Year abroad: Zermatt

One day in the depths of winter, the Triplets decided, in their wisdom, to do a day trip to Zermatt.

That’s not such an easy trip by public transport from Neuchâtel. We wanted to get the 7.34am train but Angela wanted to sleep in and get the 9.34am train which wouldn’t get us there until half past one. I’d got up at 6am to be ready for the early train, so I wasn’t delighted to be told at 7.30 when I should have been on the platform that one of the group had decided to be two hours late. This is why I travel alone now.

We compromised on the 8.34 train. Change at Lausanne, change at Visp (where I apparently lost my gloves) and finally, over three hours later, we reached the top of the steep valley and the delightful car-free village of Zermatt, overlooked by the pyramidal Matterhorn.


Once we’d had a look at the village, we naturally wanted to take a cable car up one of the mountains. There was a board up by the ticket office, detailing weather conditions at each station and we soon realised we were woefully underdressed for going up a mountain in winter – the ice palace at the top was -31C. We settled on the Schwarzee stop at a mere -9C, high enough to feel like we’d gone up a mountain but low enough to survive ten or twenty minutes.

We managed about ten. It was bitterly cold and we, simple students, just did not own clothes for serious weather. The photos suggest I was wearing black cords, my long wool coat from New Look and I suspect nothing more underneath than a t-shirt and a crew neck fleece jumper. Fine for a Swiss winter in the city but not for -9 plus windchill. It was scenic but it was also November and by mid-afternoon, the sun was low enough to blind me, even with my first ever polarised sunglasses, purchased from the shop next to the gondola station half an hour ago, and to interfere with the few photos I took.

We descended and found a restaurant to sample our first and only real Swiss fondue. I wasn’t expecting it to come with its own little gas burner to keep it melted at the table. Dipping the bread was harder than I anticipated and there was something about the taste of the cheese I didn’t particularly like. We also warmed up with vodka, brandy and hot chocolate.

From then on, it was all drinking. We went into the station cafe for a drink while we waited for the last train of the night. We stopped for drinks and arcade games in our favourite place in Lausanne and then had more drinks sitting on the platform waiting for the last train of the night back to Neuchâtel – a journey I think we spent trying to induct Angela into the wonders of the Scissor Sisters using one of the very earliest mp3-capable mobile phones.