Disorient Express, Fifth Leg: Venice to Paris

We get to Venice on the evening of?Wednesday July 18th. Our return to London is less than a week away. If we made it through the extraordinary contortions of our Balkan voyage, we’ll be tired but moderately triumphant. I’m thinking a glass or two of red wine as the sun goes down over the mainland.

But then it’s the morning of?Thursday July 19th,?and we’re on a train again. And it’s a very?modern train, a testament to infrastructure investment and, I guess, to EU largesse back in the years before the financial wizards sat on their wands. Group leader Mark has a good post on it here; all I’ll say for now is this is a train that gets us from Venice to Rome?(City 27)?in under four hours. We’ll have five hours in the Eternal City. A night in Venice, followed by an evening in Rome. Not too shabby.

But the schedule keeps tightening, so we’ll drift back to Rome’s Termini station for the night train back northwards. We leave Rome at an hour before midnight, and reach?Milan (City 28)?early in the morning of?Friday July 20th.

This is where things get eye-popping. First of all, we’ll be on eight different trains today, including the train from Rome to Milan we wake up on.

Then we take the 8.20 train from Milan to Tirano on the Swiss border, hugging the eastern shore of Lake Como, one of the most beautiful bodies of water in Europe. At Tirano, we take a train into the Alps.

And what a train. It’s the train to St Moritz. It looks like this:



This is not your commuter train from Tulse Hill to London Bridge.

Mark, our group leader, takes up the story here:

The train climbs up the Val Poschiavo to the town of that name, circumnavigating the famous circular Brusio viaduct featured on the banner of this blog, and passing along the west bank of Lago di Poschiavo. It is at this point that the fun really starts. Between Poschiavo and Cavaglia, barely 2.5 km apart, we will climb 700m, and do so on an adhesion railway (i.e no cogs or pulleys, just smooth wheels on smooth track). This is achieved via a series of 180? switch backs, although using very little tunnel (they come in part II). The photo above was taken looking back down the valley you?ve just come up. ?The line continues to climb up to Lago Blanco and onto the the pass itself at 2,253 metres. You are now simultaneously on the highest adhesion railway in Europe, the highest railway mountain pass of any kind in Europe and the highest point of the Danube river basin. And the highest point of this trip obviously.

It goes on. Coffee in St Moritz. Then onto the 3pm train to Reichenau-Tamins. We’ll be climbing up and down mountains, such that we’ll be able to see the track we’ve just ridden on above us.?After four more trains, we’ll finally reach Zurich?(City 29)?at almost 10pm in the evening. I’m not going to go through all these trains now, because it’ll make your head spin, but hopefully I’ll be able to update as we go. We’re certainly going to be grateful for the light-bending talents of Paul Clarke on this leg of the journey.

Do I have anything to say about Zurich? I’ve never been there. I’m sure it’s very tidy. And on?Saturday July 20th, we’ll take a sequence of trains from Zurich to Paris, via?Geneva (City 30) and Lyon (City 31).?While these cities are brilliant in their own way, this is an intake-of-breath day, setting up the final leg of the journey, a final dash to the southernmost and westernmost points of our journey. The fun starts at 10pm on the 20th, at Paris Austerlitz. Join me here tomorrow for the last bit of the journey.

Boilerplate: Find out more about Disorient Express at?GCERC HQ. Follow us on?Facebook,?Tumblr?and?Twitter.


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