September 6, 2017 – Another early morning. We were down at breakfast later though, around 8:00 am. Our train to Zermatt from Interlaken wasn’t until 1:00 pm, but we wanted to be able to walk around Interlaken a bit before our train so we were trying to get down from Mürren a little earlier.
Before we said our goodbyes to one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been, we made a final stop to the COOP (grocery) to buy some sandwiches for our lunch that day. Switzerland about ran us dry financially, but at least we were able to have some inexpensive meals through the COOPS’s while we were there.
We begrudgingly made our way to the train station to make our descent to Interlaken. All went well and we were down in about 45 minutes.
We arrived in Interlaken around 11:00 am which meant we had 1.5 hours to walk around and look in the little shops in the center of town. Even though we were in Interlaken few days earlier, we didn’t get to walk around since we were short on time. We were going to stop and eat our sandwiches, but to save time we just ate them as we walked.
On our walk to the city center, we saw so many paragliders floating down. I told Eric I wanted to watch just for a couple minutes. It’s fun to see 20 people float down from a mountain! We kept walking and a saw a familiar face; it was my friend Taylor Fogg from college! I knew she was in this part of Switzerland, but never did I think our paths would cross. She had just landed from paragliding; what are the odds?!
We stood there for a few minutes to say hi, but we were short on time and she still had to finish getting unharnessed. So we kept walking, but I sent her a message letting her know we saw her land! They were headed to Nice, France next and were on a pretty tight schedule too. It’s actually kind of ironic because on our way to Europe I said to Eric, “I wonder if we’ll see anyone we know over there.” He thought I was crazy, but I told him it used to be a joke in our family because no matter where we would travel my dad used to always see someone he knew. I guess it runs in the family!
There was a chocolate place in Interlaken I had saved when I was planning our trip called Shuh. The chocolates were supposed to be out of this world, so of course, I needed to try them. Well, I wasn’t aware of the price tag. €18 for a box of 9. Now, Switzerland is expensive in general, however, that was a little steep. But when in Switzerland, right??! So we did it. They had interesting fancy flavors like passion fruit and marzipan. The mint chocolate was obviously made with real mint. They were definitely the real deal so at least it wasn’t just a tourist trap.
After expensive chocolate, we walked around a little more, then decided to make our way back via the river. The walk to the city center was filled with massive tour groups. My disdain for them started with Interlaken and grew significantly by the end of our trip. We never came across any that were polite or respectful (I’m talking about the groups with 50+ people in them; we saw a small Rick Steves group in Mürren and they were completely fine). It was sad and disgusting, to be honest. The shoving, the littering, the blatant disregard of the fact they were visitors in someone else’s home and not at a theme park. If it sounds like I’m really fired up about this, good.
Anyway, we continued back to the train station via the river where we were met with complete tranquility. No tour groups; barely any people at all. It was wonderful and beautiful. The water there was just picture perfect. It really is that amazing icy blue color.
We had put our packs in lockers when we arrived, so we grabbed those and then we found our platform.
We boarded our train soon after and were on our way to Zermatt via Spiez and Visp (our 2 stops). I guess nothing crazy happened on this train journey because I don’t really remember it.
We arrived in Zermatt around 4:00 pm and immediately went to check in to our hotel, Hotel Alphubel. I have yet to find the history of this little hotel. It was definitely older; the elderly gentleman who checked us in had our reservation written in a little book. Yes, handwritten. I had booked this hotel online, so they had to be a little modern, but he definitely checked us in with that handwritten book.
We had discussed earlier that if the weather looked good, we would try and go up to the Gornergrat. It’s a viewpoint of the Matterhorn at about 8,000 – 9,000 feet. There’s also a stunning view of a glacier. When we arrived, we could see the peak of the Matterhorn clearly. There were some small clouds, but visibility was great. So we quickly changed into our cold weather outfits, packed a bag, and headed out to the Gornergrat train station.
The last train up to the Gornergrat was leaving at 5:24 pm. It was currently 5:00 pm and we knew we would need dinner at some point. Eric had spotted a COOP right across from the station and thought we’d have enough time to run in, grab some sandwiches, then run back to catch the train. This made me nervous. While afternoon Gornergrat tickets are discounted, it’s not by a lot. So if we missed that train, we’d be out about €140. Long story short, we made it with 5 minutes to spare. Then we were off to watch the sunset behind the mighty mountain peak.
The train ride up was awesome. It was a cogwheel train, so we were at an incline the entire time. We had to stop at one point because some black-nosed sheep were on the tracks. They were so cool looking.
The windows were open on the way up and we could feel the air getting colder and colder. There were several stops the train made before it reached the Gornergrat. At one of the stops, a mom and a dad got off with lots of little boys on mountain bikes. Like I’ve said before, the Swiss are tough! You’d have to pay me quite a lot to bike down that mountain with all those little boys!
Once we reached the Gornergrat, we got out and hiked to the lookout point. The altitude had been killing me on all these hikes. I feel like I’m in fairly good shape, but I could feel the elevation once I had to climb a steep hill or go up a bunch of stairs. Mostly in my chest. My chest would get really tight and I’d struggle to breathe.
I forgot to mention when we first got to Mürren, I struggled quite a bit with the change in altitude. I thought I’d be perfectly fine since I had no issues at the Grand Canyon. Maybe the pressure changes are different from being in the mountains versus in a canyon. I have no idea. But it honestly felt like a panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath, my heart hurt through my chest and back, and my arms kept getting tingly. I was so dizzy. For all I know, it could have been a panic attack because the day we reached Mürren was that horrible 13 hour train travel day. I really can’t be certain. But I do know I struggled quite a bit on our hikes when I should have been fine.
Once we reached the lookout point, there really weren’t that many people up there with us. The last train back to Mürren was At 8:07 pm, so we would be able to watch the sunset fully before heading back down. We settled in on a ledge facing the Matterhorn. Maybe it was the setting, but those sandwiches were delicious.
There were 2 photographers up there with us. I’m not sure if they were professionals or not, but one guy had 5 massive DSLR cameras set up for long exposure (I could hear the shutters continuously going off) as well as a drone. The other guy with him also had a drone and 3 DSLR cameras. They were both wearing bright orange Marmot jackets. I was terrified because the guy with 5 cameras was on a cliff right next to a straight drop down to the glacier. It was super windy up there and I was just waiting for one of his cameras to fly over the edge. They never did.
A nice French girl and her husband were up there with us. She had the same camera as me, so she asked if I’d take their picture and offered to take ours as well. I had been very selective with who I let use my camera while we were over there, so most of the pictures we have of just the 2 of us were taken on one of our phones. We have a couple with my nice camera and this is one of them!
As the sun sank behind the mountain, the air got even colder. It was only around 30 degrees, but it felt like 5 with the wind. I had my gloves on, but my hands were so cold it hurt.
We started walking back down to the station with the few people that had stayed up there with us. This place has an insane amount of people crowded around during the day, but we only had about 15 other people up there with us this particular evening. It was perfect, calm, and beautiful!
On the way down, Eric wanted to stop to use the restroom. Well, good thing he did otherwise we wouldn’t have seen the biggest chocolate Matterhorn in the world. As well as a bunch of other random things.
Once we reached Zermatt, we decided to go grab a drink and dessert at one of the little restaurants near our hotel. We had a couple of glasses of wine and some chocolate fondue. By the way, chocolate fondue in Switzerland is served with fruit only. No cake or marshmallows like in the US. It was very delicious though!
We returned to our hotel around 10:30 pm and crashed. The next day would be filled with hiking and a trip up to the spectacular Glacier Paradise at 13,000 feet!
Continue reading the Travel Diary here: Day 9: Visiting the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise