Many years before we took this trip through Switzerland, we had read an article about Zermatt, nestled near the top of the Swiss Alps and gateway to the Matterhorn. The village is at an elevation of “only” 5,310 ft, but it lies in the foothills of the Matterhorn, which looms above Zermatt at 14,692 ft. We talked about going over the Christmas holidays, when the area is all buried in snow. It sounded very romantic. No roads lead to Zermatt; it is only accessible by train. We also read that there were no cars there, which isn’t true. There were motorized carts, to be sure, but also small electric vehicles, such as the police van seen near the end of the photos. Combustion engines are prohibited. Horses with carriages are also utilized for transportation. Before we arrived we were looking forward to walking around a city and not having to be concerned about traffic. But we realized soon after arriving that you needed to be more concerned about the traffic, as it moved just as fast, but was silent.
But the train ride up into the mountains…Wow! What a feast for our eyes! We passed through little villages (such as St. Niklas, shown near the end), and saw so many gorgeous mountain scenes. The second photo is one of the scenes from the train.
The village of Zermatt wasn’t as small as we thought it would be…it has been built up because people want to ski the Matterhorn, which is what it is all about. We visited from October 4-6, 2014, and yes, there was snow on the Matterhorn, and people were skiing throughout our stay. The town was bustling. It is as expensive in Zermatt as the rest of Switzerland….one of the lunch specials was a burger and beer for 20 Swiss francs, which was equal to about US $20. Commonly, dinner entrees are $40-60. They are way out of control! Even McDonald’s items cost quite a bit higher here than in the US, where hamburger combos, with fries and a drink, are $6-8. Here, they were $10-14. A no-frills pedicure was $60.
The first, third, and fourth photos are of the mighty Matterhorn. It is hard to take pictures in Zermatt and NOT also capture the great mountain. One day we just hiked for several hours through the foothills just outside of town, and it was green, warm, and quite pastoral. Window boxes were jammed with pretty flowers. In the next-to-last photo, you can see the appetizer to one memorable dinner: Swiss fondue. It was heavenly, served with bread, veggies, and apples. Switzerland is a cheese lover’s paradise. Besides the famous fondue, we also enjoyed a cheese dish they invented called raclette, usually served melted in a small skillet. The bread and veggies are served on the side. We have come across raclette a few more times in other places and have usually ordered it when we had the opportunity.
And the last photo is one of our very favorites after many years of travel. It was a sign in a small rotisserie chicken takeout restaurant, owned by a very crusty woman who spoke quite bluntly and sharply. But she relaxed as we talked, and our last impression of her was that she was actually very kind. Making a living in a tourist town with at least 100 restaurants is difficult. Many of the restaurants still had their outdoor decks open, with views of the Matterhorn as we dined. It was in the mid-70s, a very pleasant time of year. The shops were full, and several coffee shops with outrageous-looking desserts always seemed to be crowded. Not really the quiet getaway we had imagined, but so pretty. So Alpine. So Swiss.