Well the holidays have officially come and gone. It was strange that we spent another Christmas away from our family back in the US, but at least our children were able to come and see us this time. This is now our fourth Christmas that we have spent in Switzerland. That seems so strange to say. So far we are alternating years in regard to heading back to the US.
We were getting pretty worried if the kids would make it. We started hearing the news reports about the bad storm coming through the Midwest beginning the 22nd, and lasting a couple of days. That was in the travel window that we had set. Our son and his girlfriend left Chicago on the 22nd. He was leaving from Indianapolis. He called us about a week before he was leaving and asked about changing his flight to the very first one leaving Indy that morning. We agreed it made sense; since last year Julie and I got stuck for an extra day and a half because the planes would not fly from Indy to Chicago. So he wound up spending a VERY long day in O’Hare Airport, and he couldn’t even buy a day pass to the lounge because the terminal is still under construction so the lounges are not available.
Our daughter was flying out of Minneapolis. We kind of thought she would be OK, because the weather was predicted to already be past Minnesota and into Indiana and Ohio. She was the one that ALMOST did not make it out. The Twin Cities did not get a lot of snow, but they had very strong winds, and those combined with the bitter cold temperatures meant that her flight got delayed a couple of times. This added some extra stress to her, because she was flying through Paris. She laughed at going through French Customs and airport security. She breezed through without even having a ticket. She made a comment to the security guard, and he replied back something like “Only an idiot would willingly come and stay at an airport on Christmas Eve; so I believe you that there is a ticket waiting for you at the counter.” I don’t think that would ever have happened at a US airport. Anyway, she finally made it about 5 hours later than we originally planned so all was good.
The kids had said they wanted to do Christmas in Alps; so we found a nice apartment in the town of Zermatt. Julie and I have been there a few times. It is one of our favorite places, primarily because of the views!
I am going to focus on the positives of our trip, but just this one word of caution. If you ever want to visit Zermatt. STAY AWAY from Zermatt Premium Apartments. I have to say they all look amazing, but our experience was about as far from premium as you can get!
We had a very fun Christmas Eve with everyone together. We lit a fire, and played games. It was the magical Swiss Christmas Eve we had hoped for. Christmas Day came, and the kids went on a nice hike on the mountain ridges around the town, and then we had a WONDERFUL Christmas Dinner at a place called Sonnmaten. The food was exquisite, and the atmosphere was warm friendly and festive.
I had dreams of spending a couple of days sledging (a sledge is like an old style sled with runners except you do not lay down on it. It stands about a foot tall and you sit on it.)
You steer the sled by putting pressure on the runners with your legs, and by pulling the straps in the direction you want to go. Anyway, I have seen a lot of people doing it, and it looks like fun, but all of the sledge runs were closed. It was quite the bummer. We were able to spend a couple of days skiing, and Kaylee and I went snowshoeing one afternoon. Considering the news reports about all of the areas in the Alps unable to open we got lucky with the snow. There was not a lot, but there was enough to make our time spent on the mountains a lot of fun.
Julie is still struggling with her knee; so while we were out playing on the mountains she was sitting in the apartment reading by the fire. HMMM on second thought she might have had the better idea.
We finally made it to the Matterhorn Museum. Kaylee, of course, knew all about the drama concerning the first ascent, but I had never heard of it until we visited the museum. For a very long time the Matterhorn was considered to be unclimbable. Many had attempted it, but until 1865 the mountain had remained virgin. The first group to make the ascent was 7 strong. It was a race between a team of English and Swiss men vs a team of Italians. The English group won the race, but only by a few hundred yards. On the way down DISASTER. One of the team slipped and fell. He drug three others with him. The Swiss Guide had managed to wrap the rope around a jutting rock, but the rope snapped. Many have claimed the Swiss Guide cut the rope to save himself. I do not buy that, however. The Museum had the rope. Honestly it did not even look strong enough to hold one man from falling. There is no way it could have held four men. The rope is not even as thick as my thumb. Anyway, four of the men died that day; so the feeling of victory was very short lived. Wikipedia lists the summiting of the Matterhorn as the end of the English Mountaineering phase. Another tidbit is that over 500 people have died trying to climb the Matterhorn, making it one of the deadliest mountains in the world.
I realized as we were leaving, that this might have been the last time I see the Matterhorn. We really do not have any plans to go back. I guess if we have some visitors that want to visit we will head back, but Julie and I are starting to realize we are on the back end of our adventure, and there are an awful of countries we still want to visit.
We did have one last adventure on our very last night. WELLLLL adventure might be a little strong. It was more of a stress inducer. So Kaylee had to get back to the US; so she took the train back to Geneva so she could fly out on the 31st. Julie was going with her to get a little Mom/Daughter time since that doesn’t happen much any more. George, Gabby and I were going to drive back to Zurich on the 31st; so we stayed in Zermatt. Julie had packed my carryon suitcase to take for the night, and the rest of us packed some of the big bags and decided to go to the the town where the car was parked with the bags; so we didn’t have to worry about them the next morning. Well we screwed up. As we got off the train we grabbed the two BIG bags, but also my carryon. I knew Julie had packed it, but I honestly didn’t think about it. So we get the things to the car, and head back to Zermatt. Cell phone coverage is not the best on the train between the towns, and the buildings are solid rock. So we didn’t get the phone call until late. When Kaylee and Julie got to the town they were switching trains in they missed the bag. Of course their first thought was that it was stolen. They finally got ahold of us, and we realized our mistake, but by that time it was to late. I could spend 6 hours in the car driving to Geneva, but by train, there was no way to get to Geneva and then back to Zermatt until 8:00 AM the next morning. Julie did forgive me, but I caused way to much stress for their last time together until God knows when.
In the winter, if you are trying to drive from Zermatt to Zurich you have two options. You can take the long way around the mountains by heading toward Geneva, and then up past Bern. It is basically a normal interstate for the majority of the drive, but it is longer. The second way is to drive partway up a really long valley to a village called Obergoms, and take a train under the mountains. During the summer you would drive OVER the mountains, but of course that is impossible after October. We took the long way to Zermatt, but decided it would be fun to take the shorter way back home.
The train ride is about 1/2 an hour long, but it was something new to experience. I boiled the entire trip down to about a 5 minute video.
We are lucky enough that we will get to spend most of January with our son. The Judge he works for has said he can work remotely for a few weeks; so he decided to spend that time with us. I am going to miss my computer set up, though. I figure I have to give him one of my monitors; since I only use them for school, and he has to use one to actually work.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the pictures from Zermatt. I will write more soon.