When I first heard about the Glacier Express, the thought of spending a whole day on a train didn’t appeal all that much, despite the promise of spectacular Alpine scenery. Something to do with train travel taking me back to years of daily commuting into the capital, where the only views were of washing machines and mattresses stacked up in grotty inner London back gardens. And when I am away I also prefer getting from A to B quickly to spend as much time as possible at each destination. Planes, therefore, have always been the obvious choice.
However, my naivety was actually rather foolish. The Glacier Express winds its way across Switzerland through the mountains, weaving through waterfalls, tiny chocolate box villages with smoking chimneys, ski and toboggan runs but most of all mile after mile of stunning fir tree-lined snow-capped peaks.
My journey took me from Zermatt at the foot of the majestic Matterhorn, all the way to glamorous St Moritz in the south west of Switzerland. This is a 7 hour journey through 91 tunnels, across 291 bridges and rising up to over 2000m high. Part of the railway has been given UNESCO World Heritage status, and it is very easy to see why.
The trains have been designed to maximise the views from every angle, and have windows all the way up, even onto the sloping ceiling, so that panoramic, almost 360 degree views are possible.
I was fortunate enough to be in the first class carriage and so a 3 course lunch and all drinks are included. Although unlimited champagne is obviously a huge bonus, the views are not divided by class barriers so wherever you sit, you can take in the jaw dropping scenery.
Whilst looking out of the window, I realised that rush hour trains from London to suburbia should not be used as a good example of what train travel is all about, and that taking time over a journey is part of the whole holiday experience. Now the Orient Express, the Blue Train in South Africa and India’s Palace on Wheels don’t seem like such a bad idea…