Après in the Alps: Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is what winter wonderland dreams are made of!
The train journey there was almost as beautiful as the actual town itself. We traversed along blue alpine lakes, jetted past staggering cliff-side towns, and cut through the snow-covered, jaw-dropping Swiss Alps themselves.
But before we made our way deep into the mountains, we landed in Zurich.
Zurich is Switzerland's financial center, so I assumed it would be a lot more... stuffy? Business-like? I was pleasantly surprised to see that that was certainly not the case.
Zurich is actually super charming with typical Swiss-style buildings, cobble-stone streets, and the absolutely stunning Lake Zurich. Being able to see the foothills of the Alps in the distance was also a visual bonus.
We had planned to use Zurich as our jumping off point to head into the Alps, so we only had one full day to explore. Being there in January was super iffy, weather-wise, but we were blessed with a partly sunny day and no wind. Perfect for walking around and exploring any new city.
I also learned that THE Lindt Chocolate factory is located here, and attached to the factory is the largest chocolate factory in the world.
To reach Lindt, I discovered we could take a ferry across the lake for extra scenic views!
Lake Zurich is also home to tons of swans! I'd never seen so many floating around the lake and the canals.
When we got off the ferry, we could immediately smell the chocolate factory in the distance. It was about a fifteen minute walk there, but the closer we got, the stronger the sweet, chocolate smell in the air was.
I can say I had the best, thickest, and richest hot chocolate I've ever had in my life, and I'm certain nothing will ever top it.
We scoured the onsite chocolate store and left with way too much chocolate, but it lasted us the remainder of our trip :) You'll also find the world's largest chocolate fountain right at the entrance here.
And I can attest, it was real, flowing chocolate.
The next day, we headed to the train station to catch our train to Zermatt. We had one transfer in the small town of Visp, and I'll just say the short, six-minute transfer time was more exhausting and eventful than I'd like to admit!
But we made it, and our final hour on our second train took us deeper and deeper into the amazing Swiss Alps.
We pulled into Zermatt, and our chalet was perfectly cozy and right in the center of town. It also came with all the amazing spa amenities you hope for after a cold day on the slopes (e.g. outdoor soaking tub, traditional Japanese onsen, sauna, and aromatherapy massages).
It also came with a beautiful view of the Matterhorn, the stand alone mountain peak that Zermatt is known for. Also, fun fact, the mountain depicted on the Tobblerone candy bar is THE Matterhorn.
We were obviously here to ski and experience one of Europe's most iconic mountains, but I (ironically) had just been skiing about a week prior when I injured my knee from falling down the side of a mountain back in Washington.
It resulted in an LCL sprain. The large, thick ligament on the outside of the knee that basically holds it in place. Rather important :)
Day one, I taped that bad boy up so much to try and support it, then ALSO put a brace on top of my tape.
I could basically barely bend my knee at this point, which is pretty crucial for skiing. Nonetheless, we hopped on the Gornergrat train that takes you up to one of the many sections of Zermatt and made the most of it.
I tried one run down and just knew the knee didn't feel great. That, combined with the complete white out conditions and the severe winds that were throwing ice chips into our faces, we called it good and headed back down.
The afternoon was spent in the hot tub and the sauna, so I can't complain!
The following day, I decided to rest my knee and avoid the slopes, so we got a chance to explore the actual town of Zermatt.
We had plenty of cheese fondue and Swiss raclette, which was justified after all the walking today ;)
On day three, we awoke to blue skies and all sun, and I couldn't help but give the skiing one last chance. I like to think I'm usually smarter than this. Maybe it was the high altitude depriving oxygen to my brain.
Zermatt is home to the highest ski lift system in all of Europe, the peak being a staggering 12,000 feet in elevation. Our chair lift up there took 45 minutes...
For reference, the typical chair lift at Crystal Mountain or White Pass back home might take 5-10 minutes. So 45 minutes is just mind-blowing.
The views were incredible... indescribable, really. This is the only shot of me skiing in the Alps... but I did ski there! Bucket list item checked off!
Unfortunately, I still didn't trust my left leg, and at some point halfway down the slope, I wiped out with skis popping off and the whole bit. I knew instantly I had re-injured my knee, and badly.
As I stood up, I could feel the swelling increase by the second. It became harder to move my knee at all so I knew we had to get down.
I gingerly putzed down the mountain in the most pathetic way, and had a loooong gondola ride back down to sulk about it, haha.
I'll save the sob story, but I wasn't able to weight-bear or let alone walk the next morning, so Ken set out to find a pharmacy that would sell him some crutches as we had to navigate two trains that day getting back to Zurich.
After much hobbling on my end and Ken having to strangle both of our suitcases now, we finally did make it back to Zurich. I spent the next day elevating and icing my knee, and crawling to the bathroom on occasion.
It's now ten days after the injury and I can happily say that it's on the mend! The crutches are no more, and thankfully, I'm trained as a therapist, so I've been able to rehab it myself :)
I still love Zermatt and want to go back in the summer to explore all its hiking trails. Switzerland would be the perfect country, if it weren't so damn expensive!
Next up, we're heading to a continent I've never been to before, and we'll be trading snow for sand...