Tirano marks the southern terminus of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Bernina Express line run by the Rhaetische Bahn Railway. We’d been on the famous railway that links the northern side of the Alps with the sunnier and warmer south a few years ago whilst staying in St Moritz and were excited to have the chance to do it again (you can read about our previous trip here). This time following on from our morning coffee pitstop in Tirano (see last week’s post here) we did the first part up to Poschiavo by coach – you follow the same route as the train so we didn’t feel we were missing out in any way. We crossed the border into Switzerland and began the steady climb up the Poschiavo Valley.
One of the fascinating features of the Alpine areas is the way local customs and languages change from one valley to the next. Once we crossed the border into Switzerland, we were in the Swiss Canton of Graubuenden, but still in an Italian speaking valley, although Poschiavo also has its own local dialect. Later on once we crossed over the alpine watershed, we came into German speaking areas and also the ancient language of Romansh, which is still spoken in the Engadine Valley (see here for the Lingua Franca). By the time we reached the little town of Poschiavo we had climbed to 1014 m above sea level and the temperature had plummeted to minus 2 as there had been a sudden unseasonal cold snap! Here we were dropped off by our coach driver, who headed off on the mountain road to await us at the other side, whilst we waited for the train to take us on the next part of our journey.
Boarding the Bernina brought us welcome relief from the chilly winds and sub zero temperatures! We had our own carriage as part of the tour group and although not in the famous panoramic carriages (unlike our first ride on the train) we didn’t notice any difference – it was a while before we realised we were in the ordinary carriages as we were so transfixed by the magnificent scenery! Please excuse window glare and shadows on some of the photos – it’s hard not to get reflections taking photos inside the train!
The lush green pastures of the Poschiavo Valley soon started to give way to rugged rocks and alpine vegetation. You realise how isolated Poschiavo must have been in the days before the Bernina was constructed. Even now, the train and road links over the Bernina Pass are the only transport links the valley has to the outside world.
The Bernina is the highest railway across the Alps – it is not a rack railway, which makes its construction all the more remarkable. Whilst extending all the way to Chur, the capital of the Graubuenden, it has UNESCO World Heritage Status from Thusis (in the Engadine Valley south of St Moritz) via the Val Poschiavo to Tirano. Also worth noting is that the Bernina Express is a scheduled railway with many trains going backwards and forwards throughout the day. You can reserve a seat if you like – advisable during peak season and weekends.
As the train pulled us higher and higher we reached the upper mountains covered with fresh white powder snow.
The train slowly chugged its way to the highest point on the route – the 2,253 metre Ospizio Bernina. Here we had a brief interlude and I jumped off the train to take photos in minus 7 degree cold. Needless to say I jumped back on the train pretty quickly! With the fresh snow and howling wind it was a wildly beautiful and isolated part of the world!
The bright red of the train against the pristine white snow was a very special sight! Please excuse the sun glare again but it gives you an impression of what it’s like to ride in the Bernina over the Alps.
From the spectacular rugged beauty of the Ospizio Bernina, the train began its descent down the northern side of the Alps towards the ski station of Diavolezza, where Hermes, our driver was waiting to take us on the final run into St Moritz!
The ride from Poschiavo to Bernina Diavolezza took just over an hour and had taken us through some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. This was our second time on the lovely Bernina Express railway and we certainly plan on coming back again at some future point! For now we headed off to St Moritz for a late lunch!
Copyright © 2016 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved