Wednesday, July 1, 2009

zermatt, switzerland

the fact that i have not seen nor heard any yodeling despitw nearly a week in switzerland is not that bothersome, actually, since the place is so beautiful that i can not fathom complaining about it.

complaining about me, well, that is another story. i so wish i was in good enough shape to take advantage of this place. everybody who isn't a senior citizen has calves of steel and hiking poker things of steel to match. hiking and mountain climbing are apparently the top reasons to come to the alps, so your gimpy-kneed correspondent cannot help but feel that i am missing out on alot. i shall return in a few years when my body is able to take part in the outdoor activities i see everyone enjoying so much here...

but as for zermatt, the matterhorn towers behind it, and it is, in a word, magnificent. like disneyland only three times taller. there's no trouble picking it out - even though it is surrounded by two dozen other 4000 meter peaks, the matterhorn stands alone because of its iconic shape. i took dozens of photos from dozens of angles as i made my way around town and up into the mountains during my three days in zermatt. hopefully one of them will be worthy of blowing up to poster size upon my return to riverside next week.

oh yeah - i will be home monday night, exactly one month earlier than planned. my kick butt mom was able to negotiate a refund for me on the london to india to thailand to los angeles tickets i had. considering they had been nonrefundable tickets, i am pretty impressed with her. so i will be flying into LAX from heathrow on monday night at 7:30. whoo hoo. then back to the gym after that in the month before i start teaching again...

back in zermatt...the town is compact, but rather inclined, at least for me. there are no cars allowed in town - drivers must park their vehicles in a huge lot a dozen miles back down the trainline and then take a train into zermatt. little electric taxi van dealies are omnipresent, though, and are constantly filled with people and their luggage either going to or coming from their hotels, or, people who don't feel like walking (like me).

i ate at a cool swiss restaurant - more sausages - after arriving at the hotel and then set out the next morning on a railroad that went from zermatt way up into the peaks of the alps. the gornergratbahn, or matterhorn railway, took about an hour to rise from the valley floor in which zermatt lay up to the top of the mountain, where there was snow everywhere, and it was hard <(for me) to breathe (at first) since it was 11,000 feet high. there were great panoramic views of glaciers and many of the dozens of 12,000+ foot peaks. i could see down into italy, and the matterhorn looked rightfully majestic.

i stayed up there for a few hours, walking around a little bit, but not nearly as much as the hikers who were either finishing or starting their climbs. a sign indicated that zermatt was four hours down the trail. wow. props to those people, and to the ones who were coming up. i could barely walk around at all and these people were hiking for hours on end across slippery, uneven terrain.

i took the train down, ate dinner, and read mark twain in my room until it was time for bed. the next day was basically a kick back day. i had scheduled it that way, with multiple days in zermatt, in case the weather had prevented me from seeing the matterhorn during a one-day stay.

yesterday was a full day of train traveling, with four trains and three transfers, as i went from zermatt to lauterbrunnen, which i will tell you about later as i am about out of time.