Swiss Railways train in Zurich Station
In early May I was in Winterthur trying to keep dry in an unseasonable heavy downpour. It’s quite a bit cheaper than staying in Zürich just half an hour down the line past the airport but I would have to go there the next morning to start my journey.
I had a specific plan to accomplish in one day three of my favourite Swiss journeys The first being the classic Gotthard route south from Zürich to Bellinzona as I joined the early morning commuters for the short trip to my starting point with my mobile global Interrail pass sitting in my pocket. There was a time when I feared that the opening of the new Gotthard base tunnel might spell the end of the wonderful route up and through the mountains but fortunately the route has been upgraded and turned into something of a tourist train with smart new carriages, panoramic windows and even vending machines on board. After Arth Goldau, Lake Lucerne comes into view on the right and we travel alongside it to Fluelen from where you can still get the steamer back across the lake to Lucerne. Through Altdorf of William Tell fame, past Ertsfeld where the base tunnel track takes off to the left and upwards through spirals, tunnels and glorious scenery to the original tunnel entrance at Goeschenen. From here you can take the short but steep rack railway to Andermatt or, as I did, through the tunnel, out the southern portal at Airolo into the Italian speaking part of Switzerland and wind your way through more spirals, tunnels and scenery, with a marked difference on this side of the mountain, on to Bellinzona: the train continues on to Locarno or Lugano but I got off here for the second part of my journey.
Swiss post buses used to be the masters of the high Swiss passes; they may not have the same all conquering spirit anymore but they offer a wonderful connecting service from stations all over the country. A short walk out of the Bellinzona station entrance to the left is an excellent trattoria alongside the bus stands: I had half an hour before my bus left with a dozen or so folks on board for the journey over the San Bernardino pass to Chur so it was very handily placed for a beer and sandwich. No one even checked our tickets and then we were off. There are several stops on the way but always the view down into the valleys and upwards to the snow covered mountain peaks. Nowadays a short tunnel cuts off the high part of the pass and the two hour journey to where I got off the post bus at Thusis station went all too quickly.
I was now in the right place for my third journey: this time south along the Albula line section of the Rhaetian Railway as far as Samedan, though the line continues a few kilometers further to St Moritz. I wrote about my winter journey on this section in a previous Travellers’ Tales but this time after leaving the train in Samedan I changed onto a RR regional train going to the end of the line, eastwards, to Scuol Tarasp. This follows the course of the River Inn all along the Engadine Valley for an hour and a half. Lush meadows, very pretty villages, a couple of towns, cattle, goats and sheep in the fields. And all the time looming upwards at the end of the valley the snow capped mountains of the frontier.
In the one day I had accomplished my three favourite Swiss journeys: next morning I was at the station early for the post bus journey over those mountains and into Austria.
DS July 2023