Upon disembarking from the Glacier Express at Zermatt, our Hotel shuttle was waiting for us at the station, and within a matter of minutes the electric vehicle speedily delivered us to our Hotel. Zermatt is promoted as being a carless town….. and yes this is true. But by goodness there are an awful lot of these electric vehicles buzzing to and fro about the place, and whenever we were walking about I found it to be a constant requirement to keep ones wits about them as these “quiet” little vehicles seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere as they literally seemed to own the place. All the same, it is a pleasure to be able to walk so freely about the township knowing that to some extent people still had the right of way.
We loved Zermatt. It’s quaint and small, easy to get around, and even though the snow was piled up everywhere and quite a few of the streets had turned to slush and ice, it just seemed to have a genuinely cosy feel about it. We found that souvenirs were well priced compared to some other cities we had visited and we made a few different purchases for the family back home while we were there. For a long time now, as we have travelled to different places around the globe, I have always attempted to purchase a key-ring from every place we visit. They are small, easy to pack, and hang nicely on my office wall back home as a small memento of the places we have travelled. I try to find something a little different or uniquely specific to the location if I can, rather than just purchasing your typical “generic” garden variety. Not always possible of course, but we try. This just helps to make my collection a little more varied and a little more interesting. So I was pretty happy to find that Zermatt seemed to have a reasonable variety of key-rings rather than just the usual one or two at most.
We had booked a room with a view of the Matterhorn, and early on our first morning we pulled back the blinds to reveal a glorious view of snow covered buildings and streets, but nothing but clouds surrounded the mountains and of course the Matterhorn as well. However, as we sat there watching the cloud formations come and go, suddenly there it was in all its majesty and glory, and it felt like we could almost reach out and touch it, it was so close. Surely there was no better Hotel view anywhere on earth.? Watching it was mesmerising. We have not had the heart to turn the television on since. (True story)
While we were on the Glacier Express, we were able to pre-purchase tickets to Gornergrat (available for use on any day we chose) and so rather than have to queue up the following day, we were able to just pick our time and walk straight past the queues and be waiting in line the moment the doors opened. We deliberately chose the 12:24pm train as the forecast seemed to indicate that the skies would clear about this time of the day and this offered our best chance of having a clear view once we climbed out of the valley. The ride did not disappoint in terms of view, and I worked my camera over time trying to capture both video and photos.
It’s always difficult taking pictures through a train window and the reflections are a nuisance of course. In general, I have found that video works better than still shots. This is because when viewing a moving picture, it is easier to visually and psychologically place oneself in the position of the lens, and even if there is some reflection it seems reasonable and expected because your mind and eyes adjust to the awareness of the physical surroundings in which the moving picture has been taken. But window reflection in a still photo is just annoying and nothing else. But, sometimes there’s always that shot you just have to attempt, and I have generally found that by pressing the camera lens hood close to the window itself in a dark area of the window that doesn’t have too much reflection, and then tilting/angling the lens in order to get the best shot (looking at the camera screen, and not through the viewfinder) has worked for me reasonably well in most cases. I have even surprised myself at some of the shots I have been able to take even from a fast moving train using this method.
The journey itself to Gornergrat in my opinion, is equally as good as any of the other mountain journeys we have taken (including Jungfraujoch) and offers its own unique qualities along the way, as well as the views at the summit, and therefore well worth the expense. I never seem to tire of these excursions. To me the journey is everything and not just the destination, so whether one gets a wonderful view at the top, or is met with nothing other than a mass of white fog and cloud, I would still not rue the fact that I made the attempt.
The experiences and memories of the trip are still savoured every time. It always amazes me how much the people we meet on board, or at the restaurant, or in the lift, contribute to the journey itself, and become an integral part of the narrative and the story we tell and retell our family and friends when we get back home.
In our carriage there was a party of approx. 10 people who had paid only for as far as Kleine Scheidegg, but had remained on board and continued up the mountain with no ticket. When approached by the conductor, their rudeness and intimidation of the female conductor was shameful to say the least. I was so impressed with the way she held her composure as she repeated over and over their need to pay the full price, calmly explaining all the details which I am confident they already knew, yet sniggering and laughing amongst themselves. They shamefully tried at first to argue their way out of it and when that failed, they tried to convince the conductor that they were worthy of a discount.!!
On the other hand, as my wife alighted form this train at Gornergrat and had passed through the gates, she suddenly realised she had left her beanie/hat on the seat. As she hurriedly tried to figure out how to get back to the train, she approached an attendant quickly explaining her predicament, and in a flash the attendant opened one of the gates and assisted her to locate her hat and then see that she was safely returned to the “other side” where her husband was still waiting and wondering.!!
As I have said in earlier posts, in our 18 days of travel through Switzerland, we were tremendously blessed weather wise. Whenever we seemed to need a clear day…. There it was.!! When what would have just made the day was snow and more snow….. There it was.!! Gornergrat for us was no exception, the sun was in full swing at the top, assisting us to cope with the low temperatures, and the pictures I was able to obtain of the Matterhorn as the cloud moved away were simply amazing.
Our journey from Zermatt back to Geneva was a pleasant one, changing trains in Visp. (where a fellow passenger attempted to physically hold back the train – see previous post part 2) We returned to Geneva for one night only, just to do some last minute shopping and re-pack our suitcases and prepare for the flights back home to Australia. Since arriving back home, I have edited quite a lot of video and many many photos, and every time we look at them, we eventually end up discussing whether we should from here ever after, simply abandon all other destinations on our fascinating planet and just keep returning to Switzerland, because put quite simply, it has been one of the most enjoyable holidays we have ever experienced.
A big thank you once again to “My Swiss Alps” for all of their wisdom and invaluable information that we have gleaned from their website. If you are considering a similar journey, the only thing I can say is that I strongly believe you will not be disappointed.
A few final pics below for those interested
Wonderful travels to all....