Alpine Adventure- part XII
Wed. July 27, 2016- Zermatt, Switzerland
We were up early at 7:00 A.M., conditioned already to the early wake up call, rushed breakfast and quick boarding onto the bus. Today was something different. We had a free day in Zermatt. Some of our more intrepid colleagues were taking the cog railway up the Gornetgrat Mountain and then via tram car to the Kleiner Matterhorn ( little Matterhorn) for a spectacular close-up of the east face of the famed peak. In that I was not overly fond of heights above the level of a stepladder, we elected to pass on the excursion.
A late and leisurely fruhstuck (breakfast) sent us out into the warm temperatures of an Alpine day. We walked through town, enjoying all of the sights and sounds of a busy resort village. Day hikers and visitors were scurrying hither and yon. We admired the lovely Swiss Alpine hotels like the Zernatterhof, Monte Cervin and Villa Margherita, trying to imagine them choc a bloc with skiers and snowboarders, in the deep winter.
Another parade, of the horned ibexes, passed by us. The child herders, clad in lederhosen, were poking the goats back into line as they sniffed and leaped up on everything trying to eat grass and anything their teeth could crunch. West of town, we came upon the hiker’s path. Just 6 km up the rapidly ascending hill would bring us to the base of the Matterhorn. Instead, we sat back on the lush grass and watched the clouds play across both the Kleiner Matterhorn and its bigger brother. The stark, granite peak is hook shaped, like a rhinoceros horn, and was splashed with white sheets of snow across its face. The dark, moisture-glazed surface glistened in the morning sun.
We walked back through town, stopping for a visit at the Protestant Church. Then, we bought some cappuccino and pastries at a bakery and sat in the Bahnhof square, watching the ever present activity of the day. Electric cabs and hotel conveyances came and went, loading and unloading passengers who came daily to do what we were doing. It was sunny and in the high seventies out. (f). We stopped at a small market and bought cheese, bread and wine for lunch and then wandered about town. A large Tennis court area, which I suspect they flood in winter for ice-skating, took up a few blocks. The Swiss put a lot of value on recreation for their people. The land that the tennis courts occupies must be worth a fortune.
The classic a-frame Alpine chalets were stacked up all around the hills of the village. It must cost a bundle to anchor them into the hillside, plus drag everything needed this high for construction. Many had flower-laden balconies, signifying the owners presence. Many were empty, waiting for their ski-oriented owners.
After a picnic lunch, we walked again through town to the western trails, leading up to the Matterhorn. Many of the hikers were dressed in lederhosen, a type of leather shorts, and sporting the small, felt Swiss hat. A backpack and twin hiking poles filled out their gear. We were familiar with the balancing poles from cross-country skiing. Whether they were of real use in hiking or just looked good depended on the level of difficulty in hiking involved. We started calling them “Mountain yuppies.” It was relaxing to have a day free like this. We read our books, enjoyed a glass of Swiss Merlot and emulated my hero, Ozzie Nelson ( napped)
Dinner that evening at 7 P.M was held in a basement, Rathskeller room of the hotel. It was of mediocre quality. We sat with friends and listened to their tales of the day’s excursions onto the glacier, before turning in for the night. Tomorrow it was back on the treadmill.
Joseph Xavier Martin