Summer 2015 is going to be an exciting time for the Matterhorn. No, not the ride at Disney, the real one. We will let our contributor Mira Temkin tell you why…
The Tissot Countdown Clock proudly stands on the Bahnhofplatz, the village center, in Zermatt, Switzerland. It is ticking down the time to July 14, 2015, when the celebration of the first ascent to the Matterhorn will begin, marking the 150th anniversary of this historic event. We had a chance to visit this wonderful little town last summer, which is getting ready to welcome thousands of visitors in the coming year. It’s no wonder. The majestic Matterhorn is the most photographed mountain in the world and Switzerland’s most iconic landmark.
When you get off the train in this mountain village, the first thing you’ll notice is that there are no cars here — just mini-taxis that whisk you from place to place. You’ll see plenty of happy alpine hikers with their backpacks and walking sticks along the cobbled streets. Other people are sitting in the outdoor cafes, sipping a latte and taking in the fresh mountain air or watching the horse-drawn sleigh take people for a ride. Zermatt breathes adventure with the pyramid-shaped majestic Matterhorn beckoning as the pinnacle.
We took the train at the base of the mountain to the top of Gornergrat, aboard the highest open-air railway in Europe. Along the way, we stopped at Lake Riffersee in Rotenboden where on a sunny day, you can see the famous reflection of the Matterhorn in the lake. Although the weather did not cooperate, it did provide magnificent views of the imposing mountain. Once atop Gornergrat, we hiked and explored the vistas from every angle, then relaxed with a cup of cocoa at the famous Kulm Hotel, the highest hotel in the Alps. The thing that’s so great about Zermatt is that it’s an all season destination with year-round hiking and skiing as well as mountain biking, climbing and more in the summer.
Back in the village, I recommend seeing the Zermatlantis, also called the Matterhorn Museum. Here you’ll learn more about the history of the mountain and those who tried to ascend it, showcasing both triumph and tragedy.
There are more than 100 restaurants in the village and 50 mountain restaurants. One of my favorite dishes in Switzerland was Raclette, a savory cheese dish served with potatoes, pickles and onions. At Sunnegga, I watched artisans making this delicious treat, shaving off cheese from a large brick and melting it in the pan, served fresh and piping hot.
When I travel, I traditionally like to visit local supermarkets. In Switzerland, I discovered Coop, and returned home laden down with tons of chocolate bars, a Swiss Army knife and colorful new Swatch.
There are many activities planned around the 150th celebration, including a musical performance of the Matterhorn Story in Open Air Theatre, depicting the successful ascent. For one week, Zermatt will return to the way it was in 1865. In addition, the Swiss Food Festival will also take place in August. Make plans to visit Switzerland next summer and put Zermatt on your itinerary. For information visit here: Zermatt.