I love taking this trip out and regardless of the season the views are superb and change as the year goes by.
The trip started at a very leisurely pace leaving St Pancras at just before 1pm on the Eurostar, this allowed most of us to travel up to St Pancras on the day. The train sped us through the tunnel in the direction of Brussels and on arrival we were met by porters who took our large cases to the next platform ready for the Thalys train to Cologne. After a short break with time for a coffee when we joined the Thalys train which took across the German border and on to Cologne where we arrived early evening. The hotel was just short walk away from the station for our overnight stay and evening meal. There was even time for a quick walk out to the Cathedral in all its glory, trying to avoid the rain showers!
Today we left the hotel just after 8am to return to the station to take the train through the Picturesque Rhine valley towards Switzerland. The trip alongside the River Rhine is beautiful and got better as we approached Switzerland and the mountains. The train arrived in Basel and we then had the choice of remaining on the carriage whilst it and 2 others were shunted round to join our ongoing train, or we could stretch our legs and grab a coffee before rejoining the carriage on its new platform. Then on to Chur to meet Martin Stockman the owner of the Hotel Freieck, our home for the next 3 nights. Martin met us at the station and spoke about Chur and his hotel before taking our bags to the hotel while we took the 10 minute walk through the town to the hotel. A traditional Swiss meal was then enjoyed including his signature dish; Ham roasted in bread.
After all the train travel it was nice to have a free day to relax and explore at our own pace. Many passengers decided to explore Chur itself and its many fascinating buildings. The other popular trip was to take the train from Chur to Arosa. This is a fantastic journey as it departs from outside of the main station and travels up the road for the first mile our so before heading further into the mountains. The views just get better and better as you take the 1 hour journey to Arosa. In the winter this is a very popular ski resort, but we were there in the summer and were able to take advantage of the walks around the town and up into the hills, the lazier of us could take the cable car up the mountain. Passengers reported back that they had seen a lot of wildlife including red squirrels.
On the way back to the hotel I found a group playing their Swiss horns, I guess it is not something you can easily play in the house. Dinner tonight gave us the chance to visit a variety of restaurants in the town to sample traditional Swiss dishes, I can recommend the Rosti.
I was really looking forward to taking the Bernina Express over the mountains and can honestly say that I was not disappointed. The train departs fairly early from Chur station at 8.30am so we had to be up and alert quite early. As the train progresses on the journey the views get better and better looking up at the mountains and the lakes, which even in May are covered in Snow and the lakes frozen, by August we found the majority of the snow gone and the lakes a stunning blue.
The train arrives at Poschiavo which is in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland and allows us to disembark and to explore the small but charming village. There are plenty of cafes and bars here for lunch. We then returned to the station to join a service train for the first part of our return journey to St. Moritz. The station was being rebuilt and was quite like a building site but we had the chance to wander out of the station to look at the lake. There wasn't really time to investigate the town unless passengers were happy to return by a later train. Our final journey of the day was then from St. Moritz to Chur and a meal in the hotel.
Today we took the slowest express train in the world, the Glacier Express from Chur to Brig. There is a bit of an art in packing in all the luggage as the panoramic windows do not allow for overhead luggage racks. However, this was soon sorted and we settled down for our journey through the Alps towards Brig. Once again some stunning views but sadly at the very highest points we found ourselves in cloud. The train then wound its way down to Brig where the train pulls into the platforms outside the main station, the train is on a narrow gauge track. After a chance to grab a coffee and stretch our legs we joined the standard gauge multiple unit which took us the short 40 minute trip to Kandersteg where we were to stay at the Hotel Victoria. The Victoria is a Victorian building with a very large welcoming lounge and dining room. It also has a pool and a Sauna.
Today we went to Zermat which for me and many of the passengers was probably one of the highlights of the trip. Having travelled back to Brig we joined the narrow gauge train which was to take us to Zermatt over numerous bridges and through tunnels, as we climbed our way up to the mountains sides. Zermatt is a lovely car free town and well worth a visit in its own right. However, many of us chose to take the cog railway from the town up to the top of the Gornergrat. This provides stunning views of many of the high mountains but in particular the Matterhorn and should not be missed.
Today was another free day to let people relax a little before the journey home. The Oeschinensee lake behind the hotel is certainly worth a visit, we took the gondolas up the mountainside and then followed the path for about 15 minutes before arriving at the lake. Refreshments could be had and for those brave enough a 750m toboggan is next to the gondola station. For the less adventurous a trip towards Interlaken by train and a ride on the steamer on the lake was undertaken. No one decided to venture up the Jungfrau on this particular trip but it can be done by taking 5 trains at a cost of CHF120, well worth it if it is a clear day
All too soon it was time to return home; which we were to accomplish all in one day. Taking the train from Kandersteg to Brig was just the first of 4 trains to get back to St. Pancras. From Brig we took a train to Geneva passing alongside the lake enjoying the stunning views. With time for lunch we then walked through the short passage in the station to the French side and joined our TGV which would speed us through the Alps and up to Paris, where we then transferred by Coach to Gare Du Nord ready for the final stage of the trip by Eurostar to London.
All the passengers agreed it had been a wonderful trip with some incredible sights along the way. I am now hoping to go back during the winter season so that I can take trips through the snow drifts and winter sun.
Colin Swettenham - Tour Manager