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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

The Magnificent Matterhorn

We had intended to go to the Blausee (Blue Lake) but we learned they were recommending not to eat the lake trout because of bacteria or something due to lack of water over the summer. Instead, we decided to go to Zermatt. Great alternative!

The Matterhorn has less snow compared to years past but it is still impressive.

Took the train from Interlaken West to Spiez; changed to the train going to Visp; then onto the train going to Zermatt.

The train from Visp to Zermatt. Love the windows!

They built the Lötschberg Basistunnel going through the mountain a few years back and it cuts off so much time between Spiez and Visp. I believe it saves over an hour or more travel time as compared to what it used to take. As soon as the train entered the tunnel the speed increased dramatically!

Vineyards planted along the steep mountainside. Lots of construction taking place along the way.

In Kalpetran, we start to see houses, barns, and cheese houses with slate roofs. The train engages the cogwheels as our ascent gets steeper and steeper.

In St. Niklaus they have a pretty clock tower. Lots of gnomes with Santa hats but no Santa. Many homes with the stone or slate roofs, too.

Climbing and climbing......

These are Valais blackneck goats.

"Breed: Valais Blackneck is the English translation of local names in German (Walliser Schwarzhalsziege), French (Chèvre col noir du Valais), and Italian (Vallesana dal collo nero). These names refer to their home in the Swiss canton of Valais and their coloring. The breed is also known as Sattelziege or Halsene (saddle goat), Gletschergeiss (glacier goat), or Vispertalerziege (goat of the Visp Valley, where they are most populous)."

"Origin: Believed to be native to the Swiss canton of Valais for thousands of years, their ancestors may have arrived with African or Arab migrants around 930 C.E. Equally, they may be descended from an extinct Italian landrace that once inhabited nearby regions. Indeed, the wide Rhone valley and high alpine mountains that dominate the area share a border with northern Italy."

"History: Switzerland is a mountainous country. As much as a third of farmland resides in the mountains. Goats have been widespread for thousands of years due to their ability to thrive and produce in this difficult environment. Isolated by mountain ranges, communities bred local stock to meet their needs for meat, milk, and pelts. Swiss herders were early pioneers of selective breeding for milk. In addition, they favored certain coat colors and patterns and selected for them over a long period."

"In the twentieth century, the goat population of Switzerland declined due to the rise in popularity of milking cows and the spread of CAE (caprine arthritis and encephalitis). Some Swiss breeds had already become popular worldwide as milkers. However, the more obscure local breeds became endangered. In the late 1960s, Valais Blackneck numbers dropped below 200 head before they were rescued for conservation.

"Conservation Status: The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) lists the breed as at risk worldwide as well as in Switzerland, where they are endangered, but their population maintained. A conservation program stabilized their numbers at around 3300 head during the first decades of this century. This program worked on improving the diversity of the genetic base, reducing inbreeding, and establishing lineage records. In addition, marketing goals included the supply of pelts for bag manufacture."

"Finally, the program supports buck keepers to encourage a plentiful supply of unrelated sires to maintain genetic diversity. Nevertheless, in recent years, the registered population has dropped below 3000 with 157 breeding males (as of 2019). There are also small numbers in neighboring areas of Italy (387 head in 2018) managed for small-scale production, and smaller herds in Germany and Austria kept by enthusiasts or for managing weeds and landscapes."

"Biodiversity: The breed has unique characteristics differing from other Swiss breeds, but their isolation has led to a high degree of inbreeding."

"Description: Medium-sized, stocky, and muscular, they have strong legs for climbing and walking long distances. The neck and head are short with a wide forehead and muzzle. Ears are erect, and horns are long and elegantly curved. Both sexes have beards, long wavy hair, and tufts on the forehead. Coats have become longer in the last hundred years, although shorter coats were more suitable for their traditional role of grazing wild pasture and supplying milk. These longer coats require considerable care from keepers to prevent matting."

"Coloring: Black head, neck, forelegs, and forequarters, with white hindquarters, hind legs, and rump. Behind the shoulders, there is a sharp division between the two colors. Rarer colors were considered to be the result of crossbreeding. However, early records reveal that such colors are not new in Valais herds. Goats with fawn/copper or gray necks or all white (known as Capra Sempione) display otherwise the same characteristics. As breeders have concentrated on the Blackneck pattern over the past hundred years, these other colors have been forgotten. The color variants have shorter coats, which is a plus when foraging, as they are less likely to tangle in bushes."

The man sitting next to us asked if this was the Matterhorn. He was disappointed when I said it wasn't. I told him he would have to walk through the town in order to see it.

"Zermatt, the town at the end of the Mattertal has around 5,000 inhabitants and is situated at 1,600 m (5,250 ft.) above sea level. Zermatt's world-wide renown stems from its proximity to the Matterhorn, the mountain of mountains and most famous landmark in the Alps. Anyone who has ever stood before the mighty peak knows that even the most enthusiastic description will fail to capture its true majesty. The mountain was first scaled by a party of Brits using local guides in 1865.

In their rush to beat another party to the top one of the climbers slipped and caused three others to fall to their deaths. The trio are buried in the churchyard next to an English chapel in Zermatt set aside for them and the numerous other Brits who subsequently died attempting to scale the mountain. Climbs to the peak of the Matterhorn are almost a matter of course today. About 3,000 mountaineers attempt the ascent each year, sometimes even leading to overcrowding on the main routes. The Gorner Valley south-east of Zermatt boasts the highest cog railway in Europe. The higher you go the more incredible the views of the Matterhorn become."

Zermatt has been car-free for as long as anyone can remember. For private vehicles, access is allowed until Täsch (5 km from Zermatt). The road from Täsch to Zermatt is closed to normal traffic.

Getting around Zermatt

by foot

by horse-drawn carriage

by eTaxi

by bike or mountain bike

eBus (2 routes: skibus and Winkelmatten bus)

So many beautiful flowers planted in the window boxes.

Window shopping walking along the street toward the Matterhorn.

The library

Someone is always stopping to purchase a brat.

The Pizzeria Ristorante Molino was where we ate. I decided where to go today as I wanted a Lorenzo to drink. We had eaten here last year and I loved the pizza and the cocktail.

We had to choose a basic pizza.

Margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella fior di latte, basil and oregano)

Rossa (tomatoes, basil and oregano)

Bianca (mozzarella fior di latte, basil and oregano)

We both started with the Margherita. Michael added prosciutto di San Daniele DOP and salame piccante Ventricina (spicy Ventricina salami). I added mushrooms and the spicy salami. OMG good!

The hot chili oil gave the pizza a nice little zing!

I ordered the Lorenzo. The mint and slice of lemon were perfect!

The Potato looks to be an interesting restaurant as all main ingredients are grown within 50 kilometers of the restaurant.

I love the ski lift toy.

You must use the underground lift to get to the apartments.

Are those ladders for evacuation in case of fire or for decoration? If they are for evacuating the building, you have a long drop down to the ground.

Yes, people were skiing today.

Cute alley ways

So much construction happening

Rocks placed under the cheese house so mice can not get in.

Hiking is very popular in the summer, too.

Last year, we were surprised the Alpenrose restaurant and hotel were closed . It still is. Hard to believe with the cost of real estate here, someone hasn't bought it.

From the terrace, you had a perfect view of the Matterhorn.

Michael and I enjoy resting on this bench. It is very comfy but a little bit difficult to get up from.

It is a perfect place to photograph the Matterhorn.

For me, the trees soften the appearance of the mountain.

At 4,478 meters (14,692 feet), the Matterhorn is only Western Europe’s 12th-highest peak, but it is taller than Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the Lower 48 of the U.S., by about 187 feet.

The Matterhorn straddles two countries, Switzerland and Italy, and has three common names. The German name Matterhorn derives from the words for “meadow” and “peak.” The Italian name (Cervino) and French (Cervin) likely originated with the Latin word for forest, silva, though some believe it comes from the Italian and French words for “deer.”

The first ascent on July 14, 1865, from the Swiss side of the mountain, ended a race that lasted nearly a decade and came down to the wire, with rivals on the Italian side poised only 1,250 feet below the top when Edward Whymper and Michel Croz first reached the summit. In order to ensure his rivals knew they were beaten, Whymper rather unsportingly shouted at the Italian team from the top and hurled rocks to make a clatter. “The Italians turned and fled,” Whymper wrote in his famed book Scrambles Amongst the Alps.

The glorious victory was marred when, during the descent, four of the seven climbers in the summit party fell to their deaths. The remaining three, including Whymper, likely would have fallen as well if the rope linking the men had not broken.

The second route up the Matterhorn, the Lion Ridge from Italy, was completed just three days after the first, on July 17, 1865.

Since the first ascent, more than 500 people have died while climbing or descending the Matterhorn—an average of three to four per year.

When you walk closer to the Matterhorn, you get a different feeling.

"At 4,478 meters, the majestic Matterhorn – certainly the most famous mountain in Europe – looms over the breathtaking Alpine panorama. This Switzerland landmark is at the border of the western Swiss canton of Valais between Zermatt and the Italian resort of Breuil-Cervinia, and offers a paradise for all nature-lovers looking for peace and quiet. Its symmetric pyramid shape, the rocky tooth reaching the sky and the light reflections of the nearby Stellisee make the Matterhorn’s landscape a unique natural spectacle in Zermatt.

About 3,000 people summit the Matterhorn annually. However, starting this year, by reducing the size of the hut at the base of the most popular route, the Hörnli Ridge, and eliminating camping outside the hut, Swiss officials hope to slash the number of climbers by as much as one-third and reduce crowding on the mountain. About 80 percent of Matterhorn climbers are either guides or clients.

Both a railway and a cable car to the summit of the Matterhorn have been proposed. The latter, a tramway from the Italian town of Breuil-Cervinia, was proposed in 1950 but scuttled after tens of thousands of people protested to the Italian government.

In 2019, after an uptick in rockfall related deaths, there was a (brief) discussion about closing the mountain to climbers after an anonymous guide told a Swiss newspaper that climate change had made it increasingly unstable and dangerous.

Lovely day in Zermatt.

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