Slow train to a peak dis­trict

Peter Moss takes a rail jour­ney to Arosa and finds there is even more to like about the Swiss Alps

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

THE SWISS HAVE much to an­swer for: cuckoo clocks, hot choco­late at £4 a mug, a painfully anaemic na­tional f o o t b a l l t e a m ( t hough o n t he “stones and glasshouses” prin­ci­ple, the less said on that the bet­ter), a col­lec­tive case of ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der (they call it ef­fi­cien­cyand­punc­tu­al­ity),an­da­choco­late bar that hurts when you bite it.

And you know what? For all th­ese nig­gles, trans­gres­sions and Toblerone bars, I for­give them.

Why? Be­cause their trains are a joy, pure and undi­luted. Lit­tle else in my trav­els is as be­witch­ing as a train ride through the Swiss Alps. Rarely does the train travel at more than 15 mph, rarer still a stretch of rail­road that ac­tu­ally runs straight. A Swiss train could not hurry if it wanted to; the moun­tains that cover al­most ev­ery square me­tre of this hugely ap­peal­ing lit­tle coun­try just would not al­low it.

I have done lots of Swiss trains in my time, from the fa­bled Glacier Ex­press up to St Moritz to the peer­less jour­ney through the gor­geous Ti­cino val­ley and into Italy, bi­sect­ing the lakes of Lugano and Mag­giori. This time found me bound for Arosa, three won­der­fully scenic hours south-east of Zurich, with a fi­nal climb from Chur. It is 12 miles, took one hour and frankly, I could have jogged quicker. The curves and switch­backs on this stretch of rail­road are so im­pos­si­bly tight, the train seemed con­stantly to be dou­bling back on it­self in ever-de­creas­ing semi-cir­cles.

I en­joyed this sen­sa­tion all the way to Arosa, which nes­tles, pretty as a pic­ture post­card, 6,000 feet up be­tween the clear wa­ters of the Obersee and the Un­ter­see in the shadow of the rather ma­jes­tic Weis­shorn, a 9,000ft peak that ear­lier this year hosted the World Snow­board­ing Cham­pi­onships.

As re­cently as the be­gin­ning of the last cen­tury Arosa was an al­most in­ac­ces­si­ble rural ham­let that be­came a sana­to­rium for the un­healthy wealthy. A mere half-cen­tury later it was the place where the even un­health­ier and wealth­ier res­i­dents of Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb and St John’s Wood spent their sum­mers whilst their mums and dads stopped in Zurich to visit their money.

I never made it to Arosa my­self, but 40 years later, I made it, all the way to the newly ren­o­vated Val­sana Sport Ho­tel. It is just the sort of ho­tel I would have loved as a kid: all the sports I

The rail­way which runs from Zurich to Arosa; it is quicker to jog some moun­tain stretches

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