Swiss Rail’s Glacier Express

SWITZERLAND - SUMMER

Travelling in the panorama car of the Rhaetian Railway (RHB) through Switzerland’s Grand Canyon, the Rhine gorge (Ruin Aulta) between Reichenau and Ilanz in Canton Graubuenden.

Traveling the Swiss Rail system is always an entertaining adventure, with unforgettable scenic views, the luxury of cultural integration and personable friendly conversations. Because I enjoy people watching, taking the Glacier Express is preferable to any other type of transportation. The Glacier Express from Brig to Chur then Southeast to St Moritz and the Silsersee Lake where we had the best freshwater trout ever.

They say the Glacier Express is the slowest way to get to the ski slopes and the Matterhorn in Zermatt, but as we traveled north and then west to Zermatt it seemed to be the fastest eight hour trip I’ve ever taken. The seating is very comfortable, we sat at a table for four – two facing two, and the new friends we made really kept us busy.

My first impression when boarding the Glacier Express train was the bright, sunny atmosphere. Because of the extra-large, continuous rows of windows and the glass ceiling, the views are pretty much panoramic during the entire trip, wherever you sit. There is a strip that runs the length of the ceiling with a lighting system. You can see the sky and mountain peaks through the sky lights on either side but we were appreciative of the power lights when entering the long tunnels cut through the mountains.

We found it is best to make advanced reservations if you want first class seating, but never fear, second class is just as comfortable and has excellent views the entire trip. When ordering your Rail tickets, it is a great advantage to order your lunch at the same time. The price is less and you get a great feed.

As we were enjoying the scenic display surrounding us and getting to know our new travel companions, the meal began. Three servers brought us our food with great flair. It turned out to be an “all you can eat adventure”, with seconds and even thirds! First they brought us all fresh salads with delicious, artisanal, baked breads. There is something about produce grown in the Swiss environment that makes you think, “I could just live on fruits and vegetables for the rest of my life”.

Then the servers returned with our braised beef simmered in a light and sweet prune sauce. The beef was complimented with minced spinach and a wonderfully prepared Swiss pasta. Our third course was different. I received an assorted cheese platter and my companions got sumptuous cherry pies. We shared as everyone knows fruit and cheese partners so well. We remembered to bring our own coffee thermos and water, but our table mates got bottles of local wine to share as well.

Many of the foods and beverages we were served are indigenous to Switzerland, and more information about them can be found on http://aoc-igp.ch/.

“Products with an AOP (Appellation d’Origine protegee) or IGP (Geographical Indication protegee) are traditional dishes that have a strong connection to their region of origin.  They are made for generations with great passion of cheesemakers, bakers, butchers and distillers. For products with an AOP comes from raw material processing to finished products all from a well-defined region of origin.”

Once gloriously fed, our main trip began. Our new German companions spoke better French than English, and I speak some French so we all got along with gestures and bits of conversation, we found laughter to be a universal expression of our enjoyment with each other.

We were warned to bring a picnic lunch for dinner because the food could be expensive, but the box lunches looked so elegant, we decided to get a dinner to share and combined it with our take-along faire. Our travelers were not above sharing their food and again with the wine and the fruit, nuts and cheeses.

Hesitant to just walk away from our new found friends, we found a local tapas bar as we disembarked from this exceptional train experience, and now the group of six joined in for a dark larger brew and some laughter before parting for our farmhouse lodging.

Credit:  Copyright by Switzerland Tourism By-line: swiss-image.ch/Robert Boesch