Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bores Backpack Europe: Zermatt, Switzerland

My husband reminds me almost daily that I never finished blogging our #boresbackpackeurope trip. I know, I know, but to hold this little space on the web, you have to be inspired to write. I haven't felt that lately. I've been in a funk, more on that later. Nonetheless, this little camp has been neglected.

I hate that for a lot of reasons, but most of all because I am starting to forget the tiny details of our trip. The good news is, it doesn't take long for your memory to be triggered. One quick flip through our folder of "favorite Swiss pictures" and I am right back to that majestic place. 

Our stay in Zermatt was our favorite. The hotel felt a little more rich, probably because it was the one we splurged on a bit. When booking the plans for our trip, we tried to keep the hotel portion of the budget within reason, but decided to stay in one nice place in both countries. Nice is a relative term, but this was nice(r) in comparison to our previous hotel/BandB stays. I introduce, Hotel Phoenix

The real treat, look below...the view from our balcony. Let me rephrase, we opened those floor to ceiling doors, took a few steps from our bed (with a glass of wine in hand) and this is what was starring back at us: THE FAMOUS MATTERHORN. I have plenty more photos, up close and personal. Keep reading...

Our train ride from Wengen to Zermatt was quite long, so by the time we arrived in Zermatt, we were starving. We dropped our bags and spent the rest of the afternoon, exploring the city. The downtown area was full of shops, tourists, restaurants, hotels, horse and carriages, flowers, electric car taxi's, skiers, cliff jumpers and watches galore.

The second day, we were up early to get in line at the gondola. When you have the option of getting as close to the Matterhorn as humanly possibly, you do, regardless of how much it costs. So off we went, to the top of the world, or so it felt.

Squint your eyes. Look hard. Do you see a city in that valley between the mountains? That's Zermatt. And we weren't even half way up.

However, we did make a pitstop. Right here, near these sheep and restaurant in the middle of the Alps. There was also a small lake and church (below) that we walked around. The church had been built several years ago (I don't remember the year), after a couple of men had gotten stuck on the mountain in a severe storm. They had prayed and promised God if they survived the storm they would build a church. And so they did. 

Could you imagine having this problem? Fortunately, sheep don't phase locals. However, to me, I was acting like a tourist does in Colorado when they see an elk = an idiot. I was getting closer than I should have. I stopped to take 100 photos of them as if I've never seen one before. And squealed when they looked me in the eye or attempted to walk towards me. All of that said, I really wanted to leave the gate open and let them walk into the church. But I didn't.

As we walked around the lake, Mr. B decided it was the perfect place to set up his camera for a time lapse. So I sat on the edge, taking in the views and eating snacks. Surprise, surprise. Afterwards, he convinced me to hike another solid vertical mile to get a better look of the Matterhorn. I was close to having a collapsed lung when we arrived at the top, but quickly gave myself a pep talk after seeing the tents and rock climbers. Yes tents. Swiss folks are intense and athletic and adventurous. All the things I am not. 

Mr. B got out his go-pro and I got out our terrible towels. 

After taking too many photos in front of the Matterhorn, we jumped back on the gondola to continue our ride to the top. We had to stop and switch along the way and am so thankful we did, because this is what I was greeted with when I stepped out: a true Swiss St. Bernard pup. I was grinning from ear to ear. That rope around his neck was being held by his owner, who was on the phone. That meant I didn't have the opportunity to ask his name or if I could pet him. But what I can say is I saw more than just the stuffed animals they sell in ALL of the tourist shops - seeing the real thing, with a whiskey barrel to boot, was WAY better. 

The last gondola ride was unlike any we'd ever experienced. It's actually Europe's highest aerial cable car and held 50 people at once, including skiers, their equipment, cold weather gear and a lot of unprepared tourists.  Ones that weren't prepared for the frigid temperatures at the top. Thankfully, I have a husband that reminded me to pack my hat and gloves, just in case. 

The views, however, made you forget about the cold. We all know pictures never do a landscape justice and this is no different. The majestic nature of the Alps really are indescribable - in addition to the glacier we rode over. You really just have to go there to understand and feel what we felt. It was that total jaw-dropping-can't-believe-my-eyes-are-seeing-this kind of experience. 
This is what looking down from 12,798 feet is like. That's high, like really high. I may or may not have held my breath a couple of times during that ride.

If this is a place you ever find yourself, save the $14 and skip the Glacier Palace that's at the top. It sounds amazing and fun and something everyone of all ages would enjoy. It's not. Despite the fact they had a small ice slide inside, the whole thing was kind of dumb. And cold. And dark.  Hence why these are the only two photos that turned out. Ice castles in the Disney movies look way cooler. 

And it isn't a Swiss vacation without seeing alphorns. I had hoped they'd be in traditional Swiss "costumes", but had to settle for a handful of men instead. They were playing just a few steps away from our hotel and practicing for an upcoming festival that weekend (or so we think). We stood on the side of the road with a few other tourists and snapped some pictures. Another check off my Switzerland bucket list!

To end our stay in Zermatt, we decided the perfect souvenir would be a Swatch. It took a little convincing with Mr. B - he hates shopping - but we both walked away with the perfect reminder of our Swiss vacation to wear around our wrists.

Bags were packed and we were off to Geneva to explore for just a few hours before heading off to Ireland. Good bye Zermatt, you were really, really good to us.

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