Switzerland: Zermatt

After three weeks in Zurich, le hubby and I have been pretty much reduced to human wallets. For once, we both agreed on something — that no other town / city / village could be as expensive or soul-sucking. And then we arrived in Zermatt.

Breakin’ out the alphorns. They must’ve known I was coming.

The tiny village is lovely enough. Timber houses, zero cars and smack bang in the middle of snow-dusted mountains.

Here’s a picture.

Pretty ain’t it; just don’t start a fire.

There was a MAJOR problem though: the place is a tourist cesspit. The first tourists arrived in the 1860s and the place has been FLOODED with them ever since. You can’t walk five steps without bumping into Asian tourists meticulously conducting a two-hour photoshoot in front of a fcking storefront.

So in order to make these vacuous beings suffer as they have, the townsfolk have collectively jacked up their prices in their stores / restaurants. Here, one is expected to pay at least CHF40 for ONE PLATE of crummy main course, so if you’re a ravenous eat-hole after your trip down the mountain, then good luck with that credit card statement.

There is little to do in the village itself. Zermatt’s oldest neighborhood, the Hinterdorf, has a collection of really old, crookedy houses but only picture Nazis would spend more than 10 minutes there.

Picture Nazi in action.

The Matterhorn Museum (CHF10, free with Swiss Pass) is as cute as a button, with fake, bleating sheep and all, but it is rather small.

Just in case you don’t believe how small it was.

Checking out the items of those who perished on the mountains.

There is also a mountaineer’s cemetery, where you can read ominous words like “I Chose To Climb’ on gravestones belonging to unfortunate souls who died before their time.

You would think this is an obvious red flag, but tourists from all over the world still come here to scale mountains. You can do it two ways: manually, with a rope and pickaxe like the crazier ones, or you can plant your fat, lazy ass in a train / cable car #likeaboss (no prizes for guessing which one I did). From the top, you can then bask in the glow of the Matterhorn.

Ah, the Matterhorn.

If you don’t know what the Matterhorn is, please stop reading this blog now and go get yourself some formal education. This tall, craggy slab of stone is highly revered because of its beauty and resemblance to a deformed phallus. You’ll be seeing an awful lot of it in this post so brace yourself!

All activities here revolve around the Matterhorn one way or the other. We were there for three nights and, on the first day, we took a cog-wheel train 10,270 feet up to the Gornergrat (CHF43, half price with Swiss pass).

Slow train up to Gornergrat.

This viewing station offers sweeping vistas of the region’s tallest mountains, including the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa, which — despite being the highest mountain in the Swiss Alps — is quite a mediocre piece of work compared to its celebrity brother.

Can you spot the Monte Rosa? Me neither.

From there, you can either hike down (actually, ‘stumble over large rocks’ seem to be the more accurate phrase given the barren landscape here) or hang around, snap some cheesy photos and go shopping for some overpriced, tacky souvenirs. We did the latter, having learnt our lesson in Appenzell.

Snowboy.

Mika was more excited by this sheep than the views.

Stroller parking spot.

The next day, we ditched the kids with our moms and took a funicular to Sunegga (CHF16 one way, half price with Swiss Pass), for — yes, you guessed it — more Matterhorn views. This time however, we could hike! There were several paths down to Zermatt but being the greedy person I was, I felt compelled to take the Gourmetweg because I like anything with the word ‘gourmet’ in it.

The path led us through gentle, grassy slopes strewn with wildflowers and larch forests.

Dis here’s sum real fancy house, Joe

Sick of the Matterhorn yet?

Well, how about now?

A short break from the attention-seeking mountain.

Unfortunately, we didn’t come across anything edible on our hike, just a couple of poky mushrooms and one very well-situated restaurant that was closed for the day.

On the third and final day, we made our way to the highest of these viewing stations because, like many tourists, we left our brains at the airport departure hall. The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (CHF100, half price with Swiss Pass) also offers views of the Matterhorn.

Surprise.

The highest cable car station in Europe.

But first, let’s put things into perspective: the peak of Southeast Asia’s highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, is 4,095m while the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is only at 3,819m. So the elevation’s not that big a deal, right?

WRONG!

It IS a big deal. Kids below 3 are BARRED from taking the cable car, because they can only do a maximum of 10,000 feet before their brains start to swell and erupt like silly putty. IMHO though, I wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone who haven’t sprouted a crotch-ful of pubes. It is tough going, as we were about to find out.

The ride up took ONE HOUR long. I don’t know about you but that’s enough time for me to conjure up a multitude of worst case scenarios in my head, like what could potentially happen if Swiss engineering is not all it’s cracked up to be and one the cables snap.

And then when you arrive, the air’s so thin you’re gasping for breath.

Oh, you really don’t expect this to be the last Matterhorn picture, did you?

Here’s another one!

But don’t worry, breathlessness will soon give way to disappointment as soon as you enter the Glacier Palace, the one you paid an extra CHF8 for, only to realize that this place — touted as the “highest glacial grotto in the world” — is no better than the ridiculously tacky I-City Snowwalk attraction back in Shah Alam. WTF man.

Did we just pay CHF16 for this?

An ice car. We must’ve paid CHF16 for this.

That feeling you get after realizing you just got ripped off.

Anyway, after taking pictures with the ice cars and an ice throne and straining a few muscles to wriggle into an actual crevasse, you emerge into the broad daylight to enjoy some free snow tubing. Thrice. Just so you get your money’s worth.

Weeeee, weeee, this shit is free.

I was almost jealous of my two babies by the time we were done. There they were, all cocooned in our lovely five-star nest, The Parkhotel Beau Site, while le hubby and I went Sir Edmund Hillary on their asses.

Our hotel is amazing. I could stroll into the breakfast room and 10pm, and still have plenty food waiting for me. Unlike other hotels, the staff here do not start scowling and stowing their food away like it’s gold.

Our amah-zin’ hotel.

Apart from its generous breakfast, Parkhotel’s got an old-world charm, super attentive staff, lovely alpine-themed rooms, complimentary cakes and beverages at teatime and an indoor heated pool and jacuzzi that overlooks the Matterhorn. No kid’s club here, but Mika was happy swimming and playing (or rather, attempting to play) darts and foosball in the games room and Ari was just happy.

Finally, a break from the mountains.

A room with a view.

We’ve never been so happy to part with our money in Switzerland.

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