To say that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activities would be an understatement but also an excuse for not keeping up with much of anything. However, the pace of life these days is BUSY, to say the least, but in a good way. There is certainly a “carpe diem” philosophy, driven by the fact that our time here is short and, therefore, precious. We just crossed the half-way point last week, which is amazing, as I still feel that everything is so new and that I continue to adjust on a daily basis to the pace and to activities, of which there are many and they constantly change. So, this experience is representative of time – the only thing that stays the same is that it changes!
I’ve enjoyed some fantastic hikes and a scary climb, but the highlight of the month of October was a visit from this guy:
Which coincided with the first snowfall in Zermatt on October 15th. Yep, mid-October! I awoke to female students squealing and singing songs about snow, but that didn’t register until I had enjoyed a cup of coffee and then looked outside: Oh, wow, snow! Winter is not coming, winter is HERE! We had originally decided that Michael wouldn’t visit, but once I was in Zermatt, it seemed silly for him not to take advantage of that and come to Switzerland.
It made for some more challenging hikes during Michael’s visit, but it was also gorgeous to see the fall colors contrast against the white snow. We really couldn’t complain too much as we took in the views and enjoyed the almost too-picturesque scenery in the snow:
On Thursday, we hiked from Zermatt to Zmutt and then Zum See, both of which are little hamlets (and serious hamlets, they aren’t even “towns”) just south of the center of Zermatt, and an easy but nice little walk. In the summer and early fall, Zmutt and Zum See are busy with tourists there to eat lunch and see the scenery, but they were well buttoned-up on a snowy Thursday. That is one of the many distinguishing characteristics of this area (to me, at least) – the off-season, October, is VERY quiet. Stores and restaurants close, some opening up again for ski season, but other mountain huts and restaurants don’t open until the next summer. At any rate, we enjoyed our snowy walk:
Even though we didn’t have those amazing views of the Matterhorn, the snow made everything feel so wintery, but in that “It’s fresh snow” way. Also, we were both excited about snow. You know, SNOW!
On Saturday and Sunday, we headed out for our weekend ‘trip’ – we spent the night in a hotel up from Zermatt. We started our hike with the Sunnegga lift, a quick ride through a tunnel (through the mountain, thanks to Swiss engineering). The weekend was gorgeous, and getting to a higher elevation really allows you to appreciate the scenery.
From Sunnega, we hiked to Riffelalp and then on to Rotenboden, all places that I had been before, although we did get off-track on the way to Riffelalp thanks to the snow! Many of the trails that you would have taken were covered over, so we ended up, at one point, on a road rather than a trail. However, I have learned that maps are very handy items to carry with you at all times. Also, while I’ve gotten off-track and/or off-trail a number of times here, it’s easy to see where you need to go, which helps. The trail markers (the yellow signs) also serve as a good guide, and even if you are totally off, you can usually figure out how to re-orientate yourself.
The difficult part of the hike was from Riffelalp up to Rotenboden, but it was also gorgeous. We hiked the Mark Twain trail, which was the first long hike I did with the entire group on the second full day in Zermatt. I have to confess that I didn’t remember anything – maybe the snow changed my perspective/memory, maybe doing it jetlagged and tired wasn’t exactly conducive to remembering the details, who knows? It was a hard uphill push, but well worth all the work.
Our reward was arriving in Rotenboden, enjoying the views there and then taking the train to Gornergrat Station, our final destination for the day – and night! When talking to a colleague about Michael’s visit and what to do, she said “Oh, you have to go to Gornergrat station and spend the night there.” So, I followed her advice, and it was really wonderful. The hotel isn’t that luxurious, although it is certainly nice, but the views are (cliché, cliché, cliché) amazing. Being up that high and seeing the sunset and the sunrise were well worth whatever we paid. Also, dinner was good but the breakfast spread was incredible!
What I’ve come to love about Switzerland, in my short time here, is the accessibility of trails. In the US, it seems that hiking is more of a “hard-core” activity, and if you want to see some amazing views, it takes a lot of planning and work. While I like that aspect of “getting away” from the hum and busy-ness of life, I also appreciate how easy it is to get to a trail here. Take a bus and then a train, get off, and find the trail. We enjoyed hiking ALL day Saturday (or almost all day), ending the day at a nice hotel, and then we woke up Sunday, enjoyed an amazing breakfast, and then put the pack back on to return to Zermatt.
That was our big adventure during Michael’s visit, and I might not ever repeat it, but one time was certainly memorable, but the hike to and from Gornergrat was the real highlight of the experience. And sharing it with Michael, obviously.
His visit was all-too brief, and at times I felt that I was juggling my work life – being on duty, teaching, leading a hike with students – and spending time with him. Managing both wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it to have him come to Zermatt, even for a brief visit. He was able to see where I live (in a hotel, just like Eloise!), meet the people with whom I’m working, appreciate some of the Swiss food (we ate fondue and rosti!), and take in the scenery, which I can’t give full justice to when I’m describing it or relating the experiences that I’ve had.
And, here we are, at the end of the month, incredibly, and I am gearing up for the end of hiking season and the beginning of skiing season (!). I feel that my time in Zermatt is limited – and it IS – the days are passing quickly and there are so many experiences that I have failed to jot down and might not remember. However, Michael’s visit is certainly one of the highlights and a moment that is very much worth noting!