Thursday, April 05, 2007

February 2007 - Zermatt, Switzerland - A Winter Wonderland

presents . . . . .The Alpine Adventures of Casandra and Kenny . . .

shot on location in Zermatt, Switzerland,
an idylic alpine village nestled in a "valley" (1 mile above sea level) completely surrounded by the Alps and some of the most dramatic mountain peaks in the world, including the Matterhorn (Mont Cervin to the French-speaking Swiss) -- the world's most famous and recognizable peak (thanks partly to being featured in Paramount Pictures' logo).

On a clear day, you cannot escape this imposing peak, nor can you take your eyes off it. We must have taken a hundred pictures of it in the week we were in Zermatt.
There we are in front of the river that runs through Zermatt, with a few chalets, the town's church, and the Matterhorn in the background.
And here's a shot of the church's bell tower with the Matterhorn.
Here's the bell tower up close. Notice the steeple's typical swiss-alpine design. Most alpine structures are built with steep roofs so snow doesn't pile on top of it.

Here's us on one of the busier streets in town. Notice that there are no cars!! Zermatt is a car-free town - only tiny electric city and hotel shuttles and minibuses are allowed on the roads.
That's Casandra on one of the bridges that spans the river with, of course, the Matterhorn looming in the background.
And that's her on another one with the longest icicle that we'ver ever seen hanging from it. It was actually longer that she is tall!!
Here we are on the town's main street - Bahnhofstrasse. During the day, most people are skiing so the streets are pretty empty, but at night the town comes alive and the streets, and this one in particular, lined with bars, cafes, clothing boutiques, watch stores, and ski shops, are packed.

Our apartment is in this chalet, which was about a 5-minutes walk from the center of town and its main square - Bahnhofplatz. Zermatt is pretty tiny - you can walk from one end of it to the other in about 15 minutes.

More snow falls on Zermatt than on many other winter resort in Europe. We have never seen more snow in our lives!! Here we are in front of our chalet. It's not the camera's flash but the sun reflecting off all the snow that makes this picture look so bright - sunglasses are a must!

It snowed for at least part of every day we were there, and some days it snow non-stop all day. All the mountains that surround Zermatt seem to trap the clouds, which blanket the entire village with snow. Here's another shot from our chalet facing some of the others in the neighborhood. It pretty much looked like this our first two days in Zermatt. We could hardly see 100 feet in front of us, much less the mountains and the massive Matterhorn.
But then, on day 3, the sky cleared up and we caught our first glimpse of the famous peak. This shot was taken literally 5 seconds after we stepped out of our apartment and saw it for the first time.
Here's a close-up of the Matterhorn with a perfect blue sky behind it. Like a pyramid, the Matterhorn has four faces, and each one faces one of the four compass points, with the north and south faces meeting to form a short east-west summit ridge. The faces are steep, and only small patches of snow and ice cling to them - regular avalanches send the snow down to accumulate on the glaciers at the base of each face. Zermatt is southwest of the Matterhorn, facing the west (left) and south (right) faces - most people consider Zermatt's view of the mountain to be the most beautiful. Except, perhaps, the residents of the Italian city of Cervinia, in the valley on the oposite side of the Matterhorn (or Cervina in Italian), which faces the north and east faces.
Though our balcony didn't face the Matterhorn, it did provide some amazing views of the other mountains that surround Zermatt. Here's our view looking west.
And here's the north view. No matter which way we looked, we were staring at a postcard shot of the prettiest alpine village imaginable. Zermatt is as picturesque as you get, the epitome of a winter wonderland.

After a long day of skiing in below-freezing temperatures at mind-numbing altitudes, we love to stop by one of the many bars on the Bahnhofstrasse, shed a few layers, and sip hot chocolate. This was our favorite spot - the Fire Place Bar at the Hotel Pollux.

Eager to partake in the apres-ski tradition, here we are at Vernissage, a unique multi-level combination bar, art gallery and movie theater filled with chandeliers, fireplaces, and comfy couches. The lower level has a theater set up like some Hollywood mogul’s screening room, complete with a bar and lounge chairs.
After having warmed up with hot chocolate or alcohol, we head back to our apartment to get ready for dinner. We sampled a variety of cuisines while in Zermatt, including Swiss-fondu, Swiss-French, American steak, and Indian African fusion. Here we are at Chakra Lounge, a wine bar and restaurant serving amazingly creative dishes fusing Indian and African cuisine. Both of our main entres featured South African springbok (antelope) prepared in two different outrageous spicey sauces. It was our best meal outside Italy and one of the most interesting ever!
It snowed every single night while we were in Zermatt, ensuring plenty of powder on the slopes every day. Look at the size of those snow flakes!!

Another day and we're off to the slopes. Wish us luck!

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