"It's Like Being on a Different Planet" by John Rayburn
That comment is one of many such heard at Zermatt, Switzerland and its neighbor, the legendary Matterhorn Mountain. The people who live around there claim the mountain has a character of its own. The mood of this "big hill" even has to do with the weather, that if it's on the gloomy side and clouds are obscuring the peak, it means the mountain is not in a very good mood. On the other hand, it has a sense of humor, and if those clouds only partially cover, making it look like smoke, the mountain is pretending to be Vesuvius on the verge of eruption. Otherwise, the good side comes to the fore when the sun glints off the glaciers and the gleam offers outstanding picture-taking. You'll be hard put to find a more spectacular setting. It's unsurpassed. Like our Mt. McKinley in Alaska the mountain can often be socked-in enough you won't really see it. It was like that for us at first but one morning I stepped outside our chalet facility and it was clear as could be and I got a wonderful picture of a mountain that has been likened to a pyramid. I was reminded of a stalagmite, those cave growths that rise up from the floor of a grotto. It was like the sky was being pierced by an arrow of stone.
They have a saying that anyone who sees the Matterhorn is going to be successful and wealthy. The latter part hasn't worked out for us yet, but, who knows?
On our way there we had been in the vicinity of Mont Blanc at Chamonix in France, the tallest mountain in the Alps. The French call it La Dame Blanche (the White Lady) and it is 105 miles on a guide-led hike to Zermatt.
For the less hardy the only other way there is by train, no cars allowed. It's a cog-wheel train and it takes about an hour to make the trip up a breathtakingly beautiful alpine valley. Once there, the hotels provide free electric taxis or horse-drawn sleighs. If you don't have a reservation they have free phone service on the platforms of the station. Most of the places in the village are only about a 10-minute walk that will take you to the Bahnhofstrasse, the main street and they don't use the other street names much.
You'll find most of the residents are multi-lingual, so no problem there. The hotels and restaurants include the tip on their bills and no extra tips are expected. However, if you are treated in nice, friendly fashion anything else is up to you. One word of caution, the electricity is 220 volts so you'll need a converter for razors and so on.
If you wander around day or evening it can be an absolute delight to head down some of the cobbled alleyways that lead off the main street. You'll see chalets of traditional nature and there are also barns that have been browned by the sun and are obviously ancient. If it’s snack or dinner time there are places to eat galore and the quality is high just about everywhere. Generally, menus and prices are posted outside to make it easier for you and they are most often translated into English if, like us, you need that.
The town has a special graveyard for unfortunate climbers who have failed in attempts to scale the magnificent peak. The first ascent of the Matterhorn came in the 19th century after surrounding peaks had been conquered in the period of 1830s to ‘50s. The Matterhorn was still being thought of as “unclimbable” but it was finally achieved in mid-July of 1865. On the way down one of the climbers slipped and a dominos effect resulted as a rope snapped and four of seven climbers fell thousands of feet to their death.
This major attraction has meant ever-increasing popularity of the city but the friendly atmosphere is still that of a village and evening promenades down the car-free and carefree streets are the epitome of relaxed pleasure.
This location is pretty much on the border of Switzerland and Italy and on the Italian side they call the Matterhorn Monte Cervino, meaning basically the same thing.
Obviously, it’s not to be expected that everyone will get the opportunity to enjoy this fascinating city and the neighboring gracefully curved mountain. A minor substitute has been found by some at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They have built a 147 foot replica but that pales by comparison to the nearly 15,000 foot mountain that becomes a real-life Disneyland for those, like us, who have been fortunate enough to visit the real thing at what is truly a special place on our often mundane sphere.
You can check out John Rayburn’s blog @ http://bloggadocio-onairvet.blogspot.com/