Switzerland - The Swiss Alps
I’ve been to Switzerland on short trips before like taking the Bernina Express to St. Moritz but never really explored the Swiss Alps. So as soon as international travel was allowed, I booked a trip to Switzerland and planned on exploring the Alps on my own. Sadly, I had not fully recovered from a broken wrist when the time came for my trip, and my doctor advised me not to do any heavy lifting. So, I canceled the independent travel. I rebooked and joined a tour group to let the porters take care of my luggage and the heavy lifting.
Exploring the Swiss Alps had been on my travel radar for a while, so imagine my excitement when we arrived in Zermatt. Zermatt lies at the foot of the Matterhorn. It is a car-free town. And the whole town can be explored on foot in a few hours if you don’t stop at every souvenir shop. Lots of skiers and mountaineers come to Zermatt to stand on the awesome peak at least once in their life. Considering my current physical condition, I was just happy to see and photograph the most famous and beautiful mountain in the world. According to our guide, the peak can be seen from our hotel on a clear day, but the weather situation is pretty predictable. Meaning it’s always shrouded in clouds that our tour guide warned us to always be ready to snap a picture as soon as the sky clears up (if you’re lucky). We walked through the streets bounded by historical wooden houses then ended at the old church. It was supposed to be one of the best vantage points for taking pictures of the Matterhorn. But the peak was shrouded in clouds. From the old church, I walked to the end of the main road. The road ended but a trail to the mountain covered by wildflowers continued on up to the Matterhorn. So, I waited until sunset hoping I could take a picture of the peak not covered by clouds. But the sky never cleared up.
The following day, I took the cogwheel train from Zermatt to Gornergrat. It was a 30-minute ride with few stops along the way so people could hike up or down the mountain from the station. The ride was an experience in itself with views of green and snowy mountains and glaciers, and a glimpse of the Matterhorn peak shrouded by clouds. The train climbed to 3100 meters (10,000 feet) to the viewing platform. It was so cloudy when I arrived at the top that there was nothing to see. It even snowed. The peak was elusive giving it a more dramatic vibe. People cheered when the clouds started to move. The weather situation changed pretty fast and intensive around the Matterhorn. But I was determined to see and take pictures of the whole peak in its splendor, so I lingered for hours. I walked a few yards up to the Kulm Hotel to have lunch. The sky cleared after lunch that I was able to see and take pictures of the Matterhorn from the hotel terrace.
On the way down, I stopped at the Rifferberg station (2582m or 8471 feet above sea level) and hiked down the lake to take pictures of the lake backgrounded by the Matterhorn. The climb back up was hard so I occasionally stopped to take a breather. It was fascinating to see some bright-colored wildflowers growing in the glacial mountain.
Chasing the Matterhorn was exhausting so I went back to the hotel to rest. I was awakened at sunset by the baa-baa-ing of the black/white sheep. When I opened the window, I was pleasantly surprised to see the sunset reflected on the peaks. The following morning, I told the hotel clerk about the peaks I saw from my window. He said it was the Dom, the highest mountain in Switzerland. He handed me a map showing the peaks surrounding Zermatt. My focus had been on the Matterhorn that it did not occur to me that Zermatt was surrounded on all sides by massive peaks including the Dom 4545m, Lyskamm 4533m, Weisshorn 4000m, and of course the Matterhorn 4478m. “How about this” I asked pointing to Monte Rosa (4634m) on the map. He said, “You can’t see it from here, technically it’s the highest peak that can be seen from Switzerland, but it belongs to Italy”. It's hard to believe that I could see the Dom (4545 meters - the highest mountain in Switzerland) from my hotel window.
The Glacier Express to St. Moritz
From Zermatt I took the Glacier Express, said to be the slowest express train in the world. It wound its way through remote valleys, past sheer rock faces, mountain villages, numerous summits, deep gorges and the UNESCO World Heritage site “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch”. The highlight was scaling the highest point at the Oberalp Pass 2033 meters above sea level.
I rode the cogwheel train through the steepest railway in the world to Mount Pilatus near Lucerne. (Maybe I'll save this for another blog)
The View from our hotel
Matterhorn at sunrise
|The Dom at sunset|
All photos by the author