on August 6, 2010
Most people will be familiar with the Matterhorn mountain, they may not know that is what it is called, but will probably recognise the shape of the mountain, making it rather difficult to scale. There are various ways to get a good look at the Matterhorn without scaling it (we thought we would leave that for another day!) In fact there are three main destinations to travel to, near the car free town of Zermatt that will give you some impressive views. It all depends however, on time, budget and what you want to see and do. Firstly there is the gornergrat train that will take to a viewing gallery (which we did), there is the Klein Matterhorn, which involves a cable car taking you up almost 4000m, however, we were told that it won't give you those classic Matterhorn shape views, and it probably the most expensive of the three. The third option is the lesser known of the three but pointed out to us at the tourist office - Rothorn.We were keen to walk as well, especially since we had been blessed with glorious weather and we, in the end, chose the gornergrat, as our means of seeing the Matterhorn closer. Like all things swiss it is expensive - a return ticket from Zermatt to Gorgergrat will cost 76CHF each. Of course, if you have a swiss pass (like we did) you will get it half price. If you enjoy walking, and I don't mean you have to enjoy hiking, you can reduce your costs, by walking part of the way down, and then getting the train again back to Zermatt. You can enjoy the fresh clear air, as well as the gorgeous scenery. We took the train from Zermatt up to Gornergrat in the morning. At the top of Gornergrat there is a small gift shop, and toilets, as well as a little coffee stop. Outside there is a viewing deck, where you can take photographs to your hearts content of the wonderful Matterhorn in all its glory. We went up early, and it was very very busy, and as we were leaving the people had doubled, so the earlier the better, plus the skies tend to be clearer in the morning. One thing we didn't like about the Gornergrat was that there were several areas where you could get your photograph taken with a St bernard dog, for a rather hefty price. What we didn't like was that they dogs were being forced to sit up continually to please tourists. They did have umbrella's for the dogs to rest from teh sun under, but they didn't get much chance to rest, since we watched one of the men force the dog to sit up, rather than allowing it to lie down which it clearly wanted to do. It was funny to notice, that it was only the Japanese visitors that would have their photograph taken, no other visitors ventured near. Anyhow, beyond this area, you can climb a little path to get to another building, which inside houses a couple of cafe's/ restaurants, some pricey shops and toilets. There is also a small church at the top as well. Beyond this there is another viewing area, where you can be photographed again with the matterhorn in the background. You can also take a look at the surrounding glaciers, of which there are plenty to admire. Whilst you walk up, take a look at the little cearns that have been build by visitors. You will also notice that you are shorter of breath as you climb. We are both relatively fit, but we found it took more out of you climbing a short upward path, than it would otherwise. Those with health problems should remember this. It is also advisable to bring decent trains/walking shoes, as the paths are stony in a lot of places and it would be easy to slide on the loose stones, especially with poor footwear. Having taken our photographs and admired the views, we decided to get away from the ever growing crowd and take the train back down to the stop just before the Gornergrat. You can then walk a short distance down to Riffelsee where you will be rewarded with the classic scenery of the Lake with reflection of the Matterhorn. It really is possible to see a wonderful reflection of this mountain in a rather small lake. You can either return to the train stop and get the next train, or walk down further as we did. There are numerous yellow sign posts to follow along the way, and you can chose how long you want to walk for, as signs are marked with thre different times according to various routes, that will utimately bring you to the same place. The paths are generally well kept, although again you do need sturdy trainers or walking shoes, because it is uneven in places and there are some loose stones, but it is beautiful, particularly on a good day. We actually ended up stopping for lunch at the self service restaurant at Riffelberg. After that we contined walking until we reached the station of Riffelalp, where again you can stop off for some food or drink, before walking another short straight path to the actual train stop. You can purchase you ticket at the little hut and then get back to Zermatt. The gornergrat is excellently set up for walkers, and it is so easy to get on and off as you please as all the stations are manned to buy tickets as you will. Don't buy a set return ticket if have any plans to walk - you are not saving any money through it. Even if you get to the top and decide not to walk any of the paths down, you can pay a single ffare back down and it is no more expensive than a return ticket. There are a few things to remember however. We had wonderful weather, but paying for the gorngergrat in wet cloudy weather is pointless. You could still get the train up to a certain point and walk down, but it probably isn't worth going the entire way. Make sure you are well equipped with jumpers/ coats and sensible walking attire. Despite it being sunny, you will no doubt still need a jumper in the summer up at gornergrat, and remember the suncream!! If you are afraid of heights, some of the paths, particularly beteen Riffelberg and Riffelalp have quite sheeer drops in places. It didn't bother me, but my husband doesn't like sheer drops as wasn't very happy at times. All in all if you have a swiss pass and are willing to walk, then this is quite a reasonably priced attraction in Switzerland, rewarding you with amazing views of the Matterhorn.
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