Today we’ll get as close to the Matterhorn as we can without climbing it. If only I had brought my boots.
It rained overnight, but the morning only looked slightly overcast. We went down for breakfast and to check the webcams from the nearby mountains. Though there are some clouds, we decided to head for the hills.
We walked from the hotel down to the train station. The Gornergrat Railway is located right across the street from the main train station.
Our timing was perfect as unknowingly, we arrived with just four minutes before the train departed. We already had our tickets, so we just had to go through the turnstiles and climb aboard.
Well, we used our “Wondertwin Powers” but still couldn’t figure out where to scan our tickets. The security guy did a great job of not laughing right in front of us, but we must have looked like we were from the ‘Midvale School for the Gifted’. Turns out there wasn’t a separate scanner – you just hold your ticket against the side panel. Oh well, live and learn – we’ll ace it on the way back!
On to the train and off we went. The Gornergrat Railway has been running since 1898 and connects the town of Zermatt with the summit of the Gornergrat. At 10,135 ft, it is the second highest railway after the Jungfrau that we took in Interlaken.
There are five stops along the rail line, most leading to alpine hotels or hiking trails. Most people seem to ride to the summit and then hike down from various stops along the way. While an easy way to reach the summit, the train is not inexpensive. Without a discount pass of some kind, it is $114 round trip per person. Our Swiss Travel Pass gave us a 50% discount on the tickets.
Along the way, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, alpine homes and grazing sheep and cows can be seen in every direction. The recommended place to sit on the train is on the right when going up for views of the Matterhorn.
Once you do reach the summit, you will find yourself surrounded by 29 peaks all over 4000m or 13,000ft. Some snow-capped, some just beautiful without the topping; you also get wonderful views of the Gornergrat Glacier.
The air is so fresh and clean, but the altitude once again found me a little lightheaded at first. Make sure to stay hydrated and take it slow at first. You should probably not get too close to the edges until you have your feet under you too.
That said, I was just blown away by the natural beauty – it’s stunning. We walked around taking pictures from every direction trying to figure out how to preserve the memory. D’uh, we took pictures!
We watched as others started their hikes down to some other scenic vistas, while we boarded the train. We made a point of being polite by waving to them and taking pictures as the train rumbled along.
We did hop off the train at the town of Riffelalp. A short HIKE from the railway station is a restaurant called Alphitta, which we wanted to stop at for a drink. The restaurant is perched on the side of a hill and you get a beautiful view of the Matterhorn while you imbibe or eat.
We took pictures while walking along – one that I just loved. It’s below.
Some others from our hike.
The restaurant was quite busy but the owner pointed us over to a great table. The owner is Dave and he is an Irishman hailing from Dublin. He is also a musician and a super-friendly guy. We shared a few good laughs with him and talked about his roundabout route to Zermatt. His wife was also fun, though Dave seemed to steal the show.
There was a Swiss family there celebrating the birthday of their father who turned 81. While enjoying himself, he looked like he was uncomfortable being fussed over. They must have said something to Dave, who promptly made an announcement that he was turning 81. Everyone applauded and whooped it up a little. A Japanese woman, who was leading a group of about a dozen people, then started up a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ that everybody chimed in on. The poor guy was mortified, but he was also very appreciative. He made his way around thanking everyone and shaking hands.
All spontaneous and all heart-warming, it’s those moments that keep us traveling. Meanwhile, as we were finishing up, Dave brought out his magic digestive elixir for a day-cap.
He makes it himself, starts with anise liquor, then he infuses it with sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon grass and a couple other things. He lets it sit for six months and it’s ready to go – and it was good!
Now raring to go, we HIKED back to the train station to catch the next train down to Zermatt. Our timing was good once again, as it pulled into the station right after we arrived. The scenery going down was just as beautiful as coming up.
Back in Zermatt, we meandered our way back up to the hotel to relax for a bit before dinner. After last night’s big meal, we decided to check out a small Italian restaurant just up the street from the hotel called Pizza Roma. Two caprese salads and a shared pizza with a bottle of Chianti was just what the doctor ordered – something different and something delicious.
The skies were rumbling when we finished up, so we hightailed it back to the hotel. Within twenty minutes of returning, it started pouring. A little thunder, a little lightning and a lot of rain that lasted well into the overnight hours.
We were so lucky that the weather held off all day so that we could go to Gornergrat and see the Matterhorn in all its glory.
Tomorrow it is suppose to rain on and off all day long. We’ll see what happens, but with no set plans, the rain doesn’t matter.