Switzerland 05-06: The Matterhorn

We had been planning to meet Peedee downstairs at 7 in the morning, so I set my alarm for 6, got up, got ready and went and sat downstairs. The train was leaving at 7.34. I waited and waited, looked at my watch and at 7.25, decided there was no way we would get there in time, so I went back to my room. Jemma was on MSN and told me that Peedee had texted her to ask if we could meet at 9 instead so she could sleep. Well, actually the text was written to me but it had gone to Jemma’s phone. The trouble was, if we met at 9, we’d have to get the 9.34 train which wouldn’t get to Zermatt until 1.30 and the last train left at 7.30, which would only leave us 6 hours there. I texted this to Peedee and she immediately got on a tram to meet us and we made the 8.34 train.
We got into Lausanne on platform 8 and ran to platform 3 for the train to Visp, via Montreux and Aigle. We had about 30 minutes in Visp, the first 10 of which we needed to find the train to Zermatt, then we went looking for toilets and food and missed our train because we were waiting for McDonalds. Visp is another nice little town and it felt a lot like a ski resort.

For some reason, most of the shops were closed – CH seems to have a three day weekend. Somewhere between McDonalds, the station and back to McDonalds, I managed to lose my gloves. I remembered eating my chips with bare hands, but I didn’t have a clue where I’d put the gloves. Jemma thought she remembered me putting them down on a wall and maybe I hadn’t picked them up again. I went back to the station, but there was no wall and no gloves. Eventually they turned up by the door at McDonalds.
We got the train to Zermatt -the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn, which went up the valley, sometimes above frightening gorges. Pieces of rock seemed to have fallen off the mountains along the way, massive chunks the size of a house sometimes.
I knew Zermatt had no cars in it, but I hadn’t realised how difficult it is to get to, considering its so famous. There were lots and lots of little electric golf-buggies which kept whizzing past us. It was all snowy but the sky was blue and the sun was blinding. We walked through the town towards the Matterhorn. This was our first view:

We spotted the gondolas going up the mountain and decided to go towards that, so we gave up following the footpath towards the mountain and crossed the bridge over the half-frozen river. The trouble was that the rest of the town seemed to be up on a bank above us and the only way to get up there was by a set of steps which ended up at a locked gate only for the use of hotel guests. We went back down the stairs and followed the path into the forest, around the end of the bank and hopefully up the other side.

That didn’t work either.
We went back to the other side of the river and walked down to the next bridge. On the other side of that was a big metal lift into the ski centre. We went up there and I was a bit surprised that we weren’t still inside a building when we got upstairs but by the side of the road in the main village, opposite the gondolas. We went in the little shop – I spotted ropes and couldn’t resist having a look – and I invested in some hot pads for hands and feet and a pair of polarising sunglasses. We looked at the mountain map. At the top there is an ice palace carved into the glacier but it was -21′ up there and anyway, the gondola up there had already stopped, so we settled for the Schwarzee, halfway up which was only -9′. We stopped briefly at the middle station to take photos of the town, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the other side of the station, so we got back on and went up to the top.It was freezing – I was so glad I had the warmers. But it was spectacular. There were skiers everywhere. The sun was just about to set behind the mountain which made it a bit hard to take photos – I couldn’t see what I was getting. We could only stay about 10 minutes – it was so cold! We went back down to Zermatt – it had obviously got colder as it was now -9′ at the bottom.We went back down and across the river to the other part of town and had fondue. We were confused by the waitress who said we couldn’t sit until 5 o’clock (it was 4 at the time) and what did we want to eat? I think what she meant was that the table was reserved and if we were the ones who’d reserved it we were early or maybe that it wouldn’t be free until 5. Anway, we sat down at a different table and ordered fondue for Jemma and Peedee and a plate and fork for me, and “something with vodka” for Peedee, brandy for Jemma and hot chocolate for me and we had fondue. It came in an orange iron saucepan over a gas burner.
It was ok, but I don’t like foreign cheese so I only had two pieces. We had to leave our table by 5.30 because it was reserved for then, so with an hour until our train, we went outside into the cold and dark.We went into the station cafe and had another drink – a grand pression for Peedee, vin rouge for Jemma and more chocolate chaud for me, as usual, then we went into Co-op for beer and lip-gloss before getting the train. There was no view whatsoever on the way back because it was dark but we did talk to a couple of Texans who were over here skiing…
I thought we had about 20 minutes to wait in Visp, but it turned out to only be about ten minutes. We went back to Lausanne and as it was pretty early, we stopped there for basketball, air hockey and shooting.
Jemma and Peedee had their usual basketball competition – they seem to take it in turns to win, then five minutes before the 10.45 train left, they decided it was time to leave to get away from the men who wanted their phone numbers. We obviously missed that train, so we went to get a drink instead, but being paranoid about missing the last train, we got food and beer at the station shop and sat and waited on the platform before getting the last train back to Neuchatel. And as I was wearing my long coat, I had to pose Matrix-style with my sunglasses.

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