Sunday, September 16, 2012

Matterhorn Day Off

After three pretty long days full of unexpected climbs, turns, modes of transportation, we decided to see some sights. The campsite in Visp was nice enough, we felt comfortable locking our bikes in front of the train station, and we started the day with cappuccinos and post card writing.

The train from Visp to Zermatt offers pretty stunning views the whole way.

the biggest rockslide ever

Our first order of business when we arrived in Zermatt was to figure out just how to get up to the snow. We walked through the town, saw that there were funicular trains leaving for peaks often and that we could take the ski lift way up to Klein Matterhorn - having no real idea what it all meant. We thought of getting some lunch first, assuming there would be nothing up there, but then we found the ski lift, bought ourselves the most expensive, all-inclusive tickets (birthday money well-spent!), and hopped into our own private pod. Scaaaa-ry!

first glimpse of the Matterhorn

bye Zermatt

Zermatt keeps getting farther away

last stop Italy

sheep! at the base of the ski-lift towers!

different climate and landscape altogether

For most of the ride we were in this one little bubble, but at the Schwartzsee (there's a lake up here?) we had to transfer. Nice photo op.

hoooooly-can't really believe it

That last picture is from the final lift which was a nice big one with an operator. About a hundred people can sardine in there when necessary. On the way up it was almost empty, but at the top there was a line of people - skiers! - waiting to go back down. The upper right dark green valley in the photo is where Zermatt is and directly below us is a glacier.

And that's what it looked like from the top of Klein Matterhorn, looking west-southwest. It was blazingly bright, but cold. People had been skiing but the ski day was just about over. That foggy valley is the Val d'Aosta, where we'd cycle through next week. It really is the border between Switzerland and Italy. I guess building any kind of fortifications was unnecessary.

I have no idea why we look so silly. It was very high up there. But honestly - we were incredibly happy when taking this photo.

we were both a bit dizzy. some people were really dizzy and uncomfortable.

There is a cafeteria up there and they served everything from traditional Swiss rösti (above) to rice and miso soup. Plus they had every kitsch item you've ever wanted imprinted with Zermatt or Matterhorn. It was hard to resist buying a bunch of stuff, but of course all I had to think of was the current weight of my bike and bags. We ate rösti and drank lots of water. First time up above 12,000ft when not actually flying.
We were ready to get in line to head back down when we saw a little elevator that said "Matterhorn Glacier Paradise". We had these tickets that included the "Glacier Paradise" and we had no idea what that meant. We figured it was that glacier outside which you can ski on. We'd seen it. It was slippery and the sun was really bright. But then one of us said, "what if you actually get to go inside a glacier?" Just joking around. We'd paid for the ticket, so we figured we should just see what it was all about.
We went inside a glacier.

the ice shepherd

trippy lighting as well as trippy music

Seriously. It was cold and amazing and there were cracks in the ceiling. Thank goodness we gave that little elevator a try. We didn't wait too long to ride back down and we were kind of light headed - in a good way - the whole way down. At the bottom we made a bee-line for the fondue place on the corner - by this time (5pm) we were pretty hungry. The fondue came with bread and potatoes. Our touring diet is pretty much bread and cheese, and bagged lettuce, so we thought we'd go for something different.
After dipping a few potatoes, an old guy came out from inside the restaurant and taught us the real way to eat the fondue with potatoes. He mashed the potatoes a bit on my plate, then scooped the cheese on top and mashed it in a bit. He was right, it was better that way. As we left he gave us a postcard with a very old image of the same little restaurant from a long time ago.

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