Interlaken to Zermatt turned out to be an amazing day trip for us. While originally not part of the itinerary, we decided to go for it after some deliberation. More so, as we were put off by the hordes of tourists making a bee-line for Jungfrau, “Top of Europe” (3.5K m). Instead, we zeroed in on Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (higher at 3.8K m) accessible from Zermatt. While getting to Jungfrau lets you ride to the highest railway station, getting to Matterhorn means you get to ride to the highest cable car station. And that is an adventure in itself!
Getting to Zermatt and then to the top of Matterhorn turned out to be a lot cheaper as well. We set out by train which was covered by Swiss rail pass. While we had to interchange twice, the views along the journey were truly spectacular. It’s commendable of the swiss authorities to have developed all this infrastructure making it so easy for tourists to travel around without hassle.
As we got out of train station and started walking along the streets of Zermatt, we immediately fell in love with this unassuming town. The place is charming with quaint cafes, restaurants, boutiques, sloping roof chalets and stores selling hiking boots and equipment. Horse carriages and mountain goats milling around and the gushing canal along the streets makes it all the more alluring.
As we had set out early morning without proper breakfast, we made a pit stop at this café called Hornli Beck. The place was cozy and warm and the food turned out to be so good. Rejuvenated with the rest and some hot food in our bellies, we made our way to the cable car station. We knew that this was going to be a 40 min ride. While I had been on cable car rides before this long a ride was new for me too.
The ride starts in those small gondolas till a certain station and from there on, you ride in the much bigger more stable cabin. With much excitement we boarded the small gondola and settled on the ledges.
As we gained height, we could already spot the majestic Alps and the scenery around. The weather was cloudy and very windy that particular day making the ride much more adventurous as the gondolas swayed in the howling wind. There were a couple of scary moments when the gondola suddenly jerked or when the entire cable just stopped for a few mins without warning, leaving us dangling precariously with that one cable keeping us from crashing down and disintegrating into a hundred pieces. Those minutes of suspension in mid-air with utter silence around except the chilling wind whistling outside left us anxious and wondering about what was going on. I guess it was just one of those routine things when they had to stop the machinery to make some technical checks. As the gondola jerked into motion each time that happened, we heaved a sigh of relief and settled back on the ledges again.
We continued to ride on and now the snow covered peaks seemed much closer and the air crispier and chillier. We put on more layers of clothing in preparation as we approached the last of the stations where we needed to disembark to take the larger cable car.
Eventually, we were at the last stop called Trockener Stegg. We ran out to the open observation area to catch a glimpse of the peaks without the glass obstruction. The weather outside had transformed leaving us shocked as we stepped outside exposed to the elements. The wind was in full force threatening to misbalance us and so nippy, it threatened to freeze us right to the bones. In no time, we ran back inside under the protection of the thick walls and glass panels.
We now made our way to the cable car station mentally preparing to go to the top. By now, we could imagine how cold it would get further up and were suddenly grateful for our thick jackets, hoods, socks and shoes.
We waited for the cable car now and 10 mins later, it was ready for us to board.
More on it in the next post …