Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The alps

What a magic day ! We took the opportunity of being so close to the border with Switzerland, to take a day trip by train from Tirano (only 6 km from Tovo along the valley) to St Moritz. The train is called the Bernina Express and according to the brochure has the steepest gradient of any rail line that doesn't use ratchets or pulleys. It winds its way around on viaducts and through tunnels steadily climbing to the highest station which is at 2250m and the highest peak next to the rail line was 4000m.

In his essential guidebook for Alpine train travelers, Switzerland by Rail, Anthony Lambert writes:

"This line is the highest rail crossing of the Alps, helping to make it one of Europe's outstanding train journeys. Where else can you travel from glaciers to palm trees in two hours? In summer open-air cars enable passengers to experience the views and glorious air without the interference of glass, making it perfect for photographers. The climb is made even more astonishing by the fact that it is achieved without rack assistance [cogwheels], compelling the builders to devise tortuous loops and spirals to gain or lose height. Sit on the right."

The scenery was amazing with long deep valleys, blue/green glacier-fed lakes, glaciers and soaring peaks. It was very cold considering that not that far away in the cities of northern Italy the temperature was climbing towards 40 celsius and at points it was snowing (lightly). I had warned the boys to wear their warmest clothes but I don't know that they took me seriously. They refused on a point of honour to leave the open-air carriage we were sitting in to get the best views for the relative warmth of the normal carriages.

We actually went a decent way into Switzerland, going to St Moritz, which although possibly a good place to shop if you wear Armani, Gucci, and Dolce & Cabbana gear, it wasn't really my cup of tea. We had less than two hours there and the boys found an out-door game of chess to play.

When we got back to Tovo we went to spent an hour or so with Olga & Tulia and compared family notes and trees. The boys wanted to go dancing and Franca said there was a good disco in Tirano with Latin-American music. I drove the boys the 6km to Tirano where we saw a sign on the way in saying 'Night Club', but as we pulled up and looked closer it was obvious that 'night club' refers to something more sinister in Italy than in Australia. I left the boys in town and went back to pick them up later in the evening. The found the disco only to discover the Wednesday night is the only night it doesn't operate !!
They found a small pub which had the soccer on and played darts there instead.

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