Exploring the Alps around the Matterhorn

Going into Zermatt, Switzerland reminded me of visiting a Disney resort. No cars are allowed (except for some electric vehicles), so you have to take a train to the town. Although people do live there, the majority of the people you see are tourists and everyone in the shops and restaurants speak English. And, of course, the Matterhorn is the signature piece in Disneyland. As it turned out, it rained a little the night we got there, so the next morning the streets were wet like they’d just been washed at Disney.

I tend to prefer less touristy places, but Zermatt is definitely worth the trip. The Matterhorn is, naturally, majestic. The mountains in the area are filled with hiking trails and ski areas. There is so much to see and it’s all spectacular.

Our first day in Zermatt, we decided to take some gondola rides up into the mountains near the Matterhorn. You glide above glaciers and between towering peaks to a destination on the border with Italy. You could easily spend a few hours here. Viewing platforms give you a panoramic view of the mountains and a different perspective of the Matterhorn. There’s a theater (with egg-shaped pod chairs – hello 1970s!) continually showing different short films about the area – climbing, skiing, glaciers, etc. You can warm up with some hot drinks and delicious food at a cafe.

You can also take an elevator ride down to a cave they built into a glacier. Once inside, it reminded me of the ice hotel I visited in Quebec City last year. One aspect I found interesting, and tried to capture in photos, where the ice crystals growing on the ceiling and walls. The moisture in visitors’ breath causes the crystals to grow and some were quite large.

Later in the day, I went hiking along a trail that wandered among the fields and ravines under some of the gondolas. While crossing a hanging bridge, I spotted a chamois on the rocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my large lens on and I didn’t think trying to change lenses on a swinging bridge was probably the best idea.

I ended up hiking farther than I thought, so I had to jog most of the way back down the mountain and into town to make it in time for dinner. I’m sure the other people out walking were entertained as I jogged along, screeched to a halt to take a few photos, then jogged off again. Dinner was raclette – melted cheese on bread and potatoes. That’s something you don’t want to miss.

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