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 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