A charming train journey: the Bernina Express from Switzerland into Italy

The Bernina Express is one of Switzerland's most iconic train journeys, leading through a UNESCO World Heritage site across the Alps into Italy. As it makes its way from Chur to Tirano, it passes through 55 tunnels and crosses 196 viaducts and bridges. The awe-inspiring scenery can be enjoyed through vast panoramic windows: the view really comes to you, like a cinema of real-life. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to take the journey in First Class for an article I am writing, and what an experience it was to take a journey just for journey's sake.

Tim and I had spent the previous night in Chur, exploring the Old Town and soaking up the atmosphere created by football fans supping beer in street side bars, so we were nice and early for the 8.32 train. As it wound westwards, through lush meadows decorated with castles and across vertiginous gorges, I realised how seldom I have been on a train and simply happy to look at the view (normally I am working or have my head in a book).

Among the most impressive sights were the Landwasser Viaduct, with its 328-foot arches, and the Brusio circular viaduct, which follows a 360-degree curve. For me, the most beautiful stretch of the line was passing the Lago Bianco and Lej Nair beyond Pontresina in the Engadin region. Up there, at more than 7,000-metres above sea level, the landscape was so wild it seemed odd to be crossing it by train. It was rather somewhere we should have hiked to! Above the icy blues and greens of the lakes, glaciers created a chillingly beautiful backdrop.

A little later, we stopped at Alp Grüm to take photos - the view was of Lake Palü and the Palü Glacier. And then the train began its descent towards Italy: instead of looking upon wild Alps, we were among tame farmland bordered by olive and palm trees. It was bizarre to be navigating old villages at some points via the middle of the street! We stopped for lunch in a restaurant in Tirano - which sadly served the worst pizza i have ever tasted, but the less said on that the better - and enjoyed some sunshine before jumping back into the train for the return journey. By the end of the day, we had spent more than 8 hours in a train. But I wasn't bored or fed up of sitting still (well, maybe a little by the end)... Instead I felt completely relaxed, and fulfilled to have been on perhaps the most scenic train journey of my life.
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