Zermatt – A Weekend Trip

Background

This post is in continuation to my previous post A day trip to Zermatt(Switzerland).In the starting of October 2004, we had covered almost all the popular tourist places in Switzerland. This was the time when parents of one of my colleagues visited Swiss to meet her. That colleague is my wife now so, I can say that my in-laws visited us in Swiss :-)

The overall mood was to cover as much of Swiss as we could. Since we had covered most of the ‘conventional’ places, our Manager suggested Zermatt as not many tourists visit it.

We did some research over Internet and found the place quite interesting. The main attraction there is Matterhorn, one of the most famous Swiss peaks. To add to the town’s charm was the Glacier Express, a train from Zermatt to St. Moritz, that travels between the alps and covers spectacular views. So we decided to spend a weekend in Zermatt.

Started from Geneva

Started very early morning from our apartments in Geneva. After riding a bus and then train and around 4 hour journey, we reached Zermatt around 10am.


Our youth hostel was right next to the station so we checked in and settled our baggage there and confirmed our rooms.

It was Hotel Bahnhof (http://www.hotelbahnhof.com/default.asp), quite decent with very reasonable charges. At the reception we were informed that we could take a cable car to reach Klein Matterhorn. The Klein Matterhorn (3,884 m), the ‘Little Matterhorn’ directly opposite the Matterhorn, is the highest mountain station of the Alps and offers a striking panoramic view. The cable car station is around a kilometer from the station, so we decided to walk.

We crossed the main market and station area which was more modern and entered into the village area. Actually, Zermatt is a village without cars. No personal vehicles are permitted in the village. Electric-cars, horse-drawn sleighs and carriages are the only transport allowed.

After the main market, one starts to get a feeling of modern village. We had breakfast – coffee with some snacks in a local small and cozy restaurant.

Let me tell you one important thing that left quite an impression on me while I was in Switzerland. You generally get a Croissants (a kind of puff) with coffee as a complement and I love Switzerland for this :-). Actually I love their Croissant. So If you are in swiss and ordering a coffee, specially in a tourist place, check for the complementary snacks ;-) Their plain Croissants are awesome! Fresh from the oven, very crispy and cheesy!

After the break, we headed towards the Cable car station.While crossing the beautiful village and getting closer to the cable car station, we got a full view of the mighty Matterhorn peak. That day weather was a little cloudy, so despite trying hard, we couldn’t capture a clear pic of the Matterhorn.

Matterhorn

Arrived and got our tickets from cable car station and started our journey on wires towards one of the most popular peaks of Alps. This peak is at the boundary of Switzerland and Italy and also towers over another village in Italy called Breuil-Cervinia. The cable car does not actually go to Matterhorn but the peak besides it and you can have a very close look at Matterhorn. One has to approach that point changing cable cars station by station.

One more thing that I observed in Switzerland is that the cable cars are not like rope-ways in India. First difference is that cable cars are quite rare in India and in abundance in Switzerland. And the other difference is, in India you hardly get cable car stations in between source and destination and in Switzerland, it is generally as if you are traveling in a train. The cable cars have multiple stations or stops in between. You can get out and take pictures or have coffee and then get on the next cable car to continue the journey. There are stops from where you can get cable cars for multiple destinations.

It took us less than an hour and around 4-5 changes to reach the final point. By this time we realized that we were short of woolen clothes because it was very cold at the top and very very windy. We tried to go out in the snow but it was unbearable outside so we kept coming inside (as it was heated) and going out.

There was an ice cave which was better as there was no wind inside. After hopping in and out for sometime, we needed coffee! One of my colleagues, Ankur Aggarwal was very happy to be there because he loves cold places with negative temperatures. We were shivering and heated our hands on our coffee mugs, while he enjoyed the weather with a can of beer :-)

There is a lift that took us farther up to catch a clearer view of Matterhorn and rest of the peaks. We knew that wind would be much more at greater height, but we went there anyhow and spent few ice cold moments.

Started back towards the base station, took another small break at one of stations in between and clicked some pictures. There we met a German women who told us that she’d covered almost all the peaks in this mountain range by hiking and trekking. We were amazed by her knowledge about this range and her achievements. Left for Zermatt after sometime and reached there by evening.


Evening at Zermatt

By the time we reached the hotel, we were quite exhausted. Having started before dawn from Geneva and being at a height of almost 3900 meters in windy weather had started showing its effect. So we took a quick nap. In the night we went out for dinner. I do not remember the name of restaurant, but it was very cozy and we got our table at the first floor. Some of us started with drinks and then we ordered our main course. Here we had Swiss dishes for dinner. The food in Switzerland is incomplete without cheese and all swiss dishes use some variation of cheese along with veggies/meat/bread. Some dishes that we had and “really” liked:

Foundue: It is Swiss dish, a cheese mix in the pot is kept warm as a semi-liquid into which you can use fork to dip bits of bread or potato and then have them.Fondue is most often warmed either by an alcohol burner or tealight

Raclette: A salted cheese made from cow’s milk. It is heated and them scraped into plates. You can have it with bread, potato and onions dipped in vinegar.

Rosti: Rösti is made with potatoes which are grated and depending on the frying technique, possibly mixed with some butter.

One of the finest dinners I had in Switzerland! After dinner, Shagun along with her parents went to sleep and boys left for a night walk :-)

Night walk

We were curious about the night life in Zermatt,so we browsed the streets for around 1/2 hour. Most of Zermatt was quite at night and we were pleased to see that. We roamed around various places like a snow hockey ground, various closed offices and then there was a place where a wash-basin was turned into a beautiful fountain. It was a big tap at some height that opened in a wash basin with water coming out of it :-). Finally we landed in a pub where some live music program was going on. We enjoyed the music for sometime and had beer there.

Came back to the hotel and had a good night’s sleep.

Glacier Express

Next day’s plan was to spend the whole day in a train called Glacier Express. As the name suggests, the best season to board it is winters. Since winter hadn’t arrived yet, we did not expect great views of snow covered mountains, but overall had a nice experience. The Glacier Express starts from Zermatt (Visp) and then goes till eastern border of Switzerland (St. Moritz). We did not cover the total stretch and went to a place called ‘Chur’ and then took a train back to Geneva.

A weekend well spent :-)

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