Glacier Express: pure pleasure for eyes and palate
The Glacier Express – the cult train for railway fans – travels from the Matterhorn to Piz Palü and St. Moritz. Admittedly there are quicker ways to reach the Upper Engadin, but none more beautiful. Alpine landscapes seem to glide past the train’s panoramic windows on this pleasure trip. You can also enjoy fine food and drink. Head waiter Thayan Sellathurai, is one of the many staff looking after the wellbeing of passengers.
Born in Sri Lanka, Thayan Sallathurai has been working as head waiter on the Glacier Express for three years. The 43-year-old has lived in Switzerland for almost two decades and has always worked in the gastronomy sector. He lives in Chur and will return there after the train trip to St. Moritz. Today he starts work at 10.00h, and after returning home can enjoy the evening with his son from about 20.00 h.
By the time the train reaches Chur, Thayan Sellathurai has already completed most of his duties, because guests seldom ask for hot meals on the second half of the journey. “People mostly order smaller items such as a plate of cheese or an afternoon snack, cake and coffee or just a drink,” says the head waiter.
Who gets out when and where?
Once passengers have studied the menu and order lunch, it’s all systems go for the kitchen and service staff. Thayan Sellathurai first discusses the gastronomic situation with the head chef. Then he finds out the guests’ culinary preferences and if they have dining vouchers. If so he collects these and passes on the orders. “The most important task is to find out who will be leaving the train during the journey and where,” he says. This is the only way to ensure that guests have enough time to enjoy their meal without feeling rushed. “Once I’ve got an overview, I can organize a reliable service sequence.” The head waiter then deploys staff in the individual carriages as needed.
Mastering unforeseen circumstances
It can happen that groups board the train without prior reservation. “It’s easy to understand that they suddenly feel hungry and want to eat when they see what we have to offer,” he admits. The available time then has to be taken into account when deciding which meals it is possible to serve. If requests can’t be met, then as head waiter, Sellathurai has to find the right words to console the disappointed guest. It is also an on-board custom to, at the very least, enquire at each table if the guest has enjoyed the meal and was satisfied with the service.
With his calm, composed manner, Thayan Sellathurai is able to deal masterfully with such unforeseen situations during the trip. “I always enjoy meeting different people and talking to them during my work. I have new encounters every day,” says the head waiter. What the man from Sri Lanka finds particularly fascinating are the four seasons, which for him always turn the journeys on board the Glacier Express into extraordinary occasions – however, with one slight reservation. The unique railway engineering on the Albula section presents him with major challenges. “There are so many curves that I sometimes have trouble keeping my balance while serving.”
Glacier Express – the ultimate in Swiss railway tradition
Zermatt – St. Moritz, Zermatt – Davos, Zermatt – Chur
91 tunnels, 291 bridges
Zermatt 1600 m, Visp 650 m, Oberalppass 2033 m, Chur 585 m, St. Moritz 1775 m
Depending on route, approx. 5.5 to 8 hours
Views of mountain summits, passes, steep rock faces, forests, lakes, gorges, bizarre rock formations, plains, mountain villages, glaciers, eternal ice.
May to October
Mid-December to mid-May
Glacier Express trains do not operate from the beginning of November to 10 December
between CHF 113 and CHF 145 (2nd class) and CHF 198 and CHF 254 (1st class)
Half-fare Card, SBB Travel Card, children to age 5 free, to age 16, 50%.
Menu of the day CHF 30, 3-course menu CHF 43, fresh regional produce
At your seat and in the dining car, between approx. 12.00 and 15.00 h (depending on season)
Freshly prepared specialities Nostalgic dining car: From Zermatt to Davos (reservations recommended)