We spent the weekend in Zermatt with some friends. Zermatt is basically the Daytona Beach of Switzerland, not because there are any beaches, but because it’s a partying resort town full of spring break types (although more likely to be wearing snowboarding gear than a bathing suit). It’s mainly a ski resort (and it’s possible to ski all year round on the higher slopes), but it is popular in the summer, too. The summer high season doesn’t start until June, so about half of the bars and restaurants in town were closed, but we were able to get a fabulous apartment (with a view of the Matterhorn) for the weekend for a great price.
We arrived in the afternoon after a four-and-a-half hour train ride. We checked into our apartment, admired the view, and went to explore the town a bit. We also stopped for some groceries, and were talked into buying a piece of locally-made cheese by the friendly woman at the cheese counter. She neglected to tell us that the cheese was so stinky that it would assault us every time we opened the refrigerator, and permeate the entire apartment before the weekend was over.
We had dinner out on the terrace at Walliserhof on the pedestrian-packed main street. We enjoyed watching tour groups of various nationalities scurry by and played several rounds of Name That Language. The Canton of Wallis is known for speaking a version of Swiss German that even other Swiss can’t understand, but I was beginning to fear that I wouldn’t ever get a chance to hear the local dialect in this tourist-packed town. The locals we did encounter automatically spoke High German to us, assuming (correctly) that we weren’t from around there.
Later that evening our friends arrived from Geneva, and we caught up over drinks and cards. Upon seeing the package of Choco-Köpfli I had brought (I really am addicted to those things), Phil had the brilliant idea to open them up and use them as marshmellowy shot glasses. I had one with amaretto and almost went into a diabetic coma. To be safe, I stuck with dirty martinis for the rest of the night.
By the next day we were starting to suspect that Zermatt’s lack of public trash cans was specifically designed to prevent us (and others like us) from getting rid of the pungent local cheese we had purchased. After brunch in our fishbowl-esque kitchen, we headed up the world’s first underground funicular (or something like that) to Sunnegga Paradise (as Alison pointed out, pretty much everything in and around Zermatt is named something Paradise), where we started our hike. We wandered past several tiny lakes, closed-for-the-season ski trails, and countless marmot holes. We took many, many pictures of the ever-looming Matterhorn, which kindly stayed in view all afternoon (apparently it likes to hide behind clouds a lot).
After four hours of hiking, we headed back to the apartment to get ready for a night out on the town. The surprising highlight of the evening was GramPy’s Bar, which felt like the typical American spring break kind of place except for the entertainer, a slightly androgynous piano-playing ball of energy called Marco. He was insanely amusing, and only got better as the drinks went down. I’m going to have to write a separate post entirely about him.
The next day we rolled out of bed, made brunch out of all the food left in the apartment (except for the stinky cheese), and then headed up on a gondola to admire views of glaciers and Alps. We were hoping to go all the way up to Glacier Paradise (see?), but unfortunately that gondola was closed for repairs. Guess we’ll have to go back sometime.
Zermatt isn’t the most adorable Alpine town we’ve been to (it will be hard for anywhere to beat Mürren), but it did offer nice views of the Matterhorn, good hiking, and more marmots than you can shake a stick at (and we didn’t even go to Marmot Paradise). And I’ll bet it gets a little cuter in the winter, when everything is covered with a couple feet of snow.