Tuesday, January 02, 2007

September 2nd, 2006
Zermatt to Geneva, Switzerland
Shawn and Vonessa Martin 5th wedding anniversary

We woke up early and went down to the breakfast of hiker champions. They had everything. Croissants, eggs, granola cereal, cheese, coffee, hot chocolate. We wanted to eat it all, we felt so deprived of choices. We tried, we really did.

Off to the town. The hotel generously agreed to keep our bags while we were exploring. Our mission: to find a gondola to get as close to the Matterhorn as we could (like we had to Mont Blanc). We have two choices. We can take a gondola up to 3883 meters, the next highest point (The Matterhorn being 4478 meters) OR we could take a gondola up to 2786 meters and hike to 3260 at the foot of the Matterhorn. Higher equals more adventure we decide. To my surprise our Swiss Passes get us half off the price ($68 instead of $136).

We take a gondola with a dozen skiers and snowboarders. Actually I think the Olympic Austrian ski team was on our gondola. We take one gondola to what they call Schwarzsee paradise (2583 meters) then another one to Gletschen Palast (3883 meters). Both areas our major ski centers but Gletschen Palast has the MATTERHORN GLACIER PARADISE!

We spend some time taking a lot of pictures at the top. Pictures of the Matterhorn from an entirely different perspective then from the valley. The panorama is epic. We can see Mont Blanc far away. Looking north to Zermatt there is an excellent wooden carving of Jesus Christ on the cross. Underneath it says (in French, German, Italian, and English): BE MORE HUMAN.

To the east of us is the Breithorn mountain at 4165 meters. It actually looks like a lot like Mont Blanc. You can see people slowly climbing the snow to the summit but they are too small to show up in any of our pictures. When Shawn has finally exhausted his scenic photo options we head down the metal stairs (why cold icy metal?) to the ice tunnel. Viva Matterhorn Glacier Paradise! Carved into a glacier is a large room about 200 feet under ground. A novelity to be sure. In this room they have displays of ice carvings (that presumably never melt because it IS arctic in there). They have chamois, Buddha, a carriage, etc. MGP wins one point against the awe inspiring Aiguille du Midi.

It is getting pretty crowded so we descend. We are forced to share with 3 Swiss Germans skiers our gondola to the midway down point. They are having a boisterous conversation when all of a sudden one of the guys breaks into song. The White Stripes' I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself. For our benefit? If so, good American singing accent.

Now we are just tourists and no longer hikers. We have no back packs to show our status and now our mission is to buy presents for our family and friends. Our train leaves at 4pm and we have 2 hours to achieve our goal. Chocolate is a must. I can't say enough about how great Swiss chocolate is. We stop to eat. I purchase my last Swiss bakery sandwich and Shawn has "the best brat ever" from a man who cooks outside on the street. Then we board the train and sadly make our way to Geneva where we hope our gamble paid off on the hotel we randomly found two weeks ago. Wow, two weeks.

Total score. Our hotel is just as nice as the hotels on the trail. Hooray! Those Swiss teases. Tomorrow we fly home. The best trip ever.

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