Saturday, 26 August 2017

Zermatt and the Matterhorn

Wednesday 7 June

The morning after our cloudy arrival in Zermatt, the weather Gods decided to be generous and we woke not only to a glorious blue sky, but also to the Matterhorn, a dazzling white in the bright sunlight.

But first, to recap on our wanderings of the previous afternoon.
My preconception of a sophisticated, upmarket Zermatt, that would leave me feeling out of place were quite unjustified. Perhaps that is the case in the height of the ski season, but as we explored, I delighted in the relaxed atmosphere, cobbled streets, heritage buildings, and the stunning mountains surrounding us.

There are very few lawns in Switzerland. They are either left as a 'meadow' of wildflowers or made useful, by growing vegetables.

And so to Wednesday..............
At 9.30, we took the cog rail up to Gornergrat Station - 3089m. As the train slowly climbed, the full spectacle of the Matterhorn was revealed to us - grand, dominating, magnificent, spectacular...............   !!
I had to keep pinching myself, to make sure it wasn't all a dream.

At the highest point above the station, I sat slowly turning, taking in the breath taking 360 degree panorama of mountain peaks.

Just a little lower.

Eventually we had to make a move to return to our friend Nic who, because of breathing issues, wasn't able to join us on the mountain. Thankfully we had enough time to hike the couple of kilometres down to the next station of Rotenboden, a variety of steep, rocky, muddy and snowy terrain.

The breeze was ruffling the surface of Riffelsee, so I wasn't able to capture a reflection of the Matterhorn, as I had hoped.

We finally met up with Nic about 3pm and relaxed with a beer in the warm sunshine of the terrace of an Italian Restaurant.

Thursday 8 August.

 Sadly we were only able to stay 2 nights here, so 8.30 saw us pulling our suitcases back to the station. Zermatt is a car free town, but they have small electric vehicles that whizz around as taxi's and delivery vans

I had been very disappointed with the views on the train journey up to Zermatt, but as we descended on this day, I realised that the weather conditions had hidden the valley's beauty.

A lawn seen from the train.

Hay making.

The journey took us back down to Visp and continued onto Brig, where we had to make a dash for our connection to Domodossola in Italy. We thought that allowing 10 mins to change platforms would be sufficient, but we were unaware that the platform we arrived on from Zermatt was actually well outside the main station. Nothing like a bit of drama to brighten up ones travels. By lunchtime we were relaxing in the lovely town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Will the Fog Clear?

Monday 5 June, 2017

Monday dawned looking far worse weatherise, than the previous morning. Our destination was a cog rail ride up to Schnigne Platte, with its stunning views over Lake Thunersee and 360 degree views of surrounding mountain peaks. Over breakfast there was much discussion as to whether the weather would improve as it had Sunday. We decided to try our luck.

Breakfast view.

View from the cog rail carriage as we commenced our ascent.

The name of this small rail siding cabin, perfectly described the weather that was not improving.

Fields of ranunculi, almost hidden by the fog.

More wonderful wildflowers.

On arrival at Schnigne Platte we found the trail to the Alpine Botanical gardens. 

"A unique display of over 670 species of plants native to the Swiss Alps, growing in their natural communities. A site of scientific research and nature conservation at 1967 metres above sea level, which also gives visitors a closer look at the beauty, wealth and secrets of Alpine flora."

We met one of the gardeners, erecting fencing. The cows were coming to the highlands over the next few days. He was a font of information and would happily have continued chatting with us for some time, but with the fog thickening, we had to continue on.

Top L - Himalayan Edelweiss. Potted table display. Bottom R - cultivated Edelweiss. Actual flowering not till July.

At this point, there should have been views back to the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. 

We deemed the tracks not safe to follow and returned to the station to take the cog rail back down to the valley. There were hints of blue sky as we descended, but we were convinced we had made the correct decision.

The cog rail terminus was in the small village of Wildersee. From here we took a train along Lake Thundersee, to the village of Brienz, steeped in wood carving traditions.. A lovely afternoon was spent wandering its streets of wooden chalets, enjoying their colourful gardens and roses, visiting the lakeside church sitting on a knoll and the many wooden statues to be found.

The interior of the church was beautifully carved with the organ unusually, behind the altar.

Some of my favourite wooden sculptures.

View from the church along Lake Thundersee. Schnigne Platte is still lost in the fog and clouds.

Village scenes

Our return to Inerlaken was initially by ferry along Lake Thundersee to Interlaken, where we again caught the mountain train back to Lauterbrunnen.

The colour and scenery of the lake was spectacular, even on this still dull afternoon.

Gleissman Waterfall.

This is how the lake view up to Schnigne Platte looks in winter and how we saw it in spring.

9pm - enjoying a coffee on our friends balcony, after a delicious meal in a highly recommended caravan park restaurant, further down the valley. It was a refreshing walk to and from the restaurant.

Our foggy day had been saved by the purchase of our 8 day Swiss Rail Pass. These journeys would have been very expensive individually, but with the pass we didn't have to consider the cost. We believe we got  double the value of what we paid, plus the convenience of getting off and on the train, as we felt like it. 

Tuesday 6 June

The blue skies had returned as we pulled our cases down to the railway station at 8 am. Tony and Veronica were about to start there long journey home, while we taking 3 trains to Zermatt, its  Matterhorn and to Frank's Swiss friend, Nic.

There was great excitement before breakfast. Cowbells were ringing quite loudly, apparently in the street below. On opening the window we were able to witness the summer migration of the cattle from the lowlands to the highlands. Several herds passed through Lauterbrunnen with a 20 min interval between them. So special to see.

Our 2nd leg commenced at Spiez. Here we had over an hour to amuse ourselves in. I found coffee, cake and chocolate ladybirds in the street opposite. Many trains passed through as we sat waiting. We were surprised to see this cargo of semi trailers, on this extremely long goods train. Alas, it was difficult to get a reasonable shot of them, being transported.

From Spiez we travelled mostly through lengthy tunnels to Visp. Thanks to the efficiency of Swiss trains we arrived 5 mins before Nic, and then departed 5 mins after his arrival. 

Journey up the narrow valley to Zermatt.

There was disappointment on our arrival, as our sunny day had disappeared.

The Matterhorn was hiding, but great excitement when, during the late afternoon this amazing peak gradually revealed itself.

9.30 pm.

Clear skies now, but what will the morrow bring?

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