Europe 14 - Day 9


The day started with cloud and a heavy overcast sky to the south and the look of rain - again. This did not bode well for our train trip south into the Swiss Alps. We were hoping for some fine weather to view the Alps in the last of their winter coat of snow. After an early beakfast we took the local train up the hill again to the main station for our train to Visp. The tickets we had bought on the Internet said they needed to be validated at the station at Lausanne, but after standing in a long queue I was curtly informed that we should just get on the train. So we did and everything was fine. At Visp we changed trains to head up into the Alps to Zermatt. Along the way all those clouds cleared and at Zermatt we had an amazing view. We walked to our hotel (only electric cars are allowed in Zermatt), one of the few hotels open at this time of year. Had to leave our bags in a large luggage room as our rooms were not ready.

As the weather was so amazing we quickly found the free bus that takes you up the valley to the first of the gondola lifts. There we bought tickets to the top of the world. We headed for the Glacier Paradise - three lifts in total. Then after a late lunch and a drink on the terrace overlooking the Matterhorn we headed down the three lifts again and back to Zermatt.

Lausanne to Zermatt via Visp

The local train took up back up the steep hill to the centre of Lausanne. The main railway station is across the road. Soon our train arrived and we were heading around the northern shore of lake Geneva, past Montreaux and then along the valley we had seen in the distance yesterday. Again the steep slopes are used for agriculture with grapes on the favoured south-facing slopes. Fruit trees covered the sheltered floor of the valley. At Visp we needed to change trains to take the Matterhorn train to Zermatt. After a short wait in the bright sun our train arrived and we were off, climbing steeply. This train is one of many cog railways in Switzerland. Some sections of the track were very steep and the cogs were obviously needed.

The railway station at Lausanne.
Our train arriving at Lausanne.
Looking south over Lake Geneva. Still plenty of heavy cloud.
A snow-covered peak - that looks promising.
A quick stop at Montreaux.
A pastry for breakfast, together with hopeful sparrows.
The head of the lake and a break in the clouds.
The power station again.
Mountains in the distance.
Into the valley now and more forest.
Not many people on the train.
Steep hillsides covered in vines.
Fruit trees and berries on the valley floor.
Fruit trees under shelter.
Vines and small villages high up on the hillside.
Again the steep hills are held up with stone walls.
More fruit trees.
Our train reflected in the glass of a factory.
This our platform St Niklaus to Zermatt at 1110.
The train arrives.
Then we head out through a maze of wires and rails.
A glimpse of what we are heading into - snow!.
Plenty of melt water in the stream.
Heading up the valley.
Typical Swiss farms with small houses and sheds.
The architecture is typically Siwss mountain houses.
The high Alps in the distance.
More meltwater.
And then a glimpse of the Matterhown - no clouds!.
Fruit trees in blossom.
Goats - we did not see any goatherds...
Still climbing towards the snow.
The first of the ski villages.
The weather had cleared into a superb day.
At Zermatt.
A reminder of the multitude of languages used in this area.
The Matterhorn is now close to hand.
This would be our hotel....
The Alpen Resort.
I suspect the ducks needed ice-skates a few days ago.
Our room was on the top floor - good view but low celing.
The skylight in the bathroom so you can shower with a view.

Gondolas to the top of the world - Glacier Paradise

After finding the hotel and negotiating around a large group of Chinese tourists, we deposited our bags in the luggage room. Now was the chance to change into those polyprop tops, warm boots and down-filled jackets. We were heading up to over 3,800 metres and it would be COLD. There is a free electric bus if you are going to the Glacier Paradise, and this drops you at the ticket office. The first gondola is a baby - only 4 people per car. Soon you are well above Zermatt and into the snow. We had arrived between seasons - today was the last official ski day. Nearly all ski runs closed the next day so there were not too many people.

The meltwater stream rushes through Zermatt.
The electric bus that takes visitors up the valley - free if you tell the driver you are going to the Glacier Paradise.
The view of the Matterhorn promised a good afternoon.
The first of the gondolas - only 4 to a car.
We headed up the valley...
Above pasture and trees that had just emerged from the snow.
Entering the first terminus.
The next lift was waiting and this was a much larger car - Max 110 persons it said.
A stretcher and some medics - doesn't look good for someone.
We now climbed much higher.
Crossing some rugged rocks and ice.
They are big lift cars.
The next terminus appears at the top of he ridge.
The top of he lift.
Looking back down. The small green valley is Zermatt.
Zermatt, you can just see all the hotels.
Just to prove we were there.
Toblerone - well this is Switzerland.
The last of the skiers heading onto the slopes.
The rescue stretcher all hitched up...
That's it in the distance.
A bleak chairlift for skiers strides across the slope.
The Matterhorn is getting closer.
A reminder of where you are, and how high you have climbed.

Glacier Paradise

At the top of yet another large lift lies the Glacier Paradise - touted as a must-see for all visitors. So off we went. This takes you up to 3,883 metres (12,739 feet), seriously high in the Alps. Very soon we felt faint-headed and a bit sick. My first thought was I need some food - we had not had lunch and it was after 2pm. But soon we realised that it was the altitude and we were suffering from a lack of oxygen (and perhaps a bit of hunger as well). But I knew there was a good cafe at the Glacier Paradise so we headed there - only to find a hand-written notice - CLOSING at 1.30 PM and it was now 2.30. So a quick look outside - yes it was seriously cold with a 40km/h wind and quick look through the "Paradise" and then back down to another cafe.

Paradise (and Italy) this way.
A cow - really!
We had arived at Paradise.
The tunnel takes you from the lift to the cafe and the ski runs. But look out - wearing ski boots and/or carrying skies entitles you to exclusive use of the pathway according to the way the skiers behaved.
The adventurous (or brave, or mad) could venture out.
We did and this is the view of Zermatt.
Panorama view.
Proof we were there.
The wind blowing the snow across the pathway.
But the view was superb.
Rocks and thick snow.
Now we entered the Glacier Paradise - tunnels cut into the ice.
It was cold in there too...
and a bit slippery.
Cold, hungry and suffering from hypoxia.
We both needed to sit down.
Ice deer.
Ice Madonna with coin offerings frozen into the ice.
Icy deer...
Icy house...
And an icy Matterhorn.
Now back up the tunnel.
To the waiting elevators and relative warmth.

Back to Zermatt

From the Glacier Paradise it was all downhill - a long way down. We stopped after the first lift to visit the cafe and get some late lunch. It was most welcome but the best part was being able to sit outside at 3,200m and look at the view. Not a cloud anywhere. At the bottom of the lifts we walked back down through Zermatt to our hotel (once we found it, they all start looking the same). The sky remained clear, aircraft kept flying like arrows through the Matterhorn and we watched the last of the light on the mountain.

Wolli the Sheep - really!
The view from the landing stage - with...
and without tourists.
We have to head down there.
Over the rocks and then a big drop.
The late sun provided interesting shadows.
We are in that box.
Back to Trockener Steg.
"I'm pleased to get off that thing - where's the hot food???"
Only -8C outside - yes but a 40km/h wind to go with it.
Lunch at last...
nice view too!
Another big ski lift takes us across...
trees in the snow...
and the water supply.
Now the last leg on the small gondolas: "Me - scared? nnnnoo!!".
Back over the hotels.
And a glimpse of how rugged the Alps are.
We walked down past the meltwater stream in the late sun.
Along small paths past the ski lodges.
The old church.
And the stream that drains from the Matterhorn.
We just missed the electric bus.
So we walked some more.
Another lodge - I thought there were plenty already. That sign says +19C
Lodges in profusion - they all seem to have used the same designer.
A horse trough carved from a tree trunk - but no horses.
These lodges look a bit different.
Only the Swiss could have a yacht club on a mountain.
A small stream coming down the hillside.
Lodges stacked together.
The Matterhorn in the late light.
That plane was a near-miss.
Whereas that one was lower down.
The view from our room as the light faded.
And finally the new moon appeared.


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Last updated: 21/09/2014