Anyone mentioning Switzerland to me would inevitably bring to my mind the snow-covered mountains. In China, we have a very famous brand of candy called ALPENLIEBE, meaning, “Love in the Alps”. The notion is to make one feel happy and romantic while eating the candy. I still remember the well-sought slogan that the company used to describe their products “ ALPENLIEBE Witnesses Your Happiest Moment”.
Yes, ALPENLIEBE stands for romantic love, even the literal translation of the Alpine in Chinese means “Love you forever” (“爱尔一辈子”, “爱你一生一世”).
On embarking on my thirties, I had the opportunity to visit the Swiss Alpine region for the first time in my life. We purposefully chose July, the warmest season in the year so that we could get as close to the Matterhorn as possible, without freezing ourselves.
Leaving early morning from Paris, we changed four trains at various stations en-route, yet the long and tiring journey didn’t in the slightest diminish our thrill to see Zermatt for the first time. The journey from Visp to Zermatt reminded me of the train journey to Tibet, not because of the similarity of scenery but the way the train wriggling up along the mountainside, allowing passengers to enjoy the unique picturesque nature. People seated on either side would have completely different views. On the one side it offered a birds’ eye view of perfect postcard-like villages, while on the other side one had the opportunity to watch streams running swiftly from the rocky river beds and even waterfalls tumbling down from high up the mountain.
Summer is the off-peak season in Zermatt; the half-filled train allowed me to swap from one side to another so I was greeted with a voracious feast of the scenery on the way up. It was not until four o’clock in the afternoon when we eventually arrived at Zermatt – a place I had expected to be a city with modern entertainments.
To my surprise and delight, Zermatt was a bit like Putuo Island in China, far away from modern, big cities, isolated yet a real paradise for tourists. The place was packed with many souvenir shops selling local products like Swiss watches, very expensive clothing, mountain hardware for conquering the peaks, Swiss army knives and restaurants, not to mention hotels one after another.
In Zermatt, all local transport runs on batteries. No Hydrocarbon fuel consumption cars are allowed. This is why the air quality stays ever fresh even after welcoming millions of tourists every year. I give a nickname to Zermatt: The Japanese Town, because 95% of the Asian tourists I have encountered are from Japan, which consists at least a third of all visitors from all over the world. The Japanese are very nature aware and have a high appreciation of the natural environment and the need to preserve it. So if you are visiting Zermatt, be prepared to see many Japanese, arriving in large groups with the latest Hi-Tec luggage and sporting their fair share of trekking poles, boots, Gaiters and of course hats
Do not think that when you arrive in Zermatt you are near to the Matterhorn, although the summit can be seen from most of Zermatt, on a clear day, definitely. In order to be closer to the Matterhorn, one needs to take the mountain cog-driven railway, a special tourism train, to get to the glacier paradise, which is more than 3000 meters above the sea level.
There is an Observatory at the end of the railway line, as well as a restaurant and of course a shop offering yet another opportunity to buy your Swiss Army Knife among other Swiss products. The views from the terrace and the observation point were simply stunning; if you are a mountain lover, this is the place for you. For the more relaxed of “Mountaineers” like myself, I sat on the terrace outside the Café with my hot chocolate, waiting until the summit clears of clouds to witness the Matterhorn in all its magnificence. It is certainly worth the wait. Even if that was not possible, the view of the glacier fields and the surrounding peaks were still more than worth the journey up.
If you wish to make your trip to the glacier even more memorable, you can take the 20 minutes’ helicopter ride. We did. During the helicopter trip we flew on the side of the wind, so we saw the summit in all its splendour. To discover and explore the entire alpine region from the top was like astronauts watching the earth from the moon, it was overwhelming. If you were like me, you would be humbled by the grandeur of nature, and feel like a minuscule in this huge universe of ours.
I truly feel that words fail me to describe how magnificent the views have been, but I hope that the few selected pictures during this trip would give you a feel of the magnificent, awe-inspiring Alpine region.
Bio: Eve Zhao, a professional Chinese Instrument soloist, won several first prizes in the national competition and walked away with the grand price of “Levis’ All Talent Girls Competition” in 2001, Malaysia. She was invited to perform in Shanghai Grand Theatre and the music hall in Hong Kong in 1997, as well as a concert in Kagoshima, Japan in 2005.
She came to Britain for a Master’s degree in interpreting and translation in 2007 while continuing her music career in the North East Region. She is now running a consulting /translation agency, EZLink, acting as a link between UK and China, helping companies/clients overcome cultural and language barriers.