Zermatt & Crans-Montana

Saturday morning looked more promising than Friday for our visit to Zermatt. We had sunshine in the valley and the patches of cloud on the mountain tops looked as though they might clear through the day. We decided that it was worth a try and off we went, driving east along the Rhone valley to Visp, which lies at the entrance to the Zermatt valley in the German speaking end of Valais (Walliser).

The entrance from Visp into the valley of Zermatt is through a long tunnel (over 3 k). After that the road twists and turns up the mountains but is wider than such roads often are, probably because of the huge volume of tourist traffic attracted to see the Matterhorn and experience the village of Zermatt and its ski slopes. We stopped once on the side of the road not too far from the entrance to the valley to catch some photographs of the valley and a village on the far hillside.

At the village of St Nicolas we were held up in a small traffic jam. When we noticed the emergency vehicles and the police routing traffic via the old village rather then the newer bypass road we assumed that there must have been an accident. It was a little further up the road that we realised the traffic was being diverted for runners who we later discovered were in the Zermatt marathon and, based on the highest competitor number we saw, may have been as many as 2000. We drove as far as Täsch which is as far as vehicles are allowed to go without special police permission. Judging from the crowds we saw, in the absence of such a limitation Zermatt would be a giant parking lot. The shuttle train from Täsch to Zermatt runs each way at 20 minute intervals so we did not have long to wait. As we waited we could see clouds clearing from the mountain tops above that part of the valley and took it as a good sign for what we would find in Zermatt.

When we reached Zermatt there were already runners loping up the main street toward the top end of the town. We followed along in the same direction since that was where the Matterhorn was to be found. We stopped at a small park just beyond the top end of Zermatt and looked hopefully in the direction of the Matterhorn. At that stage there were just clouds where there should be a mountain. We sat to wait for it to appear. The runners continued up the trail for a while before turning beyond where we could see and running back down the valley. When we walked up later we found the 22 km mark just beyond where we were sitting. Some of the runners were not young but were evidently very tough in body and mind to make it up the hill let alone turn and run back down. We waited for the mountain until Emily’s patience ran out and then walked back into Zermatt to find some lunch. When we headed back there was some mountain poking out from among the clouds. It continued playing cat and mouse for the remainder of our time in Zermatt. We probably saw all or most of it at various times but never all at once.

Once we tired of waiting for the mountain, we walked a little way up the trail in that direction and then went back down into the town. Majella and Emily explored some shops. The whole crowd in the church square enjoyed the arrival of a bride in a horse drawn carriage. By 3:00 pm we were convinced that the mountain was unlikely to appear in full that day so we took the shuttle back down to Täsch and drove back toward Sierre. On the way we visited the village of Raron where there is a church carved out of the rock under a mountain. Majella and I had seen it previously and Majella wanted Emily to see it.

As we approached Sierre, Majella decided that we should take Emily up the mountain above Sierre to Crans-Montana. Once there we went for walk in the forest at Montana where Majella hoped to show Emily some squirrels. We were lucky to find a woman from Lausanne who was there with two small children feeding hazel nuts to the squirrels. She kindly shared some nuts with Emily who, with a little practice, developed the technique for hand feeding nuts to the squirrels. Once Emily had fed enough squirrels we drove to the ornamental lake at Crans where we walked for a while before driving back to Sierre.

Saturday night in Sierre was quiet. There were apparently no stores open and very few places for simple food. We settled for pizza which we took back to Serafino. Once we had eaten we walked along the hillside to Chateau Mercier where Emily wanted to revisit the tower. She also found a few other points of interest such as the peacock and rabbits, and a couple of fountains she had missed in the first visit on Sunday.