Switzerland has no dearth of mountain peaks. Most visitors do the essential – the central Alps around Bernes Oberland – the Jungfrau, Titlis, Eiger, Monch or Pilatus. For the skiing aficionados and diehard travellers there is a lofty gem in the northern part of Switzerland called Zermatt – the picturesque town and home to the legendary Matterhorn. (Remember Toblerone chocolate bar wrapper?)
Not much visible on the popular tourist radar, Zermatt is a unique combination of zen-like quietness and invigorating zing, refreshing your body and soul.
Zermatt has been on our bucket list for quite some time and after the awful hiatus of two years at home, courtesy Covid 19, we headed to Switzerland and yes, to Zermatt.
Few words about the legendary Matterhorn before I narrate our experience: Meaning “the peak in the meadows”, the four-sided Matterhorn peak owes its name to its near-perfect pyramid shape rising majestically over 4500 meters above sea level and in perfect isolation overlooking the Alpine glaciers. Matterhorn is both revered and admired by the locals as the guardian angel of Zermatt town. Hundreds of diehard skiers, power hikers and mountaineering experts hike to Matterhorn every year – definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Having spent about 10 days in the Lauterbrunnen valley, the last leg of our vacation was reserved for Zermatt. An hour and half train journey from Interlaken took us to Visp, where our connecting train – the famous Glacier Express panorama train – was to arrive in 7 minutes. On dot the Glacier Express pulled in (Swiss punctuality!) and we started our 45 minutes’ scenic ride. Approaching Zermatt on the train on the zig-zag, uphill ride between lofty mountains, it’s impossible not to be awed by the sheer beauty of the Matterhorn rising above its fellow Alps.
Zermatt, like Murren, is also a car-free town except for battery-operated e-taxis/mini vans to take people and baggage. The town itself is so quiet with conspicuously less tourist presence. It is also incredibly clean for the same reason.
A short ride on the e-taxi took us to our apartment Haus Les Mélèzes perched little high on a slope in five minutes. The owner Silvia is a wonderful host, who came within minutes of our self-check-in and gave every useful information to get around the town.
Spacious and well-furnished, the two-bedroom apartment had everything you could ask for! The icing on the cake was the spacious balcony from where we could see the Matterhorn -tall, impressive and numbingly beautiful glowing in the afternoon sunlight.
We quickly made some hot coffee and sat at the balcony watching the Matterhorn changing its colours from pure white, yellow and gold as the afternoon passed by.
After a quick shower we dressed up for a short scroll. The water in the apartment was crystal clear. We later learnt that the water from the Matterhorn glaciers flows through crystalline rock such as gneiss and granite before reaching downstream to Zermatt town and has the unique quality of making your hair silky soft!
Walked down to the centre of the town through the charming cobblestone streets lined with flowers of all hues and colours, appreciating its century-old barns, chocolate-coloured wooden chalets and the tiny bridges over the river Matter Vispa that runs through the town. The river water was stunningly white obviously because it’s the glacial water! And we could catch breath-taking views of the Matterhorn, towering majestically above the town, as we walked along.
Bought some essentials at the Migros supermarket and returned.
Made some quick dinner and went back to the balcony with a bottle of mulled wine and Zermatt’s own raclette cheese. The night was bit cold yet tolerable. The Matterhorn, by this time, has turned to stunning blue in the backdrop of star-studded sky and the moonlight. It was simply mind blowing.
We could also see a cute little church embedded in the thick forest of the Alps glowing in darkness. Sweaters on, we enjoyed our drink and the hot dinner and went to bed to get ready for our next day’s adventure.
To be continued….