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Time for a little more beauty in the world….

I write this with crossed fingers (a feat!) since we’re travelling again tomorrow AND have NZ friends arriving at the end of the week, which doubles the risk of tempting the weather gods … but… since the end of June when we arrived, the weather hIMG_7280_1as been consistently gorgeous.

So that means heading for the mountain passes.  Last week, it was a circle that took us over the AlbulaPass, up the Bernina, down through the Val di Livigno in  Italy, and back over the Fluëlapass.   Two cars, six friends, and a bottle of bubbly for a ritual toast on the top of somewhere that seemed to require it.

The AlbulaPass road was new to Mani and me… but, we’d been that way before, on the Alpine Express in 2010.

From the train, you’re in awe of the scenery.  From the road, you’re in awe of the engineering of the railway!

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Vaulting viaducts, on sweeping curves…  The Rhaetian Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Some  lovely stats ( for those for whom stats are lovely…).  When they were designing the section from Preda to Bergün, the engineers worked on the basis of a 3.5% gradient  (about 1:29).  Steam trains could manage that, without going to a rack and pinion type system, which limits the number of carriages  (think the Rimutaka track pre-tunnel).

So – the whole design maintains that gradient by using cork-screws. Think the Raurimu Spiral plus!  Imagine five curved helical and spiral tunnels, nine viaducts, and, for safety’s sake, an avalanche gallery.  The whole design takes 12.5 kilometres of track, to cover a crow’s flight of 6 kilometres.   And… bless Robert Moser and his team of engineers, they also designed with the scenery in mind, to give passengers the best views they could.  The result – something that’s beautiful to look out from – and lovely to look at from the road.

Rail above, road below

Rail above, road below

From the Alpine Express, Spring 2010

From the Alpine Express, Spring 2010

From Alpine Express, Spring 2010

From Alpine Express, Spring 2010

Filisur Station - the bells behind clang most startlingly!

Filisur Station – the bells behind clang most startlingly!

I think, from here, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Typical Engadine building decoration

Typical Engadine building decoration

Villages are  constant reminder of a low/no traffic past.

Villages are constant reminder of a low/no traffic past.

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In a week or so, the pass road will be closed for a day to alllow the farmers to bring the cows down from these summer pastures to their barns for winter.

In a week or so, the pass road will be closed for a day to allow the farmers to bring the cows down from these summer pastures to their barns for winter. In some places, this is done with great ceremony  – processions of cows, goats, farmers and children in traditional gear…

The cars are left here at the top of the Albula by day-trampers. The cows don't care.

The cars are left here at the top of the Albula by day-trampers. The cows don’t care.

Everywhere, cyclists.  This guy's not even wearing a helmet

Everywhere, cyclists. This guy’s not even wearing a helmet

Everywhere, roadworks. It's a summer rush job, before the winter freeze.

Everywhere, roadworks. It’s a summer rush job, before the winter freeze.

Bernina Glacier

Bernina Glacier

Tracking the retreat - and bringing peopple face to face with "an inconvenient truth"

Tracking the retreat – and bringing people face to face with “an inconvenient truth”

See the railway line?  That's where the glacier came to in 1850

See the railway line? That’s where the glacier came to in 1850

Bernina Pass

Bernina Pass

Livigno - over a pass, and a low-key border post - and into a totally different style of architecture.

Livigno – over a pass, and a low-key border post – and into a totally different style of architecture.

The small Livignon cat wonders (a) if its camouflage is working and (b) if it can really leap as far as its imagination goes.

The small Livignon cat wonders (a) if its camouflage is working and (b) if it can really leap as far as its imagination goes. The sparrows think not!

The Val di Livigno must be a motor-home-magnet. So many, at every turn.

The Val di Livigno must be a motor-home-magnet. So many, at every turn. But happily, they were sticking to the valley and leaving the pass roads to us (and the cyclists).

Top of the Fluëlapass - time for the ritual bubbly

Top of the Fluëlapass – time for the ritual bubbly

But nothing can dampen a celebration of, and in, the mountains...

But nothing can dampen a celebration of, and in, the mountains…

Couldn't the Manawatu Gorge do with an Avalanche Gallery like this?

Couldn’t the Manawatu Gorge do with an Avalanche Gallery like this?

And the last word…    Livigno is a duty-free enclave in Northern Italy.   So the trip was reviewed in the proper style a day or two later.   The cognac from Hungary is empty.   The cherry brandy we made at the start of this season is sinking.  And the Grappa from Livigno  –  aaah… that was very fine.  We may have to go back for more (and more of the gorgonzola too).

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