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Switzerland - Alpine Tour

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Tour de Alps - Switzerland

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Zermatt, Switzerland

Glacier Express to Zermatt Saturday, September 17, 2005
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St. Moritz
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St. Moritz Departure

St. Moritz Before Train Departure

After checking out of Hotel Nolda, we hiked with our backpacks to the larger Coop in the Bad side of town, then hiked around the lake to the train station to board the Glacier Express. It was a cloudy day with some drizzle and chilly outside.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train

Glacier Express

Glacier Express Train at Station in St. Moritz

The Swiss Rail system has scenic trains that connect regions of Switzerland with great vistas of the mountains, rivers and valleys. These follow the commercial routes via incredible mountain passages. The cogwheel train is structure with first class in the front, second class next, and a few cars for general passengers in the back. While it is recommended to get reservations, there were plenty of empty cars in back.

Make reservations in advance for Glacier Express
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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Bend

Starting from St. Moritz Aboard the Glacier Express

Scenic Arched Bridge

Even though I reserved our seats over a month ahead of time, the first class and dining car were full, so we got seats in second class. The train was full, but after about 15 minutes of travel, our traveling companions noticed that the back cars were completely empty - so we grabbed our lumbar packs (which had our lunch) and ventured back.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train Arched Bridge

Enroute

Train Interior

It was great to have the back cars all to ourselves. We could slide down the windows on either side of the train to take photos. Typically Saturday trains are very crowded - first class is usually booked solid even months ahead of time. But don't let a lack of reservations discourage you, all trains have general booking passengers in back. Unfortunately, today was cloudy so we couldn't see alot of the spectacular views.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train over Arch Bridge

Scenic Vistas

Scenic Arch Bridge

The Glacier Express passes through mountain tunnels, valleys, over mountain passes and over a vast array of beautiful bridges. Only on curved segments can you really appreciate the arched bridges. Because the windows slide down, you can easily put your camera outside of the window for some great bridge and rail shots. Be careful though, the clearance between the train and tunnel walls is at times only inches, and there are alot of tunnels.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train Head On

Enroute

Arrival At Zermatt

The train reverses direction and actually splits in two halves to get up the higher mountain passes (Andermatt). You need reservations in advance for the dining car however there is a snack cart that traverses the train with soda, water, coffee, sandwiches and souvenirs. We stocked up in advance at the Coop and saved almost 80 percent on the cost of lunch. Two sodas and two sandwiches were about $20 CHF from the train. That same $20 CHF bought at the Coop 3 rolls, 2 sodas, 4 bananas, chocolate bars, 3 waters and 2 apples.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train Passing

Brig to Zermatt

Gornergrat Cogwheel

The train reverses at Brig and finally arrived (after a 9:15 a.m. departure from St. Moritz) in Zermatt at 4:45 p.m. in rain and fog. We arrived at the train station in Zermatt and were immediately greeted by the porter from the Riffelalp resort. He took our bags and gave us two tickets for the Gornergrat cogwheel rail train. Since the Riffelalp is located far above the village of Zermatt, you have to take the cogwheel train to reach the resort.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - River Bend

Cogwheel to Riffelalp

Riffelalp Mini Rail to Resort

Our porter loaded our bags aboard the Gornergrat rail and 15 minutes later we arrived at the Riffelalp station about one-third the way up the Gornergrat. The ride up is fantastic, and you pass a beautiful waterfall on one side, while the village of Zermatt disappears below as the cogwheel ascends.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Train Station

Riffelalp Hotel

Riffelalp Hotel

At 2,222 meters you are at the Riffelalp. The resort is a short distance from the cogwheel station, and the Riffelalp has a mini tram to take you and your luggage to the hotel. The tram ride takes about five minutes.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Valley

Riffelalp Resort

Chalet Studio Room

The Riffelalp is a beautiful resort, which overlooks the valley below (Zermatt) and has a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains, specifically the Matterhorn. We arrived and it was very cold and drizzly, with fog, so we couldn't see much.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Tunnel View

Reception

Desk in Room With Minibar

A nice warm fire greeted us in the main lobby and after a short check-in, we were given a small tour of the lower level and our room. The room was palatial compared to our previous room in St. Moritz, with a separate Jacuzzi/shower room, toilet, closets and large bedroom with access to a outdoor patio. Framed in the huge patio sliding glass doors was the peak of the Matterhorn.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Glacier Express - Wall

Room

Bathroom

The room has remote control curtains, lights, and even a do-not-disturb light. The automatic curtains were a fun amusement. The desk area featured a TV, CD/DVD player and fully stocked (fee based) minibar. There were three large closets for both winter gear, and luggage/clothes. The bathroom had 110/220V outlets. The entire suite was wired with Bose surround sound system with DVD player. The cordless phone worked anywhere on the resort - although we never actually used it, or took it anywhere.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Riffelalp - Mini Train in Progress

Features

Jacuzzi

There is room internet access and even computers (Apple Macintosh) in the lobby lounge. Internet access on these computers is free, and great for checking emails and train schedules. Wireless LAN was also available. Clearly, the Riffelalp was wired for technology. The Jacuzzi was great, and even had a ozone generator for that after-thunderstorm fresh aroma.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Riffelalp - Minitrain to Resort

Hotel Lounge

Lounge

Before dinner we had a few drinks and some snacks. The lounge has a beautiful wood bar and huge fireplace. There was a crackling pine wood fire burning, which added to the ambiance. A piano was playing in the background. The dress code is a bit upscale here, but nothing too outrageous. It is a casual elegant resort.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Riffelalp - Room - Auto Curtain

Ambiance

Before Dinner Cocktails

The crackling fire took the chill off the evening - which was to get below freezing and there even was the expectation of some snow.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Riffelalp - Room View

Dinner

Hall Lounge with Internet Access

After our cocktails in the lounge, we ventured next door to the formal restaurant.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 03 - Riffelalp Mini Train

Feasting at the Riffelalp

Dinner Entr´┐Że

Our formal dinner started with some grilled prawns followed by a wonderful steak. The Chateau Brilland was done perfectly.

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Lounge

Riffelalp Info

After a nice dinner, we went back to the lounge to enjoy the warm fire. Seemed like a perfect time for a Cuban cigar, so we fired up a Montecristo with some Gran Marnier. We then checked some emails and then retired for the evening. Overall a great day, ending up at a wonderful resort. The Riffelalp is indeed the pearl of Switzerland.

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Glacier Express in .pdf Format

Glacier Express Time Schedule

Glacier Express Brochure

Riffelalp Welcome Letter

Riffelalp Brochure in .pdf Format

Riffelalp Room Prices

Gornergrat Rail Ticket

Breakfast Room Service Request

Riffelalp Laundry Prices

Confirmation Letter

Riffelalp Bill

Riffelalp Information Brochure

Additional Photographs: Glacier Express to Zermatt

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