Date of Trip: July 2006
You don’t have to die to go to heaven. The only wings you need would be on a jet… a jet to the Swiss Alps.
In 1987, my sister DiAne and I took a whirlwind tour of eight European countries just to get a “feel” for the ones where we would like to spend alot of time. We thought they were all great! Moreover, I don’t think we could select which one we liked best like one would select an ice cream flavor, hamburger joint, or tennis shoes. However, we discovered our idea of “heaven” and we are so sure that heaven is like Zermatt…so sure, that we have been behaving better…you know, trying to achieve some prerequisites for heavenly entrance when our time to depart comes. This heavenly archetype is called Zermatt. Since 1986, I have returned six times to Zermatt. There’s a quote from Samuel Johnson, “If one grows tired of London, one grows tired of life itself,” and I totally agree with that. You can turn this into a fill-in test, like the ones you took in high school, and substitute the word “London” for “Zermatt”.
The village touches the sky! Although it’s auto free, it’s not exactly as vehicle free as it was 20 years ago and that’s because it has grown and there are many hotels far from the train station. This summer, 2006, Nancy and I took the train from Visp to the village of Zermatt. The scenery is comprised of tall trees, waterfalls, rocks, cliffs, and streams. You felt like you were millions of miles from any man-made dwellings and cool, clean air laced with the smell of natures’ flowers and trees blew through our open windows on this quaint train that made several stops until we reached our destination.
The Hotel Butterfly was a very short walk from the train station and for less than $200 a night, (mind you the dollar has been extremely weak), we had a beautiful, large room with a balcony, a full breakfast, and nightly five-course dinners prepared by Italian chefs, some lift tickets, Alpine Museum tickets and 3-day packed lunches for hiking. Oh, I forgot Gornerschluct, an incredible gorge, tickets and hiking maps.
The entire staff was absolutely amazing, although I remember 3 names in particular. Simone greeted us and escorted us to our spacious room with a wonderful balcony that could hold a party for 10 people comfortably. She spent a great deal of time talking to us and assuring our welcome. Her husband, Frank, was the charming, handsome bartender. As a matter of fact, although there were many bars in the village, Frank’s charismatic personality attracted many party-goers and the bar was pleasantly full every evening. Our real treasure, Vreni, provided us with novels about Zermatt and it’s mountain climbers. I skimmed these novels. Nancy absorbed and savored them to the extent that she could probably lecture on Zermatt. Vreni took the time. She knew we were in love with her home. We scheduled 5 days at this 3***, but it felt more like a 4 star, Best Western. We enjoyed our stay so much that we extended it to eight days. Believe me, if we didn’t have a scheduled airport departure, I don’t know how much longer we would have stayed. Every time I have been to Zermatt, I have been reluctant to depart. I have never stayed at the same hotel. That will not be true anymore because I have found a home and a family at the Best Western Hotel Butterfly.
Our hotel was at the source of the village, being near the train station. After we unpacked we walked down the main street which hosted a variety of stores and eating places. Colorful flowers were in boxes throughout Zermatt. At the center of town was the Catholic Church. The Protestant Church, which was smaller, was closer to the hotel. I am not “into” institutional religion any more, but as a former Roman Catholic, I only attend services in one church in this entire world and that’s in Zermatt. My heart is moved in Zermatt, not the wealth-filled Vatican. In back of the Church is the cemetery. In the cemetery are many who have tried to scale the Matterhorn, which is a whitish pyramid in the skies. Architect & builder: God.
When you reach the end of the main street, you catch your first glimpse of the majestic Matterhorn. I don’t care what picture you find on the internet of the Matterhorn. . .trust me, no camera can do this stately, regal work of nature, justice. It is definitely one of the natural wonders of the world. Nancy shed tears when she beheld it’s splendor. I remembered that DiAne & I did, as well. There are just some sights to behold that stimulate the tear ducts like the lion sculpted in Lucerne, the view of Paris from Sacre Coeur, London’s Regent Park in late Spring … I am digressing!!! John & Kevin, who later went with DiAne and me, also loved Zermatt. Ellen loved Zermatt. My parents loved Zermatt. Any time I have recommended the noble Z to anyone, they have returned to thank me incessantly.
So we walked back along the river route and after taking a few steps, turned our heads to watch the Matterhorn which was like a giant guardian angel looking over our shoulders. Walked a few more steps, turned our heads, almost compelled like Lot’s wife … it was still there … a couple of clouds passing by it, altering it’s appearance each time. The river sings with many notes at the same time. If you get close to it, the chill greets you. This water meanders it’s way down from the Matterhorn and other Alpine areas. We climb a hill to return to our hotel and see a statue of Mary & Jesus that blows our mind because Jesus looks exactly like Rosie O’Donnell. After an incredible five-course dinner at the Hotel Butterfly, one that may have cost $40 each in our south Florida neighborhoods, we went to a pub where we watched the sun go down, noticing how the Matterhorn changed in color with the sun’s departure and sipped on extremely tall glasses of weissbiere … delicious!
The next days were filled with hiking, smelling the grass and flowers, taking the lift to the top! You see it was June and the snow was gone. Zermatt is a terrific place to ski in the winter … and in the summer. YES! SUMMER SKIING IS AVAILABLE IN ZERMATT!!!! All the way on the top of the world, at our last stop, we encountered a tunnel. Now mind you, as you are going up the lift, which requires three changes to get to Klein Matterhorn where this tunnel was, you had to add clothing because it got progressively colder. We disembarked at the tunnel and had a “Twilight Zone” moment. It was cold and there were patches of snow. However, at the end of the tunnel,viola! 100 percent snow, everywhere. and skiers! And an ice cave which featured ice sculpture and a wine bar. Did I not say this was heaven?!?
I will visit heaven again and again. Don’t take my word for it. Google-up some Zermatt. If you want to see other cities, I suggest a train pass. Land in Zurich, take a train to Lucerne, stay two nights, then take the Golden Pass to Montreux, stay 2 nights and then on to Zermatt! Spend 4-7 days,return for two overnights in Zurich and fly home. Look out the window on your plane and know that the other people, who are looking out the window are enjoying the endless sky and it’s heavenly attributes. Sit back in your seat and smile because, you know that you have just come from heaven.