I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
Trip to Switzerland
In 1997, when I planned to visit with my girlfriend that lives in Germany, we decided to take a little side trip to Switzerland.
Getting to ride on the famous Glacier Express train up to Tasch and then seeing that town along with Zermatt and the Matterhorn was quite a treat!
I took many photos of that journey and will share some of them with you in this post.
My friend and I originally got to know each other when we both lived in the nurse's dorm in the middle of the Texas Medical Center in the early 1970s. Working as operating room nurses at Methodist Hospital and living in the same dorm, we became friends. Our friendship has lasted all these many years, I am happy to say.
Planning Our Vacation
Although she went back to Germany after her work visa expired, my friend would regularly come back for visits because her sister, brother-in-law and their children lived here. That was a big drawing card. Most often we would get together on those trips with her coming this direction.
More than once she encouraged me to travel her direction. So one year I decided to become her guest and fellow traveler.
Much time and thought was put into planning our sightseeing sojourns with her doing most of the scheduling. Since I was new to that region I told her to plan the trip to suit herself. Everything would be new and different for me.
Visiting the Matterhorn was one trip that my well traveled friend had not yet done and she asked whether I would be interested in pursuing that.
Warning me that if clouds or inclement weather rolled in, we might not be able to see a thing was a chance we would be taking in making those reservations. It had been a dream of hers to visit that locale. I told her let's go for it! And that we did.
This post will address the portion of our trip starting with our being dropped off by bus in the mountain town of Tasch.
Tasch is a very scenic town located at a height of 1,449 meters above sea level. Located in a valley surrounded by mountains, it offers cross country ski trails and golf among other things.
The location is only 6 kilometers from Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Prices on hotels are a little lower on average than those in Zermatt. After arriving at our Hotel City Tasch Bei Zermatt one hour ahead of time, we checked in and took our luggage up to our room. We then decided to go for a walk prior to dinner.
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The construction of the buildings,especially the roofs got my attention. Thin slabs of stone comprise many of the roofs in this area. Quite unique! At least I had never seen that type of roofing previously.
I wondered if the stones when heated by the sun help to melt the snow?
The time of year was May 23rd and many wildflowers were to be seen blooming on that scenic walk overlooking the valley below us. I felt the altitude! Coming from near sea level the air was much thinner for me.
The cemetery in Tasch had quite unique grave markers as you can see from my photo. Pansies were commonly planted at the gravesides.
Meals were included in the price of our hotel package and we were seated with another couple at our table. Most of the people on this tour were from Germany and other than my friend, no one spoke English. Thus my friend got to do quite a bit of interpreting as the tour progressed.
I conversed back and forth with our table mates with gestures, smiles and Martha's help.
Dinner that night consisted of a soup, salad, pork schnitzel, buttered rolls and dessert. It was very good!
After dinner was completed, the wait staff brought plastic envelopes to the tables and asked us to save our napkins for the following meals. A number was put on the envelopes to note our seating arrangement at the table. We all obliged.
As noted in my earlier post regarding Freiburg, Germany, Europeans are much more attuned to living in more environmentally friendly ways. This was a new one for me however...that of saving napkins from one meal to the next. It makes sense if the napkins are not overly soiled.
After a good nights sleep and a wonderful buffet breakfast that included crusty breads and Swiss cheeses we boarded the Glacier Express train to go to Zermatt and get a closer perspective of the Matterhorn.
The day was bright and crystal clear! Just what we and the others traveling with us had hoped!
Scenery going up to Zermatt from Tasch on the Glacier Express.
We talked to some fellow travelers who had come here several times previously and had never had the luxury of viewing what we were enjoying on this day. This truly underscored how very fortunate we were!
Cog-wheel Train Ride up to the Matterhorn
Once we arrived in Zermatt we had made reservations for the cog-wheel train ride up to Gornergrat to see the mountains at closer range. Elevation at that level is 10,132 feet. It was 3 degrees Celsius.
This cog-wheel train ride takes about 40 minutes and runs both directions two to three times each hour. It started operating in 1890 and it is 5.9 linear miles from Zermatt.
It was Switzerland's first electric cog-wheel railway and also its highest outdoor one.
The pictures that follow show us at the top where there is located an International Foundation High Altitude Research Station.
The views are absolutely breathtaking and we truly were fortunate that the weather had cooperated in giving us this bright and sunny day.
My friend and I gloried in the crisp and clean air and indescribable beauty of the day.
Many people chose to sit on the outside patio of the research station and just soak up the atmosphere with an order of something to drink and eat.
We chose to sludge through the snow and get up to a high point overlooking the station where one felt as though one were sitting "on top of the world." True mountaineers might scoff at this but this is as close as we are ever to get and it felt like the "top of the world" to us.
The cog-wheel one way train runs often enough that most people can catch a ride either direction when they wish. When we had soaked up as much of the ambiance as we desired, we took the train back down to Zermatt where we wanted to do more exploration and enjoy a bite of lunch.
Zermatt attracts skiers from all over the world as well as mountain climbers. In fact about 3,000 people attempt to climb the Matterhorn each year.
The Matterhorn was first conquered in 1865 by an Englishman whose name was Edward Whymper. He led 7 people on the climb with him. Unfortunately 4 of them perished.
One sees many people on the streets of Zermatt carrying and transporting their skis and gear.
The Matterhorn is a height of 14,692 feet high and has the company of many other mountains of various heights
It is Switzerland's most famous of landmarks, and rightfully so. The Matterhorn dominates the landscape!
This area has 9 of the 10 highest mountains in all of Europe in rather close proximity. No wonder this area attracts mountain climbers and tourists alike!
One can normally ski in Zermatt from late November until mid-April. But as already noted we saw some skiers and this was closer to late in May.
There are 9 ski lifts and 25 runs according to the official Zermatt guide.
Zermatt allows NO motorized vehicles of any type on the streets.
It is strictly limited to pedestrians and horse drawn carriages. The exceptions are a few electrically operating vehicles but those are far and few between.
The streets are cobblestone.
Most all the restaurants post their menus with prices on the outside of the buildings.
We selected one after perusing some menus and decided to sit at a table outside so that we could keep an eye on the ever evolving street scene while we had a bite of lunch.
After lunch we heard music emanating from the Catholic Church in town which was one of two churches in Zermatt. We walked inside and found out that the music was in preparation for a wedding that was to take place within a few hours. It was lovely.
Outside the church was the cemetery. We walked among the many gravestones and found it to be very interesting.
Many mountain climbers from all around the world that died attempting to climb these mountains, chose to be buried here. The markers read like an assembly of the United Nations!
A large monument dedicated to the guides who gave their lives had this inscription: "HERE WE LOST OUR LIVES; THERE WE FOUND IT AGAIN. ON THE HOLY MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD."
Another cute sculpture involves some playful beavers scampering among the rocks and water.
We did not get to see the bride and groom as they were still in a hotel and had not yet come out to get in their black open aired carriage with a pair of white horses harnessed up and ready to escort them to the church for their nuptials. Many people were hoping to see them and some probably did.
It would be fun to have had more time to go into some of the many shops and linger a bit longer. But alas! We had to catch the Glacier Express for the next leg of our journey.
So with a fond farewell to Zermatt and with great but brief experiences and memories we departed.
One person's experiences in and around Zermatt
We boarded the Glacier Express Train from Tasch and traveled through beautiful countryside to a stop at Disentis.
The following photos show some of what we were getting to view from our train window.
We get closer to Disentis in these photos shown here.
The Glacier Express train makes a regular stop in the town of Disentis.
Our tour guide directed us to the Benedictine Abbey which is the largest structure overlooking the town.
The church is beautiful adorned with all kinds of rich embellishments such as the following:
- Arched ceilings.
- Side altars
- Hand carved and painted statues.
- Huge pipe organ.
- Frescoes on walls and ceilings.
All of this and more capture one's attention when visiting this site.
Outside the monastery are deceased Abbates who have been buried here dating back to the year 1614 and on up to the present time. Filigreed crosses mark their graves.
We had time for lunch and found a place where we could sit outdoors at a cafe. Bundner Garsten Suppe was ordered by both of us. It was a very delicious barley and white bean soup flavored with grated carrot, onion and parsley.
My friend introduced me to Radler Beer which we enjoyed drinking with the soup. It is a beer combined with a sparkling sweet lemon flavored water. It is quite refreshing and light. I know of nothing that compares with that taste here in the United States.
We wandered the streets a bit after lunch and then it was time to board the train again.
The train ride was quite comfortable and the windows offer great views. The windows can be lowered and we often did so as the weather was quite nice and it also offered better chances to snap photos of the passing scenery without reflections from the glass.
Pastoral scenes as viewed from the Glacier Express train in Switzerland.
From Disentis to Reichnau
After leaving Disentis we once again got to enjoy seeing scenery from the comfort of our seats in the Glacier Express. Much of the time the train followed the young Rhine River.
We finally disembarked the train and boarded a large bus at Reichnau to continue our travels. But that is as far as I am going to take you on this particular post.
If you ever get the chance to ride the Glacier Express up to Tasch and then get to see Zermatt and the Matterhorn in Switzerland, by all means take advantage of it and do so. I can't help but think that you will enjoy it immensely as did the two of us.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Peggy Woods