Of glaciers & gnomes

Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
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Trip End Feb 28, 2007


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Flag of Switzerland  ,
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TUESDAY, 19th September
 
We were up at 6am for a 7am breakfast. L survived the night as did we. Breakfast was all right. I had a cereal with fruit and there was lots of bread to choose from and Nutella which L and I zoomed in on. We checked out of the hotel, carried our bags down to the P, dumped them in the car and walked to the station and the relevant platform for the Bernina Express with 20 minutes to spare.
 
It was misty as we drew out of the station and stayed that way for quite a while as the train climbed up the valley to Thusis. As the train left that station behind and started to wind its way over the first set of mountains so the mist disappeared and blue skies and fluffy clouds appeared above us. The car we were in had a wrap over window to give us a 90° view of the passing countryside but they insisted on keeping the lights on in the car which reflected in the window and which did not help when taking photos. The excuse was that there were tunnels and they are left on for safety reasons. Which, in my opinion, was bullshit. If the Peugot I was driving has automatic headlights why can't a modern train.
 
It was noisy too. There was a group of German men at the end of the car who all insisted on talking at once and German voices are not the softest in public.[ Without being rude I find that German language is on the whole spoken very loudly. Perhaps its guttural sounds (whatever that means...I read it somewhere) by definition has to be spoken at full volume. They compete with the Americans on this issue...but they have not the excuse of  brashness and vulgarity. Sorry guys but... ] There were a couple of middle aged women opposite who spent most of the journey gossiping to each other with nary a glance out of the window...and we could hear every word except that we had no idea what they were talking about. And ditto a couple behind us. A Japanese girl and, maybe, her mother who also never stopped talking. I mean, we talked, but it was mostly to comment on the passing scenery. You have to wonder why they bothered. An expensive way of meeting to have a gossip. As a result it was very difficult for us to hear the English commentary above the din. It was also hot in that carriage. We could not open the windows and I felt like removing my t-shirt to make a point. [I should have removed my shirt and trousers, stood up and yelled at everyone to shut up and then smashed all the lights. But I didn't. This is not to convey to the reader that I was not happy. The journey was wonderful. There were just a few irritants. And I irritate easily these days. 'Tis the nature of our age group methinks.
 
 
We had our first sight of the glaciers after about an hour and a half and in order to traverse this region the train had to wind back on itself in and out of tunnels. We reached a height of about 3000 metres before it got really interesting. There were two glaciers but they terminated a couple of hundred metres below the peaks. Nothing we saw compared to the Franz Joseph in New Zealand but then it is summer here. But even so glaciers don't melt in summer. They melt over millennia.  I was confused. I didn't know whether to be disappointed or elated at just being there. Anne and L loved every moment of it. They gazed in awe at the craggy hilltops, the ice caps and the mountain villages set among the green meadows. And so did I really. The hills are alive, so picturesque. And we just loved the cowbells. They really do have bells around their necks and they really do chime as they chomp at the grass and when they move in unison it's like a tympani orchestra.
 
That was an observation from later on but we did see and hear some when we disembarked at Poschiavo, our destination, a town which we had been watching from above for the last hour as we wound down the mountain into the valley. Italy was just down the road and although this town was in Switzerland they spoke Italian and all the signs were in that language. We walked from the train station to the main square along the pre-requisite cobbled streets and crossed a fast flowing stream which cut the town in half. It was a pleasant little town and quiet too. Not too many of us got off there. We had an hour and a half before catching the return train. It was warm up here...most unexpected. We had our winter throw overs with us but they were not needed.
 
We lunched outdoors and it was served to us by Italian speaking waiters and the menu was all pasta and pizza. I had a soup. The girls had bruschettos. My soup arrived with no bread and the soup dish was shallow. We are still in Switzerland I thought. I figured that this café must be owned by same people where we had dined the night before.
 
The return journey was much more fun. It was the regular scheduled service. We should have caught this one for the journey out...probably at half the price. We did have to change trains twice, however. The first time was a bit of a rush to change platforms in 2 minutes. The second was more leisurely. The windows opened so we had cool air and we could take photos unobstructed by reflections on the windows. I could also lean out and watch as the engine went around the bends and see the approaching tunnels. We had the carriage to ourselves so it was quiet and we could run from side to side although there was no commentary this time.  As we approached Chur the mist came down so I read my paper but surprisingly did not snooze. It had to have been one of the great train journeys of the world. It was just so pretty along those valleys. Imagine what it would be like in winter or just as the winter snows were thawing...magic.
 
Walking, hiking, rambling, ambling. Why do people do it? Exercise maybe. But there are less time consuming ways of getting fit. To enjoy the scenery? But surely after a few kilometres of pine trees, grassy meadows or rocky pathways the novelty would wear off. Time to move on. Catch a train to somewhere different. Drive a few hundred kilometres into the wilderness. What's the point of going on two feet unless you are going from one place to other for a very good reason. It is so time consuming. That is why man invented the wheel. So that he could avoid the necessity of walking. After all there are only 70 years in our life to explore the world...why walk!
 
I apologise for the above. It was prompted by the sight of so many people in the distance walking along tracks as we flew by in our train on our day of exploration whilst they were getting nowhere!
 
 
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