3 October 2023

Across the great divide

Milan to Zurich.....

Across the great divide,
Just grab your hat, and make that ride.....

The Band

Know what?  If I had to choose (forgive me  this irrelevance).....  If I had to choose between the Duomo di Milano and a Howlin' Wolf concert.  It would be hard....  

But the Wolf is gone.....  (He was wonderful - I saw him in Lancaster in about 1971.....)

But Milan Cathedral is washed in the light of the dying sun and, if you throw in an aperitif in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, as the planet tips toward night, maybe I might veer towards the urban.

Milan is frightfully trendy.  All the young men wear sharp blue suits, open neck shirts and shiny shoes with no socks.  The women wobble on extremely high heels, are draped in shapely dresses or short skirts and flimsy tops, all upstaged by gold chains and designer purses.  And everybody seems to be drinking flutes of Prosecco.....

I quaff a large Campari (the wrong drink for Milan), find myself a place to eat risotto alla Milanese and osso buco, then retire to my shabby fourth floor hotel.

The night is then shattered by a violent thunderstorm, but in the fresh morning I breakfast on a spremuta, a cappuccino and a cornetto alla crema in the Mercato Centrale, under the edges of Milano Centrale, the largest railway station in Europe.

Two and a half hours later, after a ride along the shores of Lake Como, I arrive in Tirano, where tagliatelle con ragu di cervo and verdura alla griglia with Valtellina wine at the Trattoria Gagin revive me.  

It's a fine little town at 429 metres above sea level in the foothills of the Alps. Friendly and unpretentious, surrounded by mountains, but seriously historical, I look down towards the south from my terrace:

And up towards the north:

I then take refuge, after an aperitif with Rinata, in the Vineria di Andreotta Filippo, where calice of superb wines are accompanied by plates of tasty nibbles sufficient to pass for supper.....

In the morning I board the Bernina Express at 08.06 and set off for the Bernina Pass at 2,253 metres. 

This railway, completed in 1920, links Italy with Switzerland and forms a part of the 384 kilometre narrow gauge Rhaetian Railway network.  Not far out of Tirano we circle the Brusio Viaduct, returning over our tracks in a stunning trick to beat the altitude.

Although this journey might perhaps be enhanced by the snows of winter, the scenery is spectacular (even if on this particular day the light isn't great).  Looking back down at the Lago di Poschiavo I wave farewell (for the time being) to Italy, and we zig and zag on further up the mountains.

At Alp Grüm, at 2091 metres, we stop for twenty minutes while the crew take coffee in the bar, and we admire the scenery, looking up towards the Vadret da Palü glacier, here obscured by clouds (and perhaps shrinking as we stand and stare....)

The highest point is Ospizio Bernina, at 2,253 metres. This is Lago Bianco, and here the language changes from Italian to Engadin Romansch and German and the waters now drain towards the Danube and the Black Sea as we begin to slip down to the north.

At Morteratsch we can appreciate what a glacier really looks like, grinding down the mountain, still enormously powerful even in its dying throes....

And then it really is all downhill.  Not that it is unattractive, but it is a bit of an anticlimax.  I change trains at Chur, taking a table in the restaurant car of the DB express to Zurich, treating myself to lentil and sausage soup and a bottle of Helles as we cruise alongside the lake.  It is a sunny Sunday, and the shores are busy with Swiss citizens doing absolutely nothing....

The city, the largest in Switzerland, straddles the Limmat, and is lively, with the cobbled streets of the old town busy with both Swiss and tourists doing nothing.... I take a beer in the Zeughauskeller, where some kind of heavy machine gun sits atop the main entrance.

Then, a little later, I manage to get a table in Zum Kropf, an ornately decorated restaurant/beer hall dating back to the fifteenth century. An Augustiner K'Salat, a couple of Ambers and an Apfelkuchli and it's nearly time for bed.....

She's gone, but I don't worry:
I'm sitting on top of the world.

Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon

(as sung by)
Chester Burnett
aka Howlin Wolf


  1. What a journey supported, as usual, by some amazing photos.

  2. Simply stunning!