Our location in Italy along the northern lakes meant we were a hop, skip and a jump away from its serene, green, pristine neighbor. Yes Switzerland lies just an hour away from our Italian abode and my parents agreed: we simply had to take advantage.
Winding our way around Lago Maggiore, the scenery began to change. Posh villas were replaced by wooden huts with brilliantly-colored shudders and window boxes overflowing with geraniums. Where the Alps once hugged Italian lake shores, they now embraced rolling green hills of impossibly perfect pastoral landscapes. “Ooing” and “ahhing” at every turn, we took pleasure in admiring the sprawling pine forests and meadows while snow-capped peaks towered high above.
I imagined Switzerland would be picture perfect, but nothing, not even The Sound of Music, could have prepared me for this kind of beauty. My mom said it best: “We are walking into a nursery rhyme.”
High in the Swiss Alps we got our first taste of Switzerland over heaping portions of apple and blueberry pies. What started sweet, just got sweeter. We were en route to Zermatt. The little hamlet is built into the slopes of the mountains below the famed Matterhorn. People come from all over the world to ski, hike, summit or simply get a glimpse of this precipitous mountain peaking out of the clouds and rising high above the rest. We were here to do the same while soaking up all the Swiss culture we could get.
Cars aren’t allowed in the pedestrian-only town of Zermatt so we arrived to the mountain hamelet in a bright, red train, cutting through the mountains at the speed of lightning. This was our firt experience with Swiss efficiency. Everything is run like a well-oiled, ‘cheery’ machine, and it’s so clean you can literally eat off the train station floors. Here we were also introduced to the outrageous cost of travel in Switzerland. The mere 15 minute train ride cost a whopping $40 per person! When we learned the price of hotels and dinner out on the town, we knew we wouldn’t be coming back any time soon. Time to soak up every moment we have!
Arriving in the main square of Zermatt we were greted by the neighing whispers and clicking of horse hooves towing well-heeled travelers by carriage to their Zermatt digs. We found our home at a quaint little chalet and from our balcony of our room, we laid our eyes on the prize. There, staring us in the face, was the Matterhorn herself. Like icing on a cake, we saw her peak was topped with a dusting of fresh snow as she revealed herself against a brilliant blue sky.
Taking a brief sojourn from our budget travel days, Ryan and I felt like two kids in a candy store. I wanted to jump on the bed, yodel from the balcony and rob the mini bar. Thanks to mom and pop, we were living high on the hog!
And after so long on the road, Ryan and I hardly recognized each other. We’d put in requests for a few ‘creature comforts’ prior to my parents arrival and were now basking in this new-found glory. I was now armed with a hair dryer to tame my unruly mane and even a pair of jeans, which hadn’t made the packing list cut. Ryan, too, got a little wardrobe upgrade for the occasion and we were feeling quite sharp from our Swiss-style makeover.
Switzerland was decadent and my parents succeeded in spoiling us silly. When we weren’t indulging in a hot pot of cheesy fondue, nibbling on decadent Swiss chocolate or diving into a fabulous dinner of venison or lamb, we were on the move. We took the gondola known as the Matterhorn Express up to the very top of the mountain to the base of the Matterhorn. On this clearest of days, we looked out over a panorama of snow-capped peaks for as far as the eye could see. We were told we were actually seeing 37 peaks with an altitude of over 12,000 feet. I’m no mountaineer, but I can tell you the view was awe-inspiring.
Once on top, we tackled the Matterhorn Trail. The trek was a full day of hiking through incredible Alpine scenery and had us descending on picturesque Zermatt just as the sun was setting.
There are some days so special you know you’ll remember them the rest of your life. Trekking through the Swiss Alps with my parents and Ryan beside me, today was one of those days.