I have always wanted to see the Swiss Alps since my sister visited in the 70's and described breathtaking mountains and quaint villages. When THE most picturesque photo of the Matterhorn came across my Instagram feed I immediately started to push buttons. It's amazing how much you can find out in one sitting on Instagram and I jotted down some locations, etc. I wanted to share the details of our spectacular hiking adventure to make it easy for you if you decide to go.
We booked our direct flight to Zurich after deciding we would visit Lake Lucerne, Zermatt and Murren. Traveling midweek saved us $500 each off our airfare. We were advised to land and hop on a train to Lucerne and we were happy with the suggestion as it gave us more time in the mountains.
I had reserved only our first night's stay prior to our departure as we read somewhere the weather changes rapidly and no sense heading to a town where torrential rain is planned. We also read "there are plenty of rooms especially in September". Although we had excellent weather this took the complete burden off of me to research and choose hotels ahead of time. GreatHouse was very busy and I had limited time. We landed in Zurich and bought our week long Swiss Travel Pass (I strongly recommend and no need to pay the increase for reserved seats.) which entitled us to have all train, rail and boat travel prepaid for. It also offers you ticket discounts to attractions. Throughout our travels we never had to stop at a ticket booth which was really nice. We hopped on to the train to Lake Lucerne minutes after landing and enjoyed sweeping views passing by our window.
I booked the Hotel Des Alpes right on the lake because it was within walking distance of the train station. Great location right on the edge of the Old City. Small room but really nice hotel with a beautiful balcony, nice shops around and an ample breakfast buffet including to die for cheeses and champagne!
The friendly helpful desk clerk gave us the info we needed to walk to the boat dock to catch the ferry to cross Lucerne and board the worlds steepest Cog train through meadows and rock faces up to Mount Pilatus elevation 7000 plus feet. (First blog pic above is me amazed by the Pilatus Glacier) we spent the day taking the train up to the top, having lunch with spectacular views and hiking (walking) down from the halfway mark amazed by the vistas.
The cog train descending to the station. (We rode up but hiked down a few miles then picked up the gondola for the remainder) everything is easily marked.
The beautiful Alpenhorns greeted us at the mountaintop at Pilatus and you can also experience them at the Schnige-Platte if you travel to the Jungfrau region.
At the mountain top there are a couple of restaurants and even a beautiful hotel. There were a few ice covered paths that went further skyward and we laughed at the high heel sign.
When we returned to the hotel we enjoyed the view of the Chapel Bridge over Lake Lucerne, the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. Take a walk through... beautiful!
After a stop at the hotel we toured the Old Village Lucerne, where our hotel was right at the edge.
The next morning after a 5 minute walk to the train station we headed to our second stop, Zermatt, where once again, the 3 1/2 hour ride seemed like 20 minutes with the spectacular vistas. Frequently seen were thick hand cut slate roofs that made me swoon.
On the train I went to trip advisor and booked our next hotel, the Chalet Hotel Schonegg. It was GORGEOUS and charming! Desk assistants, fantastic! I was warned not to be disappointed as The Matterhorn is often shrouded in clouds and some visitors don't even get a chance to see it but VOILA! Our room view!
Zermatt is a charming upscale ski town village...all the houses look like this and all the geraniums are bright orange...LOVE!
Our walk from the train took us through a hillside via our hotel's passageway (with music!) looked like Disneyworld, LOL!
I booked the place in 5 minutes on the train because I wanted to look out the window and enjoy the scenery and the Chalet Hotel Schonegg was another lucky score!
Another really nice breakfast buffet where the waitresses slice the sausage paper thin for you while you watch.
The first day in Zermatt we took another cog train to the beautiful Gornergrat ridge of the Alps overlooking the Garner Glacier. There is a Hotel at the top and even a Chapel where I lit a candle. Amazing views with a spiritual feel at 10,250 feet elevation. You really are in the clouds. We hiked down. There are signs on the trail that state the time each hike takes. Very simple to follow.
I clicked this iconic photo of the Matterhorn reflecting on the lake while we hiked (walked) down the mountain.
The next day we went to the top to experience the "Glacier Paradise". A bit hokey but fun. Make sure you do a cartwheel on a glacier when you're there!
After our trip to the top we strolled through the old village which is a small quaint area with original settlers' homesteads. The thick slate discs on the foundation were to make it difficult for the mice to enter. During the extremely cold winter the settlers used to sleep with the animals to stay warm....sounds smelly!
A must visit is the tiny Zermatt museum on the Main Street next to the Old Church in town. It really connects you to the areas history. We popped in as it started to drizzle and, quietly strolled around reading and seeing photos, memorabilia and the flimsy equipment used in the early days of climbing. It made us us feel as though we were part of a courageous adventure team scaling the great Matterhorn, too! The great Matterhorn is one of the most famous peaks in the Swiss Alps. Since the first climb to the top in 1865 about 4 people die each year trying to hike to its peak. Conditions are brutal, snow, winds, unexpected weather changes. I was amazed to hear of Lucy Walker, seated in this picture, the first woman to accomplish this extremely dangerous feat in 1871 wearing a long flannel skirt people!! She was a mere 6 years after the first man! Can you believe her challenge and succumbing to the added difficulty of appropriate attire for a Victorian lady?? Severe steep rock climbing is involved and after 3 men from the first successful climb plunged to their deaths she succeeded finding footholds in a long skirt! And you know she wasn't hiking that skirt up to her waist either in front of the men. Makes you keep our daily challenges in check, doesn't it?
There are some upscale ski village restaurants but we opted for this oldie and liked it for its authenticity and grit. The waitress totally forgot about our order but we were entertained by the kids table next to us having traditional fondue. She offered complimentary desserts and drinks but we had had enough raclette and beer already! Raclette is a Swiss cheese scraped and melted and as it firms up is served with bread. (Tip..don't have this the same night you have fondue LOL)
A must have traditional dish is ROSTI! Shredded sautéed potatoes with various options you can choose on top. Lunch here was sausage and onions.
The desk clerks at each hotel detailed our trains and changes with platform numbers and departure times for us, so easy AND you are in Switzerland and you can count on the Swiss trains punctuality. After 2 wonderful nights in Zermatt we took a 3 1/2 hour trip (4 train changes then a tram ride, then a small cog train) to magical Murren. Murren is farmlands, charming pastures, a very small ski village perched on a cliff and when you get off the train you have to brace yourself for the panoramic views of the magnificent mountains. From our hotel the span of the peaks was breathtaking and you felt as though you could reach out and touch them.
The very best part of the trip for me was hiking across fields and pastures with the Alps view while listening to the cowbells near and far. It really sounded like a bell choir.
Small chalets dot the hillside.
We took well marked hikes through wooded areas, brooks, hillside farms all with the snow capped Bernese Alps watching over us. In Lauterbrunnen we visited the Trummelbach Falls.
We bumped into this cheese maker selling his goods at the train station in Lauterbrunnen. The air was filled with the aroma! One girl put a wheel in her backpack and got on the train!
The restaurant at our Hotel Eiger was VERY good. Attentive staff and mouth watering entrees. Cinnamon apple fritters with ice cream was my dream come true for dessert.
Some Grandmas bring stuffed animals home to their grandchildren, my granddaughter LOVES sausage. You should have seen her delight when I presented her with her homemade souvenirs!
We walked and hiked for 2 whole days in Murren and it was therapy for the soul. Easy conversation and quiet moments and laughter with Roger I will never forget. We ended the trip with one night in Zurich hitting some shops in the old city. Switzerland was such an amazing vacation...truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I hope you go....the natural beauty you experience really stays with you.
At GreatHouse we are gearing up for a fantastic holiday season with special merchandise arriving every day. I just got back from another trip searching out new pieces and am feeling I know just what you're looking for. Thank you for your trust and the opportunity to help you create the wonderful home to raise your families. It is a role I truly appreciate and value. It's going to be a great holiday season celebrating all we are thankful for.
Hope to see you!,
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GreatHouse Bonny Neiman
12 Beechwood Road | Summit, NJ