Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Glacier Express to Zermatt

Yesterday, we took The Glacier Express, Switzerland's premier train experience, from St. Moritz to Zermatt; en route, we crossed four major watersheds and enjoyed spectacular alpine scenery.

Leaving St. Moritz, we climbed northward through the Inn River watershed (a tributary of the Danube) and then passed through a tunnel to enter the vast watershed of the Rhine; one of Europe's major rivers, the Rhine eventually empties into the North Sea near Rotterdam.  In Switzerland, two major branches, each with several large tributaries, merge to form the Rhine west of Chur; we descended northward along its southern (or Posterior) fork to that junction and then climbed westward along its western (or Anterior) fork.  At Oberalppass, we crossed into the watershed of the Reuss River, which flows northward to and through Lucerne (or Luzern) before entering the Aare River.  Finally, another long tunnel (the longest in the Alps) took us into the Upper Rhone Valley and we descended westward along that river to Visp; there we turned southward and climbed along a Rhone tributary to Zermatt.

Unlike St. Moritz, Zermatt has proved to be a bustling town, with numerous hotel vans ready to retrieve visitors at the train station.  The downtown area is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and outdoor cafes and the Matterhorn looms to the southwest.  Today, we took the cog railway to Gornergrat, on the alpine tundra above Zermatt; there we viewed the Matterhorn, the Gorner Glacier and many other high peaks under clear blue skies.  On the way back, we exited the train near timberline and endured a winding, six mile hike down to our hotel; tomorrow we will surely pay for that decision.