Zermatt, Switzerland (A Real Winter Wonderland)
Back in late January, I was lucky enough to have visited the little Swiss town of Zermatt. Zermatt is well known for the famous mountain that looks over the town, the Matterhorn (aka the Toblerone mountain), as well as its ski fields and overall charm. It is one of the most idyllic and beautiful places I have ever been lucky enough to visit and I certainly won’t forget my visit here anytime soon (because it’s such a beautiful place and they literally have an unlimited amount of Toblerone) and I will most definitely be going back in the future.
In order to get to this small, rather isolated town in the middle of the Swiss Alps, a 4am getup, five train rides and nine hours of twiddling my thumbs while admiring the French and Swiss countryside were involved. We travelled from London St Pancras on the Eurostar to Paris Nord, had a short walk through Paris (just as you do) to Paris East station then a few more train rides through France and Switzerland to reach our final destination of Zermatt. It all went by rather quickly as the views were spectacular for most of the journey (especially from Bern onwards) and I have a tendency to fall asleep in trains (and cars, especially cars) during long journeys.
Once we arrived we had a shortish trudge through the snow to our accommodation – the lovely Residence Patricia. Settling in involved McDonald’s for dinner (yes, even in the middle of the Alps they have Mcdonalds) and a well needed early night.
We had mostly planned to ski during our time there, but, because of a snowstorm we only managed three days out of five. Skiing in Zermatt is powder heaven. Its the highest ski resort in the Alps and has over 360 km of pistes. Due to the sheer amount of snow the town had had the only ski area that opened was Sunnegga (though even this area was closed some days while we were there, leaving no ski runs open).
Now, I’m not a very experienced skier, and before this, I hadn’t skied for about four years so blue and red runs are about my limit while I was getting my ski legs back. My favourite run on this part of the mountain was one that you could take right from the top, with a ride on one of those massive aerial trams to the top all the way to the bottom of the ski field and into the town.
While we weren’t or were unable to ski, the town of Zermatt entertained us.
The town is full of patisseries, watch, chocolate and ski shops – literally everything a girl could ever want and ask for. The Lindt store, which I particularly enjoyed because the staff gave you a free piece of chocolate of your choosing every time you went in, was a chocolate lovers paradise. Tins with the Matterhorn or swiss flag embossed on the front, chocolate bars the size of my torso and literal mountains of pick n mix chocolate are just a few of the items you could find in the Lindt chocolatier store. Its safe to say my suitcase was only a little heavier after visiting that particular store.
Restaurant Du Pont, the oldest business in Zermatt, offers a traditional Swiss cheese fondue with a cosy atmosphere. A Swiss fondue is essentially a pot of warm, mixed cheeses set over a gas stove served with bread, vegetables and boiled potatoes to dip into it. I can tell you it is most definitely as good as it sounds, especially after a long day of skiing.
The Matterhorn museum was a perfect way to escape the cold (the temperature didn’t get above zero degrees Celsius most days) and to learn a bit more about thetown we were staying in. Inside the museum, a velvet cushion with the rope from the first tragic ascent up the Matterhorn is laid out (which you can read more about here), as well as a mock set up of what the town originally looked like when it was predominantly an agricultural community. Tourists first visited the town in 1865.
The old part of the town, known as the “Hinterdorf” was a part of Zermatt we didn’t get to explore very well but what we did see of it was lovely. This part of the town consists of barns, stores, stables and old houses that were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. A stroll through the narrow alleys feels almost like a trip back in time.
Many times over the course of our time in Zermatt the words “if only we could stay a bit longer” were mentioned more than once. We never thought that this would be the case through until we got to the train station to leave one morning. As it turned out, a heavy snowstorm through the night had caused a critical avalanche warning to be out in place so the roads and railways in and out of Zermatt were essentially cut off and no one was leaving. This, shall we say coincidence, which had only occurred previously in 1999, left us ‘stranded’ us in Zermatt for another two days. While this caused us to miss visiting Rome, I don’t think I would have traded those extra few days for Rome at all. To put it as the rail ticket manager said: “Zermatt is much nicer than Rome anyway, consider yourselves lucky – it’s not every day a person gets stuck in such a beautiful place”.