As a young kid I remember a picture book (not a comic), where Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge travelled by train in Europe. In this particular book (still not a comic) the destination and the central point of the story was Matterhorn. The exact plot eludes me – and to be honest I’m not even sure if it was in fact Donald Duck – but the name and the image of the mountain stuck.
Later – much later – visiting Disneyland, I got the connection. This mountain inspired someone at Disney to the extent that they constructed a 1/100 scale model of the original and threw in a roller coaster for good measure. Just to make it a bit more interesting. And commercial.
Much later than that, after many years of unintentionally avoiding Switzerland, I finally made it to the Swiss alps. In winter, skiing would be the awesome here. It’s actually a shame to visit these mountains without skiing. But not a waste. A beautiful summer day like this offers fresh mountain air, sunshine in abundance, clear blue skies, and scenery so beautiful it’s ridiculous.
The car free – not carefree – village of Zermatt is a base for further exploration of the nearby mountains and peaks. Zermatt offers pretty much everything you need in terms of shopping and dining, and despite its commercialization the resemblance of a mountain village with the quaint and colorful wooden houses still remains. But that’s not why you came.
We decide to take the train to Gornergrat, a peak further up the mountains. Slowly the train ascends, away from the village, through the trees, up into the mountains. And then you catch the first glimpse of Matterhorn. The mighty mountain arises in the distance. It’s not the highest mountain in the world, or the least accessible, or the most dangerous. But it might be the most beautiful.
Gornergrat contains a miniscule train stop, a visitor center, a couple of shops charging whatever prices they want because it’s Switzerland and in the middle of the mountains, and a platform where you can view the surrounding glaciers and mountains. A few lazy and alarmingly skinny St. Bernard dogs with those little barrels under their chin pose for pictures as if they ever rescued anyone other than their ski bum owners from having to actually work for a living.
From here it’s downhill. The winding trail with Matterhorn in sight every step of the way takes you back towards the village. The highlight is the little mountain lagoon where the mighty mountain reflects in the crystal clear water. My camera has a function for optimal settings in various situations. The “scenery” option has Matterhorn as the sample picture. Here is the real deal. Spectacular is an understatement.
Four hours later, including a pit stop at a mountain lodge for a beer, we’re back in Zermatt. You would think that four hours of downhill walking would be a picnic. My toes, calves, knees, and thighs beg to differ. For a week to come. Rookie mistake. But the scenery more than compensates for a few days of aching feet and legs.
Tens of thousands of people visit Disneyland every day. To most of them, Matterhorn is a theme park ride. For us who are fortunate enough to be able to experience what’s beyond the Magic Kingdom appreciate that there are still natural wonders that no man made constructions in the world could ever match.