Christmas + Switzerland + Rails = Swiss-mas by train

When the snows of winter arrive, they don't stop the trains of Switzerland. In fact, traveling by rail in Switzerland is an ideal time for sightseeing. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

SWITZERLANDDecember 22, 2012 – When Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote “…there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take no matter where it’s going” she must have known about the Swiss Travel System.

No other transportation network in the world is as complete and integrated as Switzerland. (www.mySwitzerland.com) (www.raileurope.com) Federal trains connect with more than 400 private railroads, postal buses, boats, trams, rack railroads, funiculars and cable cars to get travelers where they want to go.

Swiss train with snow plow

Swiss train with snow plow

Swiss trains are like the Energizer Bunny of transportation. They just keep going, and going, and going.

In a country where the economy depends upon the ability to adapt to the awesome magnitude of its mountainous geography, Switzerland has conquered its natural barriers. Tunnels burrow through alpine peaks that become unsurpassable in winter. Some areas even have trains that carry personal vehicles through underground passageways to connect one side of a mountain to another.

Many trains have snowplows attached to the engine so tracks can be easily cleared during blizzard conditions. In Switzerland, trains still operate when the elements don’t cooperate.

Boarding a train in winter is an adventure waiting to happen. Doors close and you are encapsulated in a cocoon where the cacophony of the terminal is suddenly hushed. Choose a window seat and wait. The gift of travel will unwrap itself for you.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the train glides from the station into a realm of glorious white. It is a world where silence has a sound of its own.

Snow dunes pile high on either side of the train. Wisps of miniature droplets of ice swirl past the window. Blankets of untouched crystalline fields gracefully unfold along contours of pristine snow-covered rooftops. Farmhouses and chalets coast silently by ever-changing panoramas.

Rail travel is one of the best ways to reach villages and towns in every corner of Switzerland.

Stein am Rhein

Stein am Rhein, with a population of less than 4,000, is a medieval jewel where Lake Constance becomes the Rhine River. The bay windows (oriels) and painted facades of its half-timbered houses in the historically persevered Old Town leave first-timers in awe and make past visitors return again and again.

Among Stein am Rhein’s most popular attractions is the Benedictine St. George’s Monastery which is nestled along the shores of the Rhine. The monastery with its frescoes and 15th cloister is among the oldest such complexes in Europe.

For the best view of the village, Hohenklingen Castle, built in 1225, is another historical highlight. The fortress has been almost completely restored and is accessible by car or on foot. The donjon, inner courtyard and arcade are free to explore and there is also a romantic restaurant.

RhB train in Switzerland

RhB train in Switzerland

 Arosa

At the meeting point of several alpine passes into Italy, Graubunden’s capital of Chur has long been a center of trade. It is also a link between the Swiss Federal Railways and the Rhaetian Railway (RhB)   

The RhB branch line from Chur to Arosa through breathtaking mountainous scenery is a masterpiece of engineering. The hour-long rail journey arrives at the popular ski area featuring nearly 40 miles of slopes nestled around a storybook village. Horse-drawn sleighs with jingle bell collars add the wintery ambience of this delightfully compact little burg.

In the evening, gauzy halos of light reflect upon silvery streets while inside visitors gather around crackling fires and drink mulled wine or hot chocolate.

With its Gothic Benedictine monastery, Einsiedeln has been a pilgrimage site for centuries. Situated in the Canton of Schwyz about an hour outside of Zurich.

Einsiedeln

Einsiedeln is another destination where the joy of a journey is part of the fun.

Einsiedeln has been famous for the learning and piety of its monks a thousand years. Many saints and scholars have lived there and its library, which is still active today, is one of the great treasures of Switzerland

Einsiedeln's monastery

Einsiedeln’s monastery

Among the attractions in Einsiedeln is the Black Madonna which is carved of wood and painted black. She is said to be five hundred years old and Carl Jung believed she was a manifestation of Isis. It was Jung’s theory that the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln represented a cult that migrated from southern Egypt to the Mediterranean and then spread into Europe.

These are but three of a multitude of treasures that are accessible through the engineering marvels of the Swiss transportation system. Each village is an ideal place for a day trip from a larger base city or for an overnight stay in idyllic surroundings.

Travel by train in Switzerland is a romance of the rails, and winter is frequently overlooked as an ideal season to visit the country.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countriesSuggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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