Trip to Europe: Zermatt, Switzerland

After spending a week in Italy it was time to move on to the second of the five countries we had set out to see on our journey abroad. Early one beautiful June morning we hopped into Alex’s parents’ rental car to make the hour and a half long drive to St. Moritz, Switzerland to meet the start of the Glacier Express train ride that would ultimately take us to Zermatt, Switzerland.

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Our hour and a half drive quickly became two and a half hours after our GPS couldn’t read our position in a tunnel, thus making us miss our exit. We were all a little unsure of what was going on, but thankfully the GPS regained our trust and we made it to the train station with enough time to spare.

The drive through the Alps was incredible. We passed through quaint Italian stone-clad villages, saw streams and waterfalls, green pastures and mountainsides as we wound our way through switchbacks making tight hairpin turns, inching our way closer to the Swiss border. The train station was the point in our trip where we said good bye to Alex’s family and ventured out on our own for the remainder of the trip.

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The Glacier Express train is a train that makes its way from St. Moritz, Switzerland through the Alps to Zermatt, Switzerland. The train itself boasted panoramic views from its nearly floor to ceiling windows, and offered table service and very comfortable seats. We also tuned in to learn about the Swiss culture and the different villages we passed through on our 8 hour train ride. The reflection from the windows on the train made it impossible to capture any photos of the scenery, so you’ll have to deal with photos of my lovely husband instead 🙂

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The ride on the Glacier Express was a highlight of our whole trip to Europe. The first part of the ride brought us across ancient stone viaducts, across green valleys, through idyllic Bavarian villages, as we wound our way next to the milky mint-colored mountain streams.

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Each village had a church with a round, onion shaped dome, reminding us of Muslim architecture. Gone were the bright pinks and pastels from Italy and here were homes with dark wood, accented with white plaster. Nearly every home had flower boxes filled with vivid red and pink flowers that contrasted the color of the homes. The landscape was stunning. We couldn’t wait to arrive in Zermatt.

{Zermatt!}

{Zermatt!}

Both of us were awestruck as we strolled the village on our way to the hotel. Zermatt is one of the largest towns in the Swiss Alps and turns into a world-class ski resort come winter. The buildings were all a very similar Bavarian style with dark wood mixed with bright white stucco. Walking through the town we instantly felt very comfortable, as we find ourselves generally feeling at home in ski towns.

{The view from our hotel balcony... just wait for the Matterhorn to pop out!}

{The view from our hotel balcony… just wait for the Matterhorn to pop out!}

As I sit here on the balcony of the Bristol Hotel looking out on the Matterhorn I am just taken aback by the natural beauty of a place like this. Alex and I are so fortunate to live in a place as beautiful as the state of Washington, but we are madly in love with Switzerland. It is difficult to describe the beauty of the Swiss Alps and do it any justice.

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The Matterhorn sticks out from the range like a shark’s tooth, jagged and pointy, dusted with snow. Beneath the peak, the mountain range rolls along, covered in its green blanket. The landscape is lush and green, blanketed with mature evergreens and a coating of green grass as far as the eye can see.

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The town of Zermatt is rather large, but it doesn’t feel like a big ski town, likely because none of the buildings seem to reach above 5 or 6 stories. This allows for plentiful views of the Matterhorn.

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Our stay here in Zermatt really couldn’t have been better. We began our first day here by taking the Sunnega train up the mountain for an extraordinary view of the surrounding mountains, followed by a hike back down to the village.

 

{All of this terrain is skiable. The other side of this is Italy. Yes you can ski to Italy. Yes you need your passport. Yes we will be back!}

{All of this terrain is skiable. The other side of this is Italy. Yes you can ski to Italy. Yes you need your passport. Yes we will be back!}

The train is something I had never done anything like before. It starts off in the village where you walk through a tunnel for about two minutes then find yourself selecting a car inside the train. Then the doors close and the train heads up the mountain. The train ride is about 4.5 minutes and literally goes up through a tunnel in the center of the mountain. When you exit the train tunnel you are at the Sunnega station and are met with a panoramic view of the Matterhorn and an inviting patio to grab a drink.

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We certainly picked the right day for our hike – the sun was out and the temperature was just right. We spent about an hour at the top before making our descent down the mountain by foot. It was a mostly enjoyable hike downward.

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Mid-way down the mountain we came across a little restaurant with a patio complete with chaise lounge chairs facing the Matterhorn. We could not pass this up, of course, so we stopped and had a drink and took a rest while gazing out at the Matterhorn.

{my little slice of paradise}

{my little slice of paradise}

During our hike all both of us could think of was what the mountain would look like covered in snow and when we could possibly plan a ski trip to come back to the Swiss Alps.

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Once we made it back to the village we had worked up an appetite. We stopped for lunch at Stadel Restaurant, a very Swiss establishment. We ordered cheese fondue to share. The fondue had six Swiss mountain cheeses and we guessed some garlic, white wine, a little nutmeg and a sprinkling of pepper. It was served with crusty bread cubes and some hot potatoes to dip. The fondue was not surprisingly the best had ever had. We were in heaven. This ended up being our favorite meal {for flavor} of our three and a half week trip in Europe.

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With bellies full of cheese we headed back to our room to spend the afternoon sunbathing on our glorious balcony staring at the Matterhorn in the distance.

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Our second day was much the same as our first. We ate a lot of Swiss food, did a short hike, toured the Matterhorn museum and strolled through the town and popped into a few shops along the way. One highlight was the Swiss chocolate shop. We ate our way through that one.

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For our final dinner in Zermatt, we went to another traditional Swiss restaurant, called Wymper Stube, to have a meat fondue, the meal that ended up being our favorite for experience in our whole trip. We ordered a beef and veal broth-based fondue. Most meat fondues are oil based, which means you cook your raw meat in hot oil in the fondue pot.

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Our broth was a beef broth bubbling away with mushrooms and green onions. It was so good with the thin, wide strips of beef and veal. The experience was so fun because the server brought out several dipping sauces, as well as four bowls of different vegetables, along with two clean plates decorated with exotic fruit. It set the tone for a really fun dinner. We also enjoyed a bottle of Heidel wine, which is a white wine produced in the region.

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Switzerland is ungodly expensive. The food in Zermatt really blew our budget! Thankfully we made up for it in less expensive cities. One night we each had a 28 franc burger {remember, burgers originated next door in Germany!} and another night each of our entrees of veiner schnitzel were 42 francs, which we found out was a pretty average price. For lunch one day we stumbled across a sausage stand in the middle of town and had our least expensive meal of 19 francs, including a beer. The conversion rate of francs to USD worked in our favor, though, and was close to 1:1 while we were there.

{this was our dessert at the fondue restaurant - a gigantic merengue covered in whipped cream with an ice cream center. Yes we ate the whole thing.}

{this was our dessert at the fondue restaurant – a gigantic merengue covered in whipped cream with an ice cream center. Yes we ate the whole thing.}

We just adored Zermatt. The customer service across the whole town was fantastic. Everyone spoke English and seemed genuinely happy to be serving us. I applaud the town’s approach to making guests from around the world feel welcome and at home.

{you better believe we will be back!!}

{you better believe we will be back!!}