What’s the Matter?
Zermatt, over a mile high in the sky at 5,315 feet, is the gateway to the Matter valley. In its midst, thirty eight, 4000-meter peaks – including what may be the most recognizable one in the world – the Matterhorn. Even reaching Zermatt is a peak experience. Via the private (but covered by your Swiss Travel Pass) Matterhorn – Gotthard – Bahn Railway, you'll pass through breathtaking views. It won't be the altitude that takes your breath away.
Zermatt knows that their tourism livelihood depends on keeping this monumental view in tact. To prevent air pollution, which could obscure the town's choice view of the Matterhorn, all of Zermatt is a combustion-engine, car-free zone. Almost all vehicles in Zermatt are battery driven and almost completely silent (look really well before crossing the street.)
The town remained a quiet village until it was "discovered" by mid-nineteenth century British mountaineers, most notably Edward Whymper. The Matterhorn was one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered in 1865, and that first expedition ended tragically, with only three of seven climbers surviving the descent.
At the Matterhorn Museum, which takes the form of a reconstituted mountain village, you can learn about this story, and how it relates to the history and development of Zermatt as a tourist destination. It has been said that on the Whymper party's descent, the four mountaineers that slipped and perished was due to a rope snapping as they slid. A controversy ensued as to whether the rope had actually been cut, but a formal investigation could not find any proof.
Today, travelers who want to ascend magnificent alpine peaks only need to hop on the incredible Glacier Express. Zermatt is the beginning or end of what is dubbed the "worlds slowest express train." The journey can take upwards of seven-and-a-half hours. And you'll marvel at the beauty every chug of the way. This panorama train travels straight through the Swiss Alps – from the jutting-into-the-sky Matterhorn to the Upper Engadine. This journey really is the destination.
You'll (figuratively) climb up the 2,000+ meter Oberalp Pass, down into the Rhine Canyon, through 90 tunnels and over nearly 300 bridges. Along the way, you'll pass the world-famous resort town of St. Moritz, and view from your window incredible Alpine passes and steep cliffs, deep ravines and bizarre rock formations, quaint mountain villages and kind villagers.
Zermatt anxiously awaits your arrival!
Contributed by: Duncan, Chief Commercial Officer, a European who has traveled on trains in 19 countries in Europe.