The Faces of the Matterhorn

Our second day in Zermatt dawned just as marvelous as the first. We decided to explore and hike the mountains on the other side of Zermatt from the Matterhorn. That area gives the classic look of the mountain that everyone knows.

We first took the Gornergratbahn, a cog railway and the highest open-air train in Europe, to the summit of Gornergrat at 10,135 feet. At the summit you’ll find a hotel, restaurant, chapel, and observatory (and ski areas in the winter). Oh, and magnificent views of glaciers and some of the highest peaks in the Alps.

I took the train part of the way back down the mountain and got off to hike a trail around to another mountain with a great view of the Matterhorn. Early June is the perfect time of year because the fields are filled with wildflowers. The Matterhorn dominates the view in most places in the area. I loved watching the play of clouds and shadows across the Matterhorn, the other mountains, and the valley.

At the end of the trail there was a park with a pond (and a restaurant – I was ready for lunch). The temperature was in the upper 80s, so people were in bathing suits – but there were still patches of snow here and there around the park.

The gondola ride on the first day took us by an old village (that I also ran through on my way home the first day). I wanted to take some time walking through it because it looked like a terrific place for photos. I wasn’t disappointed.

One seemingly odd building method they had I just couldn’t figure out. Many of the buildings, I guessed they were barns or storage buildings, sat on large, flat stones under each post. When I was walking through the village, I saw a man with a long gray beard working. Happy for the opportunity to practice my German, I asked him why they were built like that. The answer made perfect sense and then made me wonder why other places didn’t do this. The stones keep the mice out because they can’t crawl along the underside of the stones.

Despite Zermatt seeming like a Disney resort, two days just wasn’t enough time to explore it all. I would love to see it in winter, though.

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