Just like a dream, I was recently invited by Swiss Tourism, Maison de Voyage and Rock-On Holidays by Thomas Cook India to experience Switzerland in a unique way. While enough has been said and written about the romantic / family vacations of Switzerland our idea was to leave out all the famous / touristy activities and instead explore this country through a new lens i.e. through the eyes and activities of a single budget traveler. Hence our itinerary included all kinds of adventure sports, walks and many new experiences that people normally don’t associate with Switzerland. And I continue my tales from where I left it in my previous post.
We left Interlaken on day 3 and after changing 3 trains and a scenic train ride reached Zermatt. Now Zermatt is a small ski and mountaineering town that is most famous for the majestic “Matterhorn”. It has all the charms of a small, quaint, hilly European town along with all the facilities and activities of any sports town / destination. It is also a car free zone, hence it is traffic noise and pollution free too and you can also walk right in the middle of the streets.
Our trip in Zermatt started on a very good note when we met with our wonderful host, Tanya from Zermatt Tourism and the good luck lasted all through our stay. Tanya planned an awesome itinerary for us, took us around for our entire stay (didn’t run away even I and Sosha behaved like 2 kids on a sugar rush) and patiently answered all our questions. Anyways more on our behavior later 🙂
We started our trip with a general walk around town to get a feel of the place. Since it’s a small town it’s an easy walk everywhere but it’s also hilly and hence leads to occasional panting when you walk uphill :).
We walked through its old parts and saw the old and dark-colored timber houses (some built as long ago as in the 18th century), with flowers on the sill and still standing strong. People still live in here and have preserved / maintained these houses like in the olden days. Some of these houses have been converted into hotel and local bars (meant for the locals and you hardly see any tourists around). As a first impressions, I felt that since this town is small (in area) and has grown more as a tourist destination, it’s quite crowded with narrow lanes and wooden houses closely packed everywhere. But its charming in its own way and I loved the different houses being at different levels (some uphill and some downhill).
We also saw the majestic Matterhorn’s views from here. This peak literally towers over Zermatt and can be seen from various points in the city. When we first reached Zermatt, the peak had decided to don its cloak of clouds and be invisible, but as the day progressed, it decided to take its chances with a peak at us. And when we reached the main viewing point, it came out in all its glory for some fantastic photos. I also loved the picture of the entire town with its beautiful trees in fall colors of rust, gold and red. These colors gave all the local sights a different autumn look all together and showed us why a trip in the winters here should definitely be on every itinerary.
The Matterhorn (in German) is one of the highest peaks in the Alps (its summit is 4,478 metres (14,692 ft) high) and has four steep faces. This was the last Alpine peak to be scaled in 1865 but the successful ascent was marked by a tragedy during the descent, when four of its members fell to their death. Though it is still considered as one of the most dangerous peaks to be scaled, mountaineers still scale this peak. And in 2015 the Matterhorn shall complete 150 years from the first successful scaling, hence there are major plans for celebrations and some restoration and refurbishment work is underway all around it. And as far as we were concerned, we stayed put on the ground and were happy with the very many pictures with it in the background. 🙂
We walked further and reached the centre of the town that has everything around it. We first saw the cemetery, where numerous mountaineers, who died on the Matterhorn, have been buried. Some have interesting epitaphs, beautiful flowers and in some instances – mountaineering equipment around too. We then saw a small Japanese Garden and the local Alpine Museum. Though we didn’t visit the museum, I understand that it has exhibits about mountain ascents, local fauna, the development of Zermatt and its famous visitors. Around the bend is the small English church, with its quaint spire and huge bells. I also loved this local library with its beautiful moons and mistletoes.
We then walked through Zermatt’s main street which had all the high-end boutiques and the local bars and pubs. Most visible here are the numerous sports shops that sell everything related to sports wear and sports gear. After all this is a sports town. 🙂
At the end of this street was our final destination, i.e the natural ice rink. Now except Tanja and in small bits – Jenaifer, no one else in the group had ever tried ice skating and we were super excited. We rented the skates from the shop right across the rink and then went into the changing room to change our shoes. And then we had to walk with those skates on from the room to the rink. While I did manage the walking, skating on ice was another matter all together. Well, in my defense it is not at all as easy as it seems on TV. You need to balance properly on feet and move in a certain fashion. But all in all it was super fun. We spent an hour on the rink between falling and learning and Sosha was the only one who got the complete hang of it in one go. She even managed the circles and the twirls.
By the end of an hour of our skating, it was getting dark so we returned to the hostel for dinner. And post that we decided to walk around Zermatt and check out its night life. We walked up to the ice rink and saw the local ice skating teams practicing, we then went to a local pub, sang and danced on funny Anu Malik songs in the streets of Zermatt and then came across a small local carnival. While generally walking around, we saw a couple of local student bands performing near the train station. We asked them about it and they said that it was a carnival. Though we couldn’t understand much about it, we loved being a part of all the local celebrations and the impromptu music. 🙂 By then it had started getting very cold, hence we decided to return to our hostel.
Overall we had a fantastic day and loved every minute spent here. I ended the day in all excitement of our meeting with the Matterhorn, up close and personal, the next day.
Tips for the Trip –
1. You can check this link for all information on various ways to reach here.
2. There are numerous stay options here and in all kinds of price ranges. We stayed at the Swiss Youth Hostel in Zermatt.
3. Zermatt has numerous things to do based on the season of visit and what you want to do. To plan your own trip you can check this link here.