Our flight to Zurich departed Newark at 7 pm, which put our arrival into Zurich at 9 am local time. While I sometimes prefer to sit on the left side of the aircraft (left side when facing the cockpit) for a chance to capture stars or have glimpse at the northern lights, I noticed that our flight path would actually not take us that far north. I therefore chose a seat on the right hand side of the aircraft for sunrise views of the Alps as we landed in Zurich.
The flight was fairly uneventful and sleepless for me because of the constant snoring of a nearby passenger (cough) and a ridiculously high amount of adrenaline rush from finally going to Switzerland in the winter. I was so excited to photograph some wintry landscapes that I was literally shaking in my boots (yes I actually wore boots onto the flight, not a great decision).
About 20 minutes before landing it became quite apparent why I had chosen to sit on the right hand side of the aircraft. The views of the Alps as the sun rose were nothing short of spectacular. The mountains were absolutely towering over a sea of low clouds formations.
As the sea of clouds parted, we began to see glimpses of the Swiss countryside and outskirts of Zurich. The views already made this a great start to the trip.
We were at the gate shortly after landing at Zurich Airport and made our way to the immigration hall. This was where I had my first heart attack. The lady trying to let me into Switzerland, couldn’t find a single empty page to stamp my passport. She looked a bit frustrated that I hadn’t checked my passport to see if I had enough pages before I left the US. Smiling, she kept flipping through and finally found a space amidst some other Swiss entry stamps. She looked up and told me to get a new passport if I wanted to come back to Switzerland because these were the last two spaces in my passport. She would have to send me back next time if I didn’t have pages left. Breathing a sigh of relief, I headed for the arrivals hall where our bags were already on the carousel.
After picking up our bags, we headed straight to the rental car facility, which happens to be inside the mall attached to Zurich Airport. Check-in for the Hertz rental car was an absolute breeze and I was even upgraded to a intermediate/full size diesel SUV because of my Hertz Gold 5 Star Status (that was a first).
Popping our bags in the trunk, we began to make our way to St. Moritz and the Bernina Pass, our first destinations on this trip.
We were absolutely pumped full of adrenaline for the initial one hour of our drive out of Zurich. Even though we didn’t see any snow inside Zurich, we were anticipating seeing quite a bit of it as we approached the Alps. If you would like to checkout some neat drone footage and photography video check out my video below from my vlog (please comment/like/subscribe) if you have a moment.
About 90 minutes into our journey and a rerouting which took us onto some local roads, the scenery started to become truly magnificent in a surprising way. The rolling meadows at the foot of the Alps were almost as green as ever. There was a little sign of snow or the grass turning brown in color. Go figure, the grass is greener on the other side (well atleast where Switzerland is concerned). We made our first stop near the town called Obstalden, where we decided to capture a few images as the light shined through.
After our brief pit stop we got back on the highway to speed up our progress toward St.Moritz. We didn’t end up getting very far because we spotted this castle off the side of the road with a magnificent alpine backdrop and the Swiss flag flying high in the wind.
The lack of pull offs in Switzerland is both a gift and an annoyance. While it keeps traffic moving, it also completely discourages roadside photography. We pushed on through some insanely beautiful scenery until we started feeling the effects of jet lag and a night of little sleep. And so we did the only logical thing, stopped at a Burger King in Chur and indulged ourselves in a fabulous veggie burger. I’m not kidding when I say “fabulous” because this veggie burger is both flavorful and filling. I will absolutely HATE the day it is replaced by the flavorless, “Impossible” burger in Europe. I don’t think fast food chains will ever understand the plight of vegetarians.
After brunch, we walked across the street to the Co-Op in Chur to grab some energy drinks and Swiss Chocolate. Always remember to buy your drinks and chocolates at Co-Op stores because that’s where they have the best selection and prices.
We were almost at the start of the Julier Pass when we realized that getting to St. Moritz was a pipe dream given our state of sleeplessness. We had already driven close to 200km on about 1 hour of sleep. Placing safety first, we guided our car towards the Airbnb we had booked in Alvaneu, Switzerland (a couple of miles away). We didn’t make it down the road very far before seeing a village which seemed like it came straight out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Yeah I know I obsess and make too many LOTR references, but somehow this village reminded me of Edoras rising over the plains of Rohan with the mountains as the backdrop.
It turns out that walking outside in the brisk but mild winter weather recharged our batteries. So we decided to head deeper into the valley to scout out some landscape locations. What we found in the valley was something straight out of Narnia from the opening sequences of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Light fades fairly fast in the winter, so we only had time for a few shots before the golden hour light was gone and it got really cold. Happy with our day’s photos we headed to our Airbnb in Alvaneu which happened to be a bed and breakfast. That pretty much wraps up a rather hectic day of driving, but the winter wonderland we found at the end was certainly reason enough for making the trek.
It wasn’t a very good idea to drive 250km after a 9 hour transatlantic flight in economy, but the experience was really worth it just for those couple of images we got. Do I think we did this drive in the ideal conditions? Probably not. But if you were to do it when it had snowed recently, I can’t see this drive being anything short of out of this world (it already is magnificent as it is).
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Happy Weekend! Hope everyone is warm and cozy in their homes this Friday evening getting ready for Super Bowl/AusOpen finals weekend. Winter is almost over, and before we know it the winterscapes will be gone and replaced with bright green meadows and lush green trees. This image was again taken in a valley in the Albula Alps, this may or may not be one of my favorite images from my recent trip to 🇨🇭. Let me know your thoughts 🙂 #bealpha #yourshotphotographer @visitswitzerland @myswitzerland
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Winter in Switzerland: Our Stunning Drive from Zurich to St. Moritz (almost)