I’d just rolled into Switzerland as the sun shared it’s last rays over the most prominent wall of mountains and the greenest valley I’ve ever seen.
There’s a reason I saved Switzerland for last in the region. But I figured, with a one night stand, surely a one night love affair in Europe’s most expensive country couldn’t be too expensive. (Disclaimer, Iceland, and Norway also lay claims for being the most expensive). Well, my one night quickly turned into more… because I just loved the Swiss Alps so much! It totally killed my backpacking budget.
Fast forward to some of the Alps most amazing passes, which are best done by car. Compared to the moody Alps of Austria, which were beautifully gray and stormy, the Swiss Alps were nice green pastures and blinding sunshine. Insert fields of cows that have escaped their fences and walk down the road. I loved the Uenerboden area, which was a rustic town with an insane number of dairy cows. The cows had large bells which had antique and fascinating designs on them. That sound, the bells, I would later define as one of the most iconic memories from Switzerland.
The Furke Pass was also absolutely incredible, which, I’m not over-sensationalizing how wonderful the Alps are, I’m a mountain girl, I know good mountains when I see them. Furke Pass also is famous for a car chase scene in Goldfinger. I did however, feel claustrophobic and like I was going to have a seizure on the train where you sit in your car while the train takes you under the mountains at Lötschberg Tunnel.
Another uncomfortable experience, was when I stumbled on the hanging bridge at Hangebrucke Furgangen-Muhlebach. I’ve don’e plenty of hanging bridges before, but never have I been so terrified of heights as this bridge swayed in the wind.
Here’s exactly where I went:
I couldn’t afford $70 USD every meal for restaurant food, so I opted for kebab once a day. That was literally the only eating-out food for less than 15 Franks. When I got sick of kebab, I went to the store, loaded up on a fresh loaf of baked bread and various Swiss cheeses, and carried a picnic with me.
Figuring that accommodations were going to be expensive anyways, we splurged for a room with a lake view next to a hobbit hole. I awoke in the middle of the night because I thought I heard a mouse crinkling around in the bread loaf, and crash . . . I completely shattered a lamp in the dark. There was no mouse, but leave it to me to have the only hotel incidental in my life inside of the most expensive country in the world. (Luckily enough I didn’t have to pay for the lamp because I fessed up the next morning in my “broken” German).
With that being said, if you are considering heading to Switzerland I would highly suggest tent camping. That’s what I wished I would have done, but on my 80 day trip around the world, I wasn’t carrying the gear. (If you want to camp at The Matterhorn drop me a line, I have tips that I scoped out for you). If you’re not down for camping, use some of those hotel point you’ve racked up . . .
Zermatt is quite literally, surrounded by mountains, and the end of the road. In Zermatt, no cars are allowed in the city. We parked in a garage on the outskirts of town, completely unsure if the car would be towed by morning. The lively tourist town in the shadow of The Matterhorn has a strange but interesting concept going with a green eco zone, making it just as charming as the lesser known and more authentic historic Swiss towns off the beaten track. But this “eco” zone also makes seeing The Matterhorn quite a feat and inconvenient. These eco-friendly ideas were apparent all over Switzerland, with bio soaps and organic groceries prevalent. It’s normal to care so much about the environment when you live in such a beautiful place. (Insert a thumbs-up from your Colorado hippy friend here).Speaking of Colorado, what was at the top of the base of The Matterhorn? A sticker with my town on it! “Nederland (insert F word on the sticker) Colorado!” I was shocked.
But in Switzerland, even the views aren’t free. Walking to the opposite edge of town, you round a corner for just a peek at the peak of The Matterhorn. To really see the view, you’ve got to take the orange Matterhorn Train called The Gornergrat Railway up to the base. (Just a note on the train, the mountain train is not in the main train station, it’s across the street. There’s also lockers for backpacks or camping gear). You could also take the gondola.One of these options costs upwards of 110 Francs. Ouch. Unless you’re going trekking in the back-country, willing to pay between 2,000-5,000 Euros for a guide to help you acclimate and summit the mountain, pretty much everyone else takes the train, and if you have more time, then the gondola. When you get to the top, there are extensive hiking and mountain biking trails. Shade cover is nonexistent, so be prepared. I went with a light jacket, and even though the temperature was -8C, the sun was so intense, that I was comfortable in a tank-top.
Surprisingly enough, in my opinion, the best views weren’t from the top. And naturally, the higher you go on the train, the more expensive the ticket. The best views were at Riffelberg (high view) and Findelbach (low view). So take that information, and save yourself some money.
I’ve been talking about seeing The Matterhorn for a long time. And as I stood, marveling and photographing it for several hours, it sunk in that all of the effort, time, and money, that I had spent dreaming were worth it for that moment to finally come to fruition. And even though it wasn’t easy to figure out, and took lots more effort that I expected, that experience was more rewarding than say, jump out of the car, snap a few pics, and move on.
The mountain was totally quiet, a different experience I’m sure, due to traveling during Corona Virus. It had been a tough week with lots of hate-mail from my previous post about getting into Europe during the pandemic. (More on that later, you won’t believe the mean things cowards say behind a screen. Like, you’d NEVER say that to my face, dude). And standing snow blind from those beautiful mountains (several neighboring ones are equally as impressive as The Matterhorn) and observing every glacier carefully, I realized that I’d been working too hard at documenting my travels. I’d started to become fatigued from taking myself too seriously and was letting what other people think matter WAY too much. Recently I’d been catching good traction and faithful followers, which had inspired me to work work work for better and better content. But then I caught myself, because never do I want what I LOVE to become what I hate. I need that balance. And most of all I need to protect my peace. And in the silence of The Matterhorn, I decided that I was going to turn off the noise of the naysayers in my head, and continue on my journey around the world because that’s what I need to do to take care of my mind, heart, and spirit.
Life journey, be free from judgement, happy mountain girl. –Katie