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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Glacier Express, Zermatt to Chur

Travel Date 23rd May 2011.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

I spent a lot of time and frustration arranging my bookings for the two special Swiss Alpine trains. Overall I wasn't disappointed.

But there were a few flies in the ointment so I'll get them out of the way first. It was a pity, because the two journeys were very relaxed and enjoyable through some wonderful scenic parts of Switzerland.

The first problem was the on-line booking system. To an outsider trying to book on the web the booking systems for the two trains are quite separate and use different rules. Eventually, after much frustration, I arranged the bookings via Skype and email with some very helpful staff.

The next problem was carriage design. One of the things that would seem to be blindingly obvious to me, but not to the designers of the trains, is that the vast majority of the passengers will be tourists taking lots of photographs of the passing scenery. If you enclose those passengers in a sealed carriage with no opening windows and lots of reflective glare off window glass you are going to get some rather frustrated photographers. I was certainly not alone in my disappointment with the lack of any way to open a window for shots. Later, on the Bernina Express, I found a way. I'll mention that later :)

Finally, on a train that advertises it's meals in this manner:
A feast for the eyes that also appeals to the gourmet in you
Your starter, main course and dessert are all freshly prepared in our on-board kitchen and served to you in the comfort of your seat on the train. Or order our «Farmer’s Special», which naturally includes local cured-meat delicacies from our Canton. Line clear for full enjoyment: with fine dining for the body and panoramic views to feed the soul. Let us indulge your senses.
This is hardly what I expected when I decided I didn't want a big meal (as a diabetic I don't eat large lunches) and ordered the "dish of the day" fish instead of the full dinner:

The breaded fillet of fish was obviously re-heated in a microwave. The fish was rubbery and indigestible but the bulk of the "fillet" was similarly indigestible breading surrounding it. I refused to eat it. The stewards only compensation was a free quarter-bottle of wine in lieu of a refund on the far more expensive "fish". I'm afraid I've rarely attempted to eat a meal that appealed less to the "gourmet in me". At least the wine was drinkable.

OK. Now that I've got that off my chest, the scenery was as good as I expected it to be. My photos have been edited and often cropped to remove reflections and glare, but I hope they give some sense of this wonderful relaxed wander through the Swiss highlands. I'll let them tell the story.

The multi-language included audio guide was excellent. A chime would sound together with a visual indicator on the information screen at the end of the carriage whenever an interesting view was approaching. That allowed plenty of time to pick up the headset and listen to a brief but informative statement of the scene and sometimes the relevant history. That helped make the trip much more interesting.

When we reached Dissentis the train changed engines and combined with the other Glacier Express, which left a few minutes later than us from Zermatt, to become one train for the continuing journey to Chur. We all got out to stretch our legs. The smokers were blissful, after so many hours without a puff.

I used a Swiss Rail Pass for the Swiss sections of my train odyssey.

With the benefit of hind-sight, if I was planning to do this journey again I would not take the Glacier Express or worry about pre-booking. Instead I would use my pass to take the local trains that follow the same route, getting off at a station that seemed interesting and continuing later, after a few hours or a few days, on the next local train. Not only would that be more relaxed, but the windows can be opened for photography. In fact, the difference in prices may make it cheaper to pay point-to-point instead of the pass. Lacking the need for booking, I could also have stayed in Zermatt that extra day for good weather on the Gronergrat.

The positives overcame the negatives and I still had a wonderful day.

Cheers, Alan, Australia

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:08 pm

    Wow! I hope that my wife and I can travel to places like this some day! This lousy economy has put that on hold for now.
    Thanks for sharing!