Thursday, September 6, 2012 (Day 20)
Riederalp, then Zermatt
weather: cool in the morning, warm, sunny day,
The whole reason I chose to stay in the Riederalp area was for the suspension bridge we hiked to yesterday. However, this area turned out to be much better than originally anticipated and I almost wish we had stayed longer. We certainly could have done some more hiking in the area and we really loved our mountain lodge. But, alas, it is time to leave this area and travel to Zermatt today. Today we will see the Matterhorn, one of the Switzerland icons, and one of the world’s most famous mountains. We didn’t visit last time we were here, and sometimes Zermatt gets a bad rap for being too touristy. However, we look forward to checking this off our list.
So, this morning we woke up early at 7am to finish packing and have breakfast, once again packing a picnic lunch. We still had some hiking we wanted to do in the area, so we were out the door early. The walk down to Riederalp from Riederfurka was much easier going down than it was hiking up. =) We made it down to the cable car station easily and with enough time to make a quick stop in the only open store we saw for a postcard and some chocolate.
From here, we rode down the cable car from Riederalp to the Morel train station. Then, we took the train back towards the west to Fiesch and stored our luggage at the station. It was a short walk to the Fiesch cable car which we too first up to Fiescheralp, and then another cable car up to the top, Eggishorn. The cable cars were completely packed with people. There wasn’t enough room to move your feet and just barely enough room to breathe.
Also, I haven’t made note of it yet on the trip, but today I realized that I needed to make sure to blog about all the 70, 80, and probably 90 year old senior hikers that we’ve seen. I love seeing so many people out hiking, people of all ages even! We see kids, teens, young adults, parents, baby boomers, and seniors out hiking each day. I look forward to doing this for a long time and when I’m 90 I hope I’m still out here with a pack and a pair of trekking poles walking around Switzerland.
We disembarked at the Eggishorn station and it was chilly out! Scattered clouds were covering parts of the peak up here and keeping us cool and we immediately put on our jackets. From here we just had a short 3/4km hike up to the actual Eggishorn peak where we hoped we would be able to see the Jungfraujoch, where we were a couple weeks ago looking down at the Aletsch Glacier. Of course, it’s all uphill to climb a peak, and this peak was really just a mountain of large rocks that we got to scramble over. I was very impressed with the workers who had constructed the path and steps out of all these rocks.
At the top, we almost had a full glacier view, but still some rocks in the way, so we scrambled off path a bit and found a table-rock to sit and view the full glacier. As soon as the clouds cleared we could, indeed, see all the way to the shiny Sphinx on top of the Jungfraujoch and marvel at the fact that a couple weeks ago we were up there looking at the Eggishorn with no idea that we’d be on the Eggishorn.
It really was quite a view and we stayed here for a while, eating our picnic lunch and taking photos until we were ready to leave. Now we did the whole trip in reverse: hiked back to the cable car for .75km, took the two cable cars down to Fiesch, grabbed our luggage and finally hoped on the 2p train back east towards Brig. In Brig we had enough time to run into a shop for some snacks. Our next train to Zermatt was sitting on the tracks, so I left Mark with all our luggage on the train and ran in for the snacks. I knew I had enough time, but I was so concerned the train would take off without me. When I came back out, I didn’t see the train at first, and I thought that the train had, in fact took off without me. Luckily it was still there.
We managed to be lucky enough to find a regular train with a panoramic car, so it was almost like taking the final leg of the Glacier Express into Zermatt. All that was missing was the audio commentary. As Rick Steve mentioned in his book, the closer we got, the more we anticipated seeing the Matterhorn from the train, but we really only got a quick glimpse before the train disappeared into the Zermatt station (which is avalanche-proof apparently).
The walk to our hotel was 12 easy minutes. I was actually surprised at how flat the touristy town of Zermatt was. It’s at the bottom of the cul-de-sac of a valley, so we are surrounded on 3 sides by tall mountains, but the town itself is easy enough to walk around in. We arrived at our hotel, which turned out to me really an apartment at 4:15p. I was incredibly happy with our Jolimont apartment. We arrived and there was a note on the front door telling us which apt was ours. The key was there and inside was all kinds of brochures of information about the area. We couldn’t as for more. On our balcony we could see the Matterhorn. Our apartment had a nice little kitchen area, the bedroom area, and a decent bathroom. We were very happy here.
We checked out our digs and then headed into the main part of town to the Matterhorn Museum (which closes at 6p). We arrived in time to have about an hour to look around. With our Swiss Pass, the museum itself was free, but we went ahead and paid for the audio guides. The brochure claimed that the museum was a “uniquely staged experience.” You know what, I don’t think I could have said better myself. This was indeed, a unique experience. Uniquely staged!
It’s hard to even thing how to described the Matterhorn Museum. Firstly, I guess I should say that we did enjoy our visit, though I wouldn’t place it as a must-see for Zermatt. Definitely get all your hiking in and if you have extra time, come to this museum mostly to be amused. I was unclear about several things inside the museum, but I believe the idea came after a major accident climbing the Matterhorn that resulted in the deaths of a few climbers. One of the members of that team, chose to save items from his fallen companions in memory of them and then use those items to start a museum mostly to commemorate the climbers.
I feel much more knowledgeable about the ascents of the Matterhorn after reading the Wikipedia article rather than my museum visit. Here are a few facts. The Matterhorn was one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered and there was actually quite a race of who would get to the top first. Edward Whymper and his party were the first to make the ascent in a disastrous attempt in July of 1865 where four members of the party of seven fell to their deaths on the descent. The Matterhorn didn’t become famous until this expedition that lead to court proceedings to determine who was at fault for the deaths. It was determined that the fault was that of one of the members that fell, though one of the surviving members was blamed with cutting the rope for a long time.
Our audio guide was narrated from the viewpoint of Edward Whymper, an English artist and engraver who had been hired by a London publisher to make sketches of the mountains in the region of Zermatt. Whymper was fascinated by the Matterhorn and started attempting to climb it in 1861. The museum was laid out in no particular order which made walking through a bit confusing. There was everything from rooms discussing the various ascents of the Matterhorn to a room describing the church in Zermatt. There was information about farming life, and displays of climbing boots over the years. Then, the audio guide didn’t seem to care what room you were in when it started going into a description. Each room would of course have a number to type into the audio guide, but what you were hearing didn’t necessarily go with the room. It was unique, for sure. Some of the items displayed were the famous broken room from the 1865 accident, little stuffed animals indicating the fauna of the region, a chair in which some famous guy was shaved by someone else…..and so forth. It felt rather random at times and we were amused. Plus the audio made Whymper to be a cocky Brit. One of the descriptions sticks in our heads when he talked about the tourists that came to Zermatt after the Matterhorn became famous. He said, the tourists came only to “relieve themselves of their boredom.” He seemed to be very anti-tourist. He was also anti-Swiss farmer as he described some of the farming houses and areas. Thankfully we got the positive viewpoint of Swiss farming in Appenzell. Then, also, somehow the museum was also trying to stage some kind of archaeological dig by placing things on the walls at different depths, but we never really understood this aspect of it. In any case, this was certainly a “uniquely staged experience.”
After our visit we did some boring things like go grocery shopping, took care of some chores, blogged, oh and of course we had dinner. Dinner was at a place called Whymperstrube where we had some delicious cheese fondue for two.
Tomorrow we are excited to begin hiking in the area, but for now we will fall asleep with the Matterhorn outside our window and dream hiking dreams.