SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
ZURICH, CHUR to TIRANO via Brenina Express, MILANO & VEINCE
The Lond Day of Train Travel
This was one of the most ambitious travel days of the trip. A 10 hour commute requiring 4 separate train tickets and only one of those could be arranged ahead of time. We could have taken a direct route on a highspeed train and be in Venice within hours… but that’s not our style of traveling. We wanted to make most of our location in the Swiss Alps and take the most scenic way possible!
We started our journey before dawn. Stocked up on breakfast & lunch foods (and wine) for the day’s train picnics and made our way to the town of Chur.
Chur marks the beginning of one of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps, the Brenina Express. From the towering glaciers of the mountains down to the palms trees of Italy, we passed through 55 tunnels and chug across 196 bridges. It is also the highest mountain railway in the Alps, the physical high-point is Ospizio Bernina, at 2,253 metres above sea level!
It was easy to see why it is called “the most beautiful link between the cool North and the warm South”. This view was shared by UNESCO in 2008 when it designated the Bernina Express between Thusis and Tirano as a World Heritage Site – the third train route in the world to receive this honor.
The Brenini Express provides a link between northern and southern Europe. It does so in the most wonderful way imaginable, on a railway line that coexists in perfect harmony with its glorious mountain setting. The train makes short work of the 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and slopes of up to 70 millimetres per metre of incline that are found along its route.
The Landwasser Viaduct
The Swiss invest heavily in their railway network, making it one of the most efficient and advanced in the world. One of the most impressive feats was the building of the Landwasser Viaduct (built 1902) which carries a mountain railway track. The viaduct has six arches, each spanning 20m / 65 ft. This is possibly one of the most famous railway viaducts / bridges in the world and is seen in most Swiss travel / holiday brochures.
Our seats were perfect and the entire trip was narrated so we would not miss a thing. I did not hesitate to use the great advice I had found online. There were windows that could be lowered, perfect to capture photographs without the glare. There was only one of these windows at the end of each car. I made sure to hold my spot for the majority of the trip as the idea seemed to catch on quickly.
Photos do not do justice. The views were amazing!
We stopped for a short break at Alp Grüm (2,091 m) below the Piz Palü glacier to stretch our legs and enjoy a photo op. The beautiful clean mountain air was refreshing!
From Alp Grüm the Bernina Railway snakes down around tight curves and spiral tunnels into Puschlav, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
I made sure I was at my special open window as we approached the spiral of the Brusio Viaduct. I was not the only on capturing our journey down the mountain side. I looked out to see a helicopter following along side the train filming the whole trip through the spiral viaduct! I gave a little wave to the guy with the movie camera!
Once we arrived in town we grabbed our bags and rushed to the station across the town square. We were successful getting tickets on the next local train headed to Milano. The italian train was somthing completly differnt from the rest of our trip. It was old and full of graffiti. It took us a couple of tries to find a car that did not reek of ‘farm’. But it did get us to Milano in one piece. We had to change clothes to adjust from the cool crisp air of the Alps to the warm relaxing weather of Italy! It was so great to feel summer time weather again!
The views of Lake Como (the largest lake in Italy) were breathtaking.
Our arrival in Milan was perfect we had just enough time to pick up Rob’s sim card for his cell phone (yeah internet access!!) right from a TIM store located in the train station. We also had time for a quick bite to eat before heading back onto a train to Venice.
If you are ever wondering if you should book seats facing one another OR seats side by side when the layout is 4 seats together… I suggest always sitting face to face… this is why. For one, you both get the window seat. But best of all you will never have to have the awkward ‘no wheres to look but down’ moment. On our trip from Milano to Venice we had a young couple sit across from us. We smiled and asked if they spoke english and they pretty much didnt acknowledge we were there. Ok so that’s not the awkward part. They proceeded to have heated conversations with lots of kissing and touching. It was hard not to feel awkward with their PDA in such close proximity, our knees were basically touching theirs! lol. We were very pleased when they got off the train several stops before ours. We did meet some great people on other train trips… but these 2 lovebirds needed their own room!
It was after dark when we finally arrive in Venice! The air was still warm and humid. The city streets were still full of energy and people. We hiked through the maze of streets with our backpacks in search of our hotel. The management gave us vague directions which got us pretty lost. We were thankful for Rob’s cell phone activation since using Google Maps was the only reason we found our hotel that night.
Located a few meters from Campo San Toma. The owner Marco was very accommodating. He knew were were arriving late and was sure to leave us the door code and keys to get into our room. He also upgraded our hotel room to the Holiday apartment. We had a bedroom with a double bed and air conditioning, a living room with sofa beds, a small kitchen, shower room, and bathroom. On top of all that we had breakfast available to us on the top floor with a balcony! Hotel Link
After unpacking our bags we didnt hesitate exploring the streets of Venice. We enjoyed several flavors of gelato and had a quick meal of pasta. We even ran into another great Canadian couple from the west coast.