What do you see when you look at the end of a Toblerone chocolate wrapper? If you guessed a mountain then you are correct. This is the Matterhorn, a famous mountain in Switzerland which reaches a height of 4,478m. In 1998 I was in Switzerland for technical training and together with a group of colleagues who were there for various other reasons, we decided to spend the weekend in Zermatt, the ski resort for the rich and famous. Well, we weren’t rich and famous but that didn’t stop us from trying.
So on an early Saturday morning, a motley crew of Singaporeans, a Hong Konger and an Indian took the train from Zurich to Visp, then changing to another train to Brig and finally reaching Zermatt. The entire train trip took us nearly 6 hrs from Zurich to Zermatt. However, the train ride into Zermatt is nice as the train slowly climbs up the valley and you get to see the alpine scenery.
Once we reached Zermatt, we had to find a place to stay for the night. Luckily it was off peak season and the various lodgings were offering steep discounts on rooms. There was a large signboard at the train station with photos and listings of the available places to stay, ranging from luxury hotels to dormitories. We just had to call the number listed and check the prices with the hotel directly. We finally settled on a traditional Swiss styled B&B. As we were the poor and infamous, we booked only 1 room for 6 of us for CHF50/night. The B&B only had common bathrooms. But as it was low season, there were just a couple of other guests besides us, so overcrowded bathrooms were not a problem.
There is a train that runs up to the top of Mt. Gornorgrat and costs CHF36 one way. This is a good way to see the Alps if you just want a leisurely ride with some sight seeing.
We had our dinner in our room with the usual Asian instant noodles and some other food bought from the local supermarket. I guess it’s always more fun in a group if you have to cook your meals in the hotel room. We were careful not to set the whole B&B on fire since it was built mostly of wood in a traditional Swiss style.
The next morning we went to the cable car station which connects to the ski slopes. The cable car runs all the way to Klein Matterhorn (Little Matterhorn). But I think we took it only halfway as the cost of a full round trip was quite expensive.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the ski resort for the rich and famous. Zermatt is really quite an expensive place to stay and visit. Taking the Gornorgrat railway and cable car to visit the surrounding mountains and ski slopes would set you off by more than CHF150 per person, and that’s not counting the cost of getting to Zermatt itself. As we visited in low season, we enjoyed a good price on the room, but if you come in high season then you better have a Swiss bank account that has many zeroes behind.
Zermatt itself is pretty small and you can just walk around the main part of the town in an hour. The place comes alive during skiing season when the tourist crowd is the highest.