Monday, February 27, 2006

The Glacier Express and Zermatt…

If it weren’t for the absolute Magnificence of the Matterhorn, especially as we were so lucky to have seen it on a clear, sunny and crowd free morning, I probably would have opted not to journey to Zermatt.

After boarding the “wrong” part of the Glacier Express and nearly missing the other… “right” half as it pulled out of the station, T and I made it…..Barely. As we were sitting in our “wrong” half of the train, we were a little perplexed as to why we were the ONLY ones on the train, especially since the “Glacier Express” is one of the most popular trains to ride within Switzerland..almost as popular as the destination, Zermatt, itself. If not for the Janitor who curiously eyed us, sitting alone, as he made his cleaning rounds…we would have missed our train; for he was the one to actually shout down the platform for the conductor to hold the train.. “two dumb Americans are coming yet!”
So, we made it, barely… and we were lucky to be crammed into seats next to the likes of: “Halitosis Hal”, “Know-it-all Norman ‘Stinky-Feet’ III”, “Lucille”- a SPITTING image of Lucille from the show “Arrested Development” and “Fifi Fur.” These would be our travel companions for the next 5 hours.
Just to give the run down, Norman III had made the “Glacier Express” journey MANY times before, so he was able to give us a play by play of each corner we turned, each glacier we passed, every type of sediment of rock we viewed..As if THIS wasn’t enough, he had also climbed the Matterhorn dozens of times as well as many remote and Majestic peaks around the world. (Did I mention that he skiied down them as well?)
Meanwhile, as if breathing in my direction wasn’t offensive enough, Halitosis Hal (read: in a thick and nasal British accent) spent his time continually bragging about his friend from the Financial Times who had written this article about skiing in France…Blah, Blah, well as making remarks about those neighbors across the pond and their “yet another typical American catastrophe..”..blah, blah…
Across the Aisle, Lucille, with Ipod in tow and more than her share of drinks under her Gucci belt, was actually singing out loud. “ Looooove For Saaaaale..”
Fifi Fur looked appalled, but I think that the plastic surgery had just contorted her face to always look that way…She was making comments about not wanting to accompany her husband, Hal, to some far off destination, all because she had heard, “that the food is just Atrocious!!”
Luckily, we were able to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet when the Foursome made their way to the dining car..

Ah, now to Zermatt.
So, I got so wrapped up in the Fearful Foursome, that I didn’t mention anything about the journey itself. It was beautiful, but unfortunately, it was cloudy on our way in and quite foggy as we got nearer to Zermatt and the Matterhorn. When we arrived, it was very foggy and snowing, and there were millions of people with skis, snowboards etc EVERYWHERE. I should have known that it would be a zoo. I haven’t spent much time in ski towns, and never had I been to Zermatt, so I guess I just didn’t think that everyone would be there for the weekend. SO, right off, I think we were a bit stressed. Trying to maneuver our way through people with their skis poking out everywhere, while the roads were slippery with snow and ice.. and the “cabs” (there are no real vehicles here, just these go cart things) driving like maniacs in and out of was a bit crazy. And, we had really just come to see the Matterhorn, and we couldn’t see anything in the fog, so I was feeling a bit dejected and let down. But, we checked in and had a meal and good nights sleep, and planned, the next morning, to get up at the crack of dawn, to catch the first train up the mountain, for a better view. The next morning, it was PERFECT. Before dawn even broke, we could see that it was crystal clear out. We could see the outlines of the mountains that towered above the village, AND, we could see it. The Matterhorn. In the pre dawn light, it was beautiful. SO, we spent a little time, at 6:30 in the morning, walking through Zermatt as we liked it the most. Quiet. Empty. Peaceful. We were actually able to breathe in that mountain air, for the night before, we were constantly surrounded by smokers. Agh. When the dawn did break, we were the first ones on the train, no lines, no skiers. As the sun came out, we were at the top of the mountain (well, as far as the train would go..some 10,000ft high) We had a panorama of mountains to ourselves, the sun, and a perfect blue sky. It made the whole travel worthwhile for me. It was breathtaking. It was Postcard perfect. When we headed back down and disembarked, the craziness with all of the people had already begun. There were hoards of people in the station awaiting the next train up the mountain. We felt so lucky that we were able to avoid all that, because, had we come into the train station at that point to go up the mountain, we surely would have turned right back around and walked right back out. Having seen what we had come to see, in all its glory, I was satisfied. So, without further ado, we packed our things and decided to leave Zermatt, it’s hoards of people and the Matterhorn behind.

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