Little did we know when we woke up in Zurich what an adventure we would be on! We live in the mountains, right by Rocky Mountain National Park, so we thought we would feel, in a way, like we were home again. We had purchased Eurail passes for the summer, which gave us access to trains going anywhere, first class. We had been pretty spoiled during our whole trip on mostly modern, quiet, smooth trains (that infamous sleeper car excluded). On this day, we rode a train to Visp, Switzerland, and, after a short look around, we headed back to the station to transfer to another train for Zermatt, Switzerland. We took one look at the little red train we were about to transfer to and started to worry. I could see touring Silverthorne in a train like that, but another whole hour in the mountains of Switzerland? We showed our tickets to the conductor and pointed questioningly. She pointed definitively. We glanced nervously at one another and climbed aboard. The minute we were on the train, we started to sweat. No air conditioning on this antique, we thought.
In no time at all, the lack of air conditioning didn’t matter at all. In fact, we almost forgot we had seats! The train began climbing up a mountain of forests, canyons, waterfalls, and glaciers. We stood, switching from side to side of the train, throwing the windows open wide (they still allow that on old trains), and hanging our cameras out, shooting picture and picture after gorgeous, scenic picture. We arrived in just a few minutes (actually, it was an hour, but we hadn’t noticed the passing of time).
On the advice of our host, we went straight to the grocery story upon arrival. We purchased food for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, and hopped on a little bus heading further up the mountain. The bus dropped us off at our little rental apartment. We looked up, and there it was. The Matterhorn, craggy, majestic, the peak you could recognize anywhere, glistening in the sun. We could have never left that apartment. We could have sat on the back patio, sipping…anything… and been satisfied with its beauty. We complimented Jason on his choice (He is an independent consultant with our agency, and this was one of his bookings), and got to work fixing dinner so we could sit on the patio some more. We ended the evening hiking up the hill behind our place until it was too dark to see anymore. Little did we know that tomorrow would be even more spectacular.
When we finally got outside, the view, and the elevation, took our breath away. We were at 12,620 feet, and we had just emerged from a glacier. Who knew we would ever be INSIDE a glacier? And even though the Matterhorn is almost 2,000 feet higher than that, it seemed like we were looking straight across at this formidable peak. We shot several more pictures, and Savanna and Jason, always ready for the next conquest, decided to hike to Italy. Literally! Bill and I sat down for a delicious cup of hot chocolate (they really know how to make that stuff in Switzerland), while they hiked up and over a peak, all the way to a sign that indicated the border between the two countries. Then they hiked back over, slid down part of our side, and were back in an hour and a half, victorious (and a little wet).
On our way back to town, we got off the gondola and walked around before getting on a train for the last leg of the trip. We were so glad we did because we met Matthew Fletcher, a pencil and watercolor artist who had been painting The Matterhorn and the area around it for 27 years. We talked for probably an hour, and he told us a story of one of the guides, Ulrich Inderbinen, who had led over 300 guide trips up the mountain in his life. In fact, he led his final trip when he was ninety years old! As an early birthday present for Jason, we bought a beautiful painting Matthew had done for Ulrich when he turned a hundred. We also bought a small painting of Zermatt with The Matterhorn in the background for ourselves. None of us will ever forget this trip, but it will be fun to have some art to mark the journey.
We have now seen nine of the twelve countries we were planning to visit in Europe, and the history we have learned so much about is fascinating. But in Zermatt we remembered just how small we humans are. No castle is as beautiful as the mountains our God built with just a word from his mouth. No fortress is as majestic, and no lights of a city even begin to compare to what he does when he paints the sky each day.
If you ever get a chance to see Zermatt, do. And if you get that far and don’t spend the extra money for a Peak2Peak ticket, you haven’t really experienced Zermatt. We could have stayed at least a week longer, hiking all over the beautiful mountains just around our little apartment. But alas, after that incredible ride, a couple of hikes, and a long talk with Matthew, we reluctantly headed back “home,” where the four of us would sleep before parting ways the next day.