My wanderlust is, in many ways, the result of being raised in a well-traveled family. From a very early age, I remember listening to my grandmother’s stories about traveling through Asia and my mother’s tales of backpacking through Europe. Images of their adventures took hold in my mind, and propelled me into a life of travel and cultural inquiry.
When I was in grade school, my mother showed me a picture of her standing with her sister and her best friend in front of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. That photo stayed with me, and many years later, I finally made it to the Matterhorn myself and forged my own memories.
When I was living in France, I had a weeklong break around Easter, so I decided to make a solo venture to Zermatt. I’ve always loved traveling alone, because I find that I interact with people I most likely would never have met if I had been traveling with someone.
This is exactly what happened on the train from Paris to Zermatt. I met a group of German backpackers who had rented a chalet at the base of the Matterhorn. After a long chat, we exchanged numbers and agreed to get together during the week in Zermatt.
Midway through the week, they called to invite me to their chalet for dinner. So, I left the ski lodge where I was staying and wandered up the Bahnhofstrasse, Zermatt’s main street, to check out their Swiss digs. The view of the Matterhorn was breathtaking, and the setting sun provided an appropriate backdrop for such a majestic sight.
When I reached the chalet, my new friends had prepared raclette, a traditional Swiss dinner. Raclette is a dish comprised of melted cheese (also called raceltte) served over boiled potatoes and cured meats (such as prosciutto), seasoned with lots of ground black pepper, accompanied by pearl onions and pickles. The name comes from the French verb “racler,” to scrape, because strips of cheese are scraped off the larger cheese block.
Fueled by my hearty meal the night before, the following day I hiked part way up the Matterhorn, pulled out my journal and started writing. I stayed there for several hours, snacking on hunks of bread and cheese and putting pen to paper. The natural beauty surrounding the Matterhorn and the charming nature of Zermatt provided the perfect weeklong writing retreat.
In addition to the relaxing influence of Zermatt’s natural beauty, I was able to further de-stress with a sauna and massage at Hotel Mirabeau, followed by a dip in their pool and a stroll around their lovely grounds.
Later that afternoon, I met up with my German friends at one of Zermatt’s most popular bars, Elsie’s, for cocktails and to listen to live music. I highly recommend trying the Snowflake (vodka, passoa, grapefruit juice and karambole over ice). Elsie’s is one of those places that makes you feel at home right away.
In fact, I felt that way about most places I visited in Zermatt. It’s a place where you can go to escape, meet new friends, and bask in the overwhelming beauty of one of Europe’s treasures, the Matterhorn.
Also read our guide by Anna, a Swiss local, about her favorite hikes in Switzerland.
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com