The Matterhorn and more ...

The Matterhorn is almost a Swiss cliché; you see and hear about it everywhere. But seeing it in real life, up close and personal, it is easy to understand why everyone raves about it. Words can't describe its towering Toblerone like presence, standing alone and above the tiny village of Zermatt. My breath was taken away.. truly. Tim and I spent last weekend in Zermatt, all expenses paid courtesy of a 3,000 word travel article I am writing about this destination. We arrived in beautiful sunshine on Friday afternoon, and after being shown to our hotel, had a village tour. I admit, I had expected Zermatt to be one of those huge ski resorts that has lost all character and been consumed by strip clubs and loud bars. I couldn't have been more wrong.

It has a lovely traditional part, with old wooden houses, and the main street, whilst touristy, has character and local bakeries occupy most spots - as well as of course a few designer stores. Apparently it is the place for celebrities to go and get away from it all, and not be bothered by the paparazzi: above the village is a chic lodge, that costs something like 100,000 per week and the likes of the Beckhams stay there.. allegedly. Below it is a glossy looking hotel, the OMNIA, to whose luxury we were to be treated on Monday night.. more on that later. On Saturday morning we went skiing!

We left Zermatt in glorious sunshine and warmth, and travelled about 45 minutes in a cable car to reach the Klein Matterhorn, where you can ski on the glacier. It was one of my best experiences skiing yet.. my rental skis were very short (good for a beginner), and we were skiing looking at the Matterhorn ahead of us and Mont Blanc far in the distance to the right. Another active moment came on Sunday afternoon, when we went kick biking. This a strange, and seriously pointless, modern sport. You basically go downhill, on a sledging-like track, riding a bike with a big front wheel, a small back wheel and no seat.. yes, as crazy as it sounds. Tim really enjoyed it, but I thought it was a bit silly and I felt very shaky and unbalanced ... an experience I'm glad I've tried but didn't have to pay for.

Sightseeing moments were after a train ride up to the Gornergrat glacier, which has the best classic panoramas of the Matterhorn, as well as an observatory where you can star gaze at night. I was also fortunate to meet some very interesting people, including a lovely couple who run a bakery chain in Zermatt selling Matterhorn chocolates and a "mountain guide" fruit loaf, designed to give energy on the mountains. It has just won an award, and we can understand why.. definite fruity goodness.

Another interesting character was Heinz Julen, who is a Zermatt-based architect-cum-artiste, and has just built a modern hotel/ art gallery/ club in Zermatt called Backstage. Amongst its interesting features are a lift from the rooms into the club-cum-cinema downstairs and a wellness facility based on the seven days of creation. His trademark are unique chandelier creations; one has violins draping from it, and another forks. The hotel we stayed in for three nights was less than impressive, or maybe we have just become too big for our boots. All the staff were 15-year-old trainees, who kept dropping plates and forks, knocking over jugs of water, and had the more irritating English expressions. Lowlights including being served a crust of bread with melted cheese on top for dinner one evening, under the guise of a main course. We had a treat to come though...
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