna.

A flat stretch of the upper Engadine valley.

Passing along the River Inn … in the upper Engadine valley.

The beautiful winter landscape along River Inn.

Spotted this train with a Japanese name ‘Hakone Tozan Railway’ on it … during the brief stop at Samedan.

An interesting village, called Bever, before leaving the upper Engadine.

One of several houses in Bever to sport a modern version of the mural paintings … typical of villages in Graubünden (or Grisons).

Even though we went through the same route going back from St Moritz to Reichenau-Tamins …

… but the landscapes felt different somehow … seeing them it in the bright light of the morning …

… as opposed to the evening light!

The kind and helpful conductor writing down the name of the stops and the train timetable for us to note. Because of his help … we ended up doing the same route that the Glacier Express train would have taken from Reichenau-Tamins to Brig … by taking the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn train, instead. The only catch was that we had to change trains at Disentis and Andermatt.

The hubby … enjoying the picturesque winter landscapes of the Albula valley … or … maybe reflecting on the missed train, earlier in the morning?! 🙂

Not as much snow as we had hoped and would have liked to see … but still very beautiful winter landscapes.

The only decent shot that we had of the Rhine Gorge. It was tough trying to take a nice photo of the Rhine Gorge because of the sun’s reflection on the glass window. The trees that blocked our clear view and the tunnels that we had to pass through along the way … did not help either!

I know that not all the shots are good … but at least … you have an idea of the views that we got to see and admire during our journey on board the Glacier Express between St Moritz and Chur, right?

Coming up next … our brief stay at one of the famous mountain resorts in Switzerland … St Moritz (or as it is called in German, Sankt Moritz) …

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