September 7, 2017 – We woke up early (I feel like this should just be assumed going forward) and went down for breakfast around 8:00 am. Our one and only goal for the day was to go up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Similar to the Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise has discounted tickets in the afternoon. The discount started at 1:30 pm so we got some local sightseeing in before we went up.
I remembered reading about a mountaineer cemetery in Zermatt and how beautiful and interesting it was. That became our first spot to explore of the day.
There are locals buried there, but they also pay tribute to those that have been lost on the mountain. Their tombstones were heartbreaking. Most said they died doing what they loved. There was usually a cause of death on them too. Many were caught in terrible storms or fell. I think the saddest part about it was the fact that most were in their early 20’s when they died.
Some people find it weird or creepy to visit a cemetery, but I’ve always enjoyed visiting them. Call me strange, but I find them peaceful and beautiful. This one in particular because of the hikers.
After we spent some time at the cemetery, we decided to check out one of the short trails around Zermatt.
This was just a quick hike so we were back in Zermatt within 30 minutes. We decided to sit on a bench to figure out our next activity and then a friend appeared!
It was lunchtime so we decided to make another stop at the COOP. This time we bought some Zermatt beer and chocolate. Then we went to this little bakery near our hotel where we bought sandwiches and an eclair. We decided to have lunch sitting on our porch since it was private and we could just admire the mountains surrounding us.
We had just sat down to eat when our hotel room neighbors came outside. The only thing separating our balconies was a log, so we obviously said hello. They were American! We did the typical “where are you from?” “where are you traveling?” etc. Our neighbors were Nancy and Tom both from up north, Maine and Maryland I think. They were brother and sister who had just finished hiking The Walker’s Haute Route which is a famous trail from Chamonix, France in the French Alps to Zermatt, Switzerland in the Swiss Alps. They had been hiking for 2 weeks. We were shocked! What an incredible journey these 2 had.
Nancy told us she and her brothers go somewhere adventurous every year. This year was her 60th birthday so she wanted to do something amazing. Well, I’d say she completed her mission. We congratulated her on not only her 60th birthday but also completing that incredible 2-week hike through the Alps.
We kept talking and come to find out, her son is US Olympic skier Troy Murphy. He’s the top male skier in the US and is set to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Nancy said he’s so humble and doesn’t usually tell people, but she said she can’t help it tells everyone she meets. You can tell she’s so proud of him. What an incredible family!
Nancy told us they were so focused on their hike, they really didn’t know much about Zermatt. I told her everything we had done and what we were planning on doing in the afternoon. She thanked us and told us we might see them again at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
We decided to go ahead and walk to the gondola station at 1:15 pm. Zermatt was a little bigger than Mürren so our walk was about 10 minutes to the gondola station instead of 5.
We bought our tickets and immediately hopped into a gondola all to ourselves.
The gondolas were completely enclosed with a bench on either side. As we began our ascent, the views were breathtaking. The entire journey up took 30 – 40 minutes.
We didn’t have to switch gondolas until we reached the station right before the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Eric thought we had reached our final destination already because the signs were kind of confusing. But we followed the crowds to the gondola that would bring us to the very top. This was the typical gondola we had experienced in Mürren; a big platform, like a giant elevator with windows. This gondola went almost vertical; we couldn’t believe how high up we were going!
When the gondola doors opened, it was COLD! There’s snow up there year-round which is why Olympic skiers from around the world train there. In fact, Nancy told us her son would be there in a couple of weeks. She was excited to finally see one of the places her son trains in the summer. There weren’t any skiers out when we were there. I think they must close the runs early. We had seen lift after lift packed with skiers on their way down as we were coming up.
As soon as we got up there, we headed to the highest point; 12,739 ft to be exact. We were face to face with the Matterhorn. It felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe we were up there staring at one of the most famous peaks in the world.
If you’re wondering, I had zero altitude effects after that initial Mürren incident. Just shortness of breath which I think is pretty typical.
While we were up there, I switched lenses on my camera to my zoom lens. This was what I was waiting for because I wanted to see if I could find people climbing! I didn’t, but there were people hiking in the snow on the smaller peaks around us so I got some shots of them.
After we had enough of the views (that’s a joke because you can’t get enough), we went to check out the glacier part of the attraction which is included in the lift ticket. We got in an elevator which brought us inside the glacier we had been standing on. They built an ice palace inside the glacier; it’s amazing! They have rubber mats which create a pathway of sorts through the ice tunnels. They were iced over in some spots so it was a little difficult to navigate.
There were beautiful ice sculptures throughout the tunnels and an ice slide! We went down it twice. I went first and didn’t slide very well. I think too many people had gone down it which made it less slippery. Eric went down on his knees and went down like a shot. My second time down I tried going down on my knees and there were these little Italian ladies up there watching me. They started freaking out at me in Italian because they didn’t want me to hurt myself. I was trying to tell them it was fine, but they were so concerned so I just went down normally again. Just imagine a bunch of Italian mothers deeply concerned and yelling at you and that’s exactly why I just did what they wanted me to do. Haha!
Speaking of Italian, when we got to the top of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise we were basically on the border between Italy and Switzerland. My phone kept switching between Italian and Swiss networks so I finally just put it on airplane mode so it wouldn’t be confused.
Once we were done with the ice slide we decided to go outside and walk in the snow. There were warning signs everywhere telling people to stay in the designated walking and skiing areas because there was a danger of falling in a crevasse. I’ve seen Vertical Limit at least 50 times so I know what that means. We obviously stuck close to the main areas. We didn’t have the proper footwear anyway.
I had read that there was snow tubing up there and sure enough they had a tiny slope where you could take a tube down. We saw one couple go down and it looked really fun. Eric and I each went once and as soon as we were done the guy shut the slope down. We lucked out!
We had pretty much done it all, so we went back inside to check out the gift shop and bar area. Right as we were walking in, we ran into Tom and Nancy! They said they were so thankful we had told them about the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise because it was awesome. I was glad they decided to go up. It really is worth the price (which was €160 for the 2 of us at the discounted price… normally it was €100 per person; It’s half price with the Swiss Pass at any time).
We headed back down to Zermatt at 4:30 pm. We made it back around 5:10 pm.
Once we got off the gondola, we were trying to figure out what to do next. We had seen signs for something called the Gorner Gorge. It said it closed at 5:30 pm, would we have enough time? We decided to try; it was our last day in Zermatt after all. The hike up to the gorge was painful. Yet another “easy” Swiss trail. My legs were burning by the time we reached the top. Luckily, we were greeted by a lovely Swiss lady. The price for the gorge was €5 per person which we gladly paid; we didn’t walk up all that way for nothing!
Before we started on the trail, there were all these baby squirrels running around a tree right by us. They were so cute and close, almost right next to our feet. The adorable Swiss lady at the top of the gorge was going on and on in Germlish (half German half English) about them and something about the trail. I gathered that she loved the little squirrels and was delighted they came out to see us.
It was cute, she was adorable. We had no idea what she was saying about the trail, but we figured there were signs just like everywhere else in Switzerland.
We started on the wooden bridges that were attached to the side of the gorge.
If we weren’t in Switzerland, I wouldn’t have trusted it. It was scarier than all the other high places we had been. I got as many pictures as I could, but my goal was to make it to the end. Also, we were the only ones there, so it just added to my fear. The only person that knew we were down there was that little Swiss lady. What if one of these wooden boards broke and we drowned in the roaring glacier river below. Makes my stomach hurt thinking back.
We continued on to the end where we had to climb up some wooden stairs… it was really a ladder because it was vertical. I was holding on for dear life. We made it to the top and I realized we were now on the other side of the gorge.
What the heck? How were we supposed to get back? We now realized what the lady was trying to tell us with her Germlish in between doting on her baby squirrels. She was saying that we could either come back the way we came which would mean going back down the ladder and back through the gorge or we could take the trail through a little town called Winklematten which would bring us back to Zermatt. Well, I wasn’t going back through the gorge, so off we went to see Winklematten! It took us about 30 minutes to get back to Zermatt, but the trail was beautiful so it didn’t feel very long.
We headed back to our hotel to take showers and pack for the next day before dinner. We had reservations at Restaurant Schäferstube under the Hotel Julen at 8:45 pm.
As soon as we walked into the restaurant we were seated at a beautiful table. The reason we chose this restaurant was for the raclette. It was the last food item on my Swiss list! I looked at the menu and saw raclette but there were only 2 options; one serving or raclette as much as you’d like. My vision of raclette was a giant plate of vegetables with a mountain of cheese being poured over it so I wasn’t about to order the never-ending raclette because I probably wouldn’t even be able to finish one. The price was pretty cheap for Swiss standards though so I was confused.
We started to order and I asked for the single portion of raclette. Our waitress didn’t speak very much English, but I understood that “single portion” was more of an appetizer. So I ordered the lamb ravioli instead and we got the single portion of raclette as an appetizer. Eric got the lamb burger. This place is also known for only serving farm fresh products from their personal farm in Zermatt. So the lamb is extremely fresh.
My whole idea of raclette went out the window at this restaurant; to be honest, I was disappointed. It tasted delicious but it was SO small; I now understood the endless option. The portion basically fit in my hand. Also, they didn’t do it at the table like you see on YouTube. I guess that’s an American add-on for the entertainment factor. So there you have it, folks. The price also made sense now. It was €8 for a handful of veggies and cheese.
While the raclette was a bit underwhelming, the lamb dishes were incredible. Eric’s lamb burger had raclette cheese on it and my ravioli was obviously homemade. Oh, it was so good!
After we were stuffed with lamb, we made the walk back to our hotel to go to bed. We would be waking up the next morning for breakfast at 7:00 am and a train to Florence, Italy at 8:10 am!
Continue reading the Travel Diary here: Day 10: Traveling from Zermatt to Florence by train