Day 15: when only Wordsworth will do
My word, yesterday’s post was a bit whimsical, wasn’t it? I should explain why. My mind was dazed by mountains.
Reading back over these posts when I get home, I’m sure a consistent theme will be mountains. Mountains that I wasn’t expecting, mountains as boundaries, mountains as channels for implausible train lines with implausible views. But really all these mountain ranges, be they Carpathian or Julian or Balkan, were warm-up acts for the real thing. So yesterday we spent the entire day on the roof of Europe, in the Alps.
Specifically, the southeastern corner of the Swiss Alps, where the people speak a particularly beautiful tongue which is part German, part Italian and part Gypsy (which turns out to sound liltingly Hungarian). We rode eight different trains yesterday, including the sleeper which brought us into Milan’s dramatically Speeresque central station from Rome.
From Milan we took a train north along the edge of Lake Como. And at Tirano on the Swiss border, we stepped down from our northern Italian suburban train onto something rather special indeed.
The Rhätische Bahn runs a train which climbs up into the Alps from Tirano, and some of its trains affix an open-air carriage to the rear. We had engineered most of the last few days of travelling to get to Tirano at this time for this train, which sounds preposterous. But it was so worth it.
The train pulled away from the station. Then it drove onto the road, and became a tram. Then it turned back onto the railway and became a sky carriage.
Up and up we climbed, leaving Tirano down beneath us. Viaducts and tunnels sped our ascent, and at one point a viaduct performed a complete spiral into the air to raise us a few hundred more feet. We took photos of lakes with green water in them, waterfalls cascading down from the glaciers which were (for now) above us. And then and then and then….
And then words ran out. Paul has, I am sure, taken some spectacular photographs of the Alps, but even the most exquisite two-dimensional plane can’t genuinely reflect the three-dimensional reality of those extraordinary mountains. All I will do here is point you to the Prelude and say that when we arrived in Zurich 12 hours later our minds were wrung out of their potential for awe. We were all used up. An amazing, incredible, indescribable day.
Now we’re approaching the very end of our journey. A dash to Paris, a sleeper to Barcelona, then two days in Iberia before the final journey north. A time to reflect and recharge. But I swear my retina now has jagged peaks burnt into it, because I’ve looked on the Alps, and they’ve looked into me.