Consummate master of the minibar: Alfredo Lopez

Consummate master of the minibar: Alfredo Lopez -

"Coffee, croissants, something sweet!" That's the cry heard on the Bernina Express as the minibar approaches. Alfredo Lopez pushes its 80 kilograms before him, day after day, on his rounds between Chur and Tirano. Everyone breaks out smiling as the lively Peruvian proffers his sweet and savoury temptations.

Just twelve minutes until the train departs: Alfredo Lopez breaks into a sweat – he needs to speed things up. He has just taken up residence in his office compartment and is now heaving water supplies, boxes full of souvenirs and coffee capsules into his little kingdom as fast as they can be passed to him through the small door in the side of the carriage. Before the train leaves Chur, he has time to carefully store everything on his trolley and in the cupboards. The last teabags have been sorted, the cuddly ibexes grin happily from the minibar amidst tempting drinks from the region: pride of place goes to the Grischa Secco, sparkling wine made from local grapes, in its elegant see-through cooler. Alfredo is ready to roll. "First class always comes first – we stick to the way things are done by the airlines."

From the region, for the region

The door to the compartment has barely opened before Alfredo is in full flow. The Peruvian's friendly manner is infectious. In no time at all he has sold ten, twenty coffees – no-one is able to resist the delicious smell. The little nut cakes coated in milk chocolate are also dangerously addictive. Their manufacturer is being kept secret by the new Head of Catering on the Bernina Express, Renato Feurer. He and his team of nine are committed to offering local specialities, reasoning that anyone visiting the Swiss canton of Graubünden wants to try something typical of the region. The nutty biscuits known as 'Totenbeinli' – named for their resemblance to bones – disappear like hot cakes. Alfredo is in his element. He lifts his tray of coffee cups over the heads of the passengers with bravado. Everyone agrees: this coffee tastes delicious.

«Whenever I travel myself, I always buy a coffee from the minibar – and give a tip!»
Alfredo Lopez

Spirits rise the higher the train climbs

The first round of service is over. And Alfredo feels it. A deep breath, a sip of water, then it's on to round two. Shortly before the spectacular spiral turns on the Albula it's time for a drink. And the first thirsty passengers place their order, treating themselves to a bottle of Riesling-Silvaner from local vintner Von Salis. Like the lively quartet comprising Monika Lanz, her father and two neighbours, who are enjoying a day out. They're making the trip to Poschiavo and back, and appreciate Alfredo's cheery, snappy service. They also like the fine wine, served in stylish glasses. Mr and Mrs Steck are likewise full of praise. This is their first time on the Bernina Express and they treat themselves to a glass of Grischa Secco. They will stay overnight at Alp Grüm, where they've already ordered fondue, then head on to Poschiavo and, finally, Tirano. The trip is a present from Beatrice Steck to her husband, a huge model railway enthusiast.

Grand finale armed with souvenirs

Meanwhile, Alfredo is getting ready for one final push. Now it's down to the nitty-gritty – or the souvenirs in his basket, to be precise. "There, look to the right", he says, pointing out of the window. "If you're lucky, you'll see one: an ibex. And if not, I'll bring a lama from Peru with me next time." His humour puts people at ease – and makes them more willing to spend. His best selling item is the ibex – a soft toy that appeals particularly to foreign visitors. Such as two Spanish couples who immortalise themselves in numerous selfies with Graubünden's heraldic animal. And in a more fragile variation, as a miniature in a grappa glass, the horned animal delights Mr and Mrs Reynders, among others. The Flemish couple are hooked and plan to return: next year, for a trip on the Glacier Express.

Short breather before the return journey

Tirano Stazione. Alfredo has wrapped the minibar inside its red cover and mounted it on the trailer that will bring it to the express train, which will set off on the return journey in 90 minutes time. Alfredo takes a breather at the Albergo Bernina, where he knows everyone. The goldsmith from Lima, who once emigrated to Costa Rica, where he met his future wife from Graubünden, loves his job. He was a rail steward for ten years before working for four years in the grocery shop in the station underpass at Chur. But when Renato Feurer called, he was happy to come back on board. The two men know each other thanks to Alfredo's other passion: he DJ's at Renato's local salsa club. And what does he like about his demanding, non-stop job? "I love the contact with people. I couldn't just push my trolley through the train quietly. If the passengers are happy, then I am too," is Alfredo's answer. And it's a believable one. "And I find our new service philosophy, incorporating local products, just great. New ideas come to me all the time," he grins. And dreams, among other things, of an ibex ice lolly.