The weather was looking good last weekend so we bundled up and headed for the Matterhorn. Our host had told us that this was the must-see-and-experience of Switzerland, so we were keen to get there. As it happened, the weather was more than good and locals compared it to a summer weekend.
We drove up through Valais and caught a train to Zermatt, the no-car village below the mountain where we found that our apartment had a direct view of the Big M itself (well done Mountain Peter!), and Sunday saw us jumping in and out of the various cable cars which eventually took us to the very top. We were surrounded by people from everywhere – French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American, Swiss….. – all keen to enjoy the final weekend of the summer season, and many there to ski.
The top! The panorama was 360 deg. and with the day as clear as crystal, we enjoyed what was for me the best view of mountain tops I have seen.
Later in the day, having cabled our way down again, we caught a furnicular train up another stretch to Gornergratt. This is a single large hotel about a century old, which sits alone above the snowline looking across to the Matterhorn and its companions. It is clearly a model for The Grand Budapest Hotel (Ralph Fiennes et al., 2013-ish?), though someone had some money for this one, and we found an internal world there of restaurants and large terraces full of people eating food described in expensive menus. The temptation to stay was strong, but we had committed further, and forced ourselves to leave its warmth and comfort to explore the walking tracks down the mountain.
It was heading for sunset as we began, so the light had a subtle glow about it, but what was more than special was the silence. We had mountains all about us, some with snow and some very bare and rocky, and just a few people about. Otherwise, no wind, no birds ….just us, walking. A completely fabulous and memorable moment.
Day 2 found us driving down from Zermatt/Tosch and heading for Interlaken and its adjacent valleys. We’d been there on one of our first European adventures many years ago, but now, with more experience, we were still amazed by the classic beauty of this area.
However before we arrived, we had a different tunnel experience from the usual (there are many, many tunnels in Switzerland). We were to go through particular long tunnel under the Jung-Frau and we eventually found the entrance, but wondered why this one seemed so complicated.
Stop. Pay a big toll. Wait in a queue. Follow everyone over a fairly rattly bridge. Stop again. Turn off the engine while parked in a very narrow alley still on the rattly bridge. It took us a couple of minutes to realise that we were actually on a train which would take us through the tunnel, and as it started we found ourselves in complete darkness for an indefinite (for us) period of time. Ho hum! What had we got ourselves into?
Suddenly, though, after about 20 minutes, we emerged and found ourselves in the sort of classical Swiss valley that they make sure are on all the posters: gorgeous green pastures, villages everywhere, mountains on both sides, cows (of course!), pretty, pretty…… It is another version of Swiss beauty, a little more intensely ‘Swiss’ than the farmlands nearer to Lausanne, and the high mountains we have also experienced…. and it went on for miles until we reached the lake, Thunsee, another beautiful sight.
Then to Interlaken. It was gorgeous to look out of the hotel window and see the beautiful mountains, and watch the paragliders jumping off the mountains to the greens in the town, with the rain showers making it all glisten in the afternoon sun. For me it was the sort of beauty I love and can relax in, so it was a perfect final overnight as we enjoyed the great hotel and a bit of the town before heading up the valley.
Lauterbrunnen is known to many, as it is one of the enchanting villages up the valley from Interlaken, through which the train takes you up to the Jung-Frau and the Eiger, and it includes some stunning walking trails. This time we drove and firstly enjoyed a coffee in the crisp air outside a homely cafe in the main street overlooking the village.
Later, we went exploring at the waterfall, and again around through the village and the cemetery where the local gardener was renewing the gardens at the graves (I love the way the German people look after the graves so beautifully).
The weather was closing in with snow imminent, so we did not walk too much, but caught the cable car up to Murren for a better view. Wow again!
It was a shame to leave as we knew that the snow would be lovely to enjoy, but with no winter tyres on yet, we could not risk our host’s BMW (!!!) and took the route back through Valais to our warm and cosy home in Lausanne. It had, however, been a significantly good weekend!
** Valais is a long river valley, surrounded by mountains, through which runs the Rhone river (with ^ of course!), which then flows into the top end of Lake Geneva.