Originally published 22 December , 2015
We arrive at the Gornergrat station and hotel
We got up this morning around 8 a.m. It doesn't get light much earlier than that and the mountains cast a very long shadow. While light a little after 8, we didn't see the sun until later in the day. Tall mountains and deep valleys do that.
We had breakfast at the hotel, which was standard Swiss fare, cheeses, meats, fresh bread, etc. We went next door the Co-op (the largest Swiss grocery store chain) and bought sandwiches for our lunch. We're usually on the fly and don't want to sit down for a long lunch. It's also a great way to save a bunch of money each day. The sandwiches are fresh made every morning and quite good.
One thing that is different is that the Co-op shopping carts have magnifying glasses on them so you can read the small print on stuff......seriously. As someone who doesn't see as well as he used to......I kinda like that. Other than that they are very similar to American grocery stores, but the quality is usually very high.
The Gornergrat cogwheel train
We cross the street to the train station and use our Swiss travel pass to secure a ticket up the mountain on the shuttle train. The pass covers the cost of these. You just show it at the ticket booth and they hand you a ticket. We wander over, board the train, and head up the mountain towards the town of Zermatt.
We pull into the station in Zermatt and quickly realize it is a hoppin' place! There are lots of people, little electric buses, all walking and zipping around. We don't hang out in town, but plan to do that later in the day. We cross the street to the Gornergrat Bahn (bahn means railroad). It is rather pricey to go up on the cog wheel railroad (around 75 bucks per person), but our travel pass allows a 50 percent discount, so it wasn't that bad.
The train begins to climb out of town. We were very lucky today as the weather was crystal clear, with no fog, rain, or clouds in the mountains, which make for glorious views. As we come up we start seeing clear views of many of the mountains, especially the Matterhorn. The higher we go, the clearer the view. We clear the tree line and it is all open and unobstructed. The view is so incredible it defies description.
View from the Gornergrat Hotel
I step off the train looking straight at THE Matterhorn. A discussion comes to my mind that I had with Dr. Stinson, the vice president of our "department" at the university before I left. We grew up around 30 miles from each other, way up in the coalfields and mountains of southwest Virginia. She was heading to Australia for Christmas and I to Switzerland. We marveled at how far we both have come. We have.
My favorite movie is "The secret life of Walter Mitty", not surprisingly a movie about travel and adventure. One line said by the main character while climbing a mountain was "I have to make oxygen choices." I get it now. After just a few minutes off the train and walking, we become acutely aware of how the thinner air at over 10000 feet affects our bodies.
We both were a little light headed and just felt.....odd. We somewhat expected this and took it slow and easy. We walked slow and took a lot of breaks. By the end of our day on the top of the mountain, we had acclimated and were feeling much better.
We take photos, marvel at the view, and stop at the hotel for coffee. It is unusually warm and we sit out on the patio, at tables with linen, silverware, and blankets for your legs. I have a latte and Laurie has hot chocolate. We enjoy our drinks with an amazing landscape canvas in front of us.
We had coffee here......with the best coffee house view on the planet
After finishing our coffee/hot chocolate, we head up a path that takes you a couple of hundred feet higher. You look down on the hotel (which has two observatories), the train station, and all the mountains behind them. We take it all in, take photos, and look at a minimum of six glaciers, maybe more. We head down and stop at the hotel. In the bottom of the hotel is a little shopping mall, and we bought a few souvenirs.
After souvenir shopping, we decide it is time to head back down the mountain. We get off the train at one of the stops along the way and have another coffee out on their patio. It was so nice sitting out in the sun, enjoying the fantastic vistas before us. We watched the kids ski school, and walked through the snow back to the train. We boarded and rode into town.
Zermatt is an intense place, way up in the Alps. Lots of people, very expensive, lots of stores, and no gas powered vehicles. They have these little electric buses and taxis. Don't be fooled, there is plenty of traffic and we saw several near misses where we thought there would be collisions but surprisingly there were not. They all drove like escaped lunatics. We continued our walk through town, ever vigilant, not wanting to become road pizza to an electric bus.
We wandered the town for a few hours, winding up in a cigar bar on the main street. We sat on the outside balcony with overhead heaters and blankets and had our cigars and beer while watching the people pass. We met a couple from Chicago named Luke and Laura (no...seriously soap opera fans) and we chatted quite a while. They were visiting for Christmas and had family in the area. Meeting them and chatting with them was a great end to our Zermatt visit.
Relaxing on a bar balcony in Zermatt
We headed back through town towards the train. I stopped in a souvenir shop which had a bargain basement! I bought a cool hat for less than ten bucks! Score! Then we got back on the train for the ten minute ride down the mountain to Tasch, where we were staying. For the record, we were staying in Tasch because Zermatt made NYC and San Francisco look cheap.
After arriving back in Tasch, we picked a place for dinner and had a very good meal of local dishes, then back to the hotel. We have to pack tomorrow and we move....this time to a place called Murren in another part of the Alps.
A favorite quote of mine seems very fitting today. It is from the movie Jeremiah Johnson.
Bear Claw Chris Lapp: You've come far pilgrim.
Jeremiah Johnson: Feels like far.
Bear Claw Chris Lapp: Were it worth the trouble?
Jeremiah Johnson: [pause, then grunts] What trouble?
What trouble indeed. Goodnight everyone.
Zermatt/Matterhorn slide show
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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