Monday, September 22, 2014


I woke up early to the sound of rain. It wasn’t too bad yet, but the forecast that day called for 100% rain so I was pretty sure it was going to keep up. I also knew that it probably meant if I was going to be doing the guided sheep hike I signed up for, I’d be doing it myself. The two j’s were definitely going to stay snug in their beds all morning.

I needed to do two things. Decide if I was going to do this hike, and make it to the goat parade. I had hiked the day before in my running sneakers, but in the rain they just weren’t going to cut it. I’d have to find a rental shop to get some hiking boots from, since I was ill equipped for the weather, or really for Switzerland at all.

I set out in my giant borrowed sweatshirt and flimsy raincoat (the one semi-smart item I packed!)  in search of rental boots and the goats, of course!

A bit of background on the goats. Since you’re most likely curious because who wouldn’t be?

Every summer for six weeks, there is a goat parade of sorts through main street in Zermatt, twice a day. They are led through town on their way to pasture, by local children, and strut their half black/half white selves with large horns down the main drag. If you’re anything like me, this could be your sole reason for visiting Zermatt.

It was pretty early, so I was off to inquire about some hiking boots first. Luckily I found a sports store just as they were opening up for the day. I explained my intent to do the sheep hike, despite the rain. The dude found me some snazzy high top hiking boots and wished me luck, since besides the rain, it was also really cold out. This was my last full day in Zermatt, a place that had stolen my heart thus far, and I was determined to make it count. Even in the rain.

I exited the rental shop and checked the time. I had to hurry if I was going to get ready and get over to the meeting point, a hotel about a ten minute walk from mine, for the hike. But I wanted to see the goats! Where were they?! 

Just as I was about to give up, I heard someone calling out, and bells..bells could only mean one thing. There was about to be a goat parade! Then I saw the child, who was leading the herd of Valais blackneck goats down the street through town. He was yelling out, leading the goat way. I was awestruck by the impromptu promenade of goats. It was as if I was meeting a celebrity. They were so cool, casually swaggering along with their beards, not a care in the world.  

I wondered if any of them would try to veer off down a side street, and if so, I planned to follow the little daredevil. 

But no, they kept themselves pretty well together in line down the street, no chance to befriend and/or take home one of the goats. But seriously though, I just witnessed a goat parade in Switzerland. I couldn't even wrap my head around it. 

I was on a high. Now let's go herd some sheep!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Statue high fives

I returned back to my tiny little hotel room famished and mighty parched. I sent a quick message off to the two j’s in hopes that they too were back and ready to swap survival stories over beverages and food. Lots of food.  

After a lovely shower in the communal bathroom, I received a message from them that they were back and also ready for food, drink, and stories. It was my last night with the two j’s since they’d be leaving for Geneva the next day and I was sad that our fun had to end so soon.  But we had a night of celebration ahead of us first!

It had started to rain and I was freezing due to my lack of smart packing for Switzerland, but I didn’t care. I had conquered the hike today, surely I could handle no jacket.  I met up with the two j’s and we immediately started our hunt for food. We decided we should try something Swiss that night and wandered around perusing the menus for cuisine of the land we were in, within a budget we could swing. Finding nothing within our budget, we settled on a place with comfy fake sheep wool seats. At least I think they were fake. Once again, I impressed by ordering and finishing the entire sausage and rosti, essentially a delightfully delicious Swiss hashbrown.

We were though, both thrilled and confused by the condiments served in what looked like toothpaste tubes for mustards. I wish I had taken a photo!

Over much meat, we swapped stories from our adventures. I was especially anxious to hear about blonde j’s battle with bike and mountain. He had seemed very unsure of his biking ability and steepness of the trail when we parted ways. Blonde j confessed that he did in fact have a fall. Since he was there in front of me eating meat it couldn’t have been too bad though. Turns out he gained a lot of speed going down one part, and slid, falling off the bike, with a few scrapes and bruises.

I regaled them with my tale of the Holland Farmers, the sheep party I joined, and the rest of my journey down the mountain. After our sausages we went back to the Brown Cow for a drink or two or three. We were in the mood to celebrate our adventure! 

Word at the Brown Cow was that the bar across the street had some good live music, so next we headed over to Gee’s to see what it was all about.

The bar was full! Clearly this was the place to be. We realized why instantly when the live music, which was comprised of three guys with British accents, started their next song. They were fantastic and covered a great selection of songs with their own style. And they were funny!

We jammed and drank. I was also trying my best to convince the two j's to accompany me on my adventure for the next day. I had signed up for a guided hike to herd sheep and I could barely contain my excitement. The only thing that would make it better is if the two j’s came along and herded sheep with me. The forecast promised rain, but I was hopeful that the 100% chance the weather showed, was a lie. As the night wore on, the two j’s and their drinks seemed to be more convinced they should be herding sheep in the early morn.

After celebrating until just about close, it was time to get back to the hotel.  But first a high five with the creepy statue outside the bar.

“I’ll see you j’s in the morning!” I yelled hopefully. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. 

My legs were dangerously close to not working anymore after the day’s hike and I had no idea that I’d even be able to stand, let alone hike again in the morning.

I needed to get back to my humble abode and get some sleep. After all, I needed to get up bright and early so that I wouldn't miss the goat parade. That’s right. I said GOAT PARADE…

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gornergrat to Zermatt: an epic quest (part 2)

Alone with the Matterhorn (along with the many other people hiking), I set off on my journey to hike from Gornergrat to Zermatt. But first, I stopped to meet a lovely lad named Matthew, from York England. He had an art "pop-up shop" if you will, at the top of the mountain. He was selling his beautiful artwork in an amazing setting, and wearing an even more amazing sweater. 

Matthew Fletcher, Zermatt artist, and fashion trend setter..
After a lovely chat with Matthew, I was ready to start my journey for real. Dizzy from the altitude, but elated from my surroundings, I started my hike.  I couldn't take in the scenery enough. Every where I looked were ginormous mountains covered in snow, wildflowers, alpine lakes, and just all around beauty. It was insane.

I stopped a lot. To take pictures, obviously. 

This part of the trail inspired me to skip. All I was missing were bunches of wildflowers in each hand..But that would make me look crazy so I settled with just skipping.

I couldn't remember the last time I felt this free, this happy... I felt on top of the world. 

And I kind of was.

Let's backtrack for a second so I can explain this:

Heinrich on the rocks..

That's right. I was hiking around taking pictures of a tiny stuffed sheep, that I, with the help of Bearded J, had named Heinrich. So if I didn't look crazy enough skipping through wildflowers, this should do it.

I had purchased Heinrich in town for my one and a half year old niece, before we took the cog train up to Gornergrat. I had decided it would be fun to take pictures of him throughout Switzerland and make a photo book for her of his adventures.

Now back to the hike.

It was glorious. Then it got even better when I came upon an alpine lake or big deal. It was here that I decided to take a little rest.

Another Swiss mountain artist

Pretty soon after this I heard bells. No it wasn't the altitude messing with my head..
It was a herd of sheep, up yonder! I couldn't believe I just ran into these guys on the trail! 

This is the period of my hike that we'll call "chillin with the sheep," because I did. For at least a half hour I just hung out in the herd of sheep. It was so cool.

Day 31: I think they have accepted me as one of their own...

Necessary sheep selfie

After my stint with my new sheep family.. I continued along the hike. I came to a trail intersection with a sign pointing in nine different directions and the trail branching off in several ways as well. I pondered which way to go. I knew I needed to go towards Zermatt, but three choices on the sign said Zermatt. I didn't want to take the easy road, only hike to the next train stop, and hop on the cogtrain the rest of the way down. I wanted to conquer my Gornergrat to Zermatt quest the right way! For a moment, Robert Frost popped into my head.

Then a lively couple approached the sign. They were trying to do the same thing. I also learned that they were dairy farmers. Somehow this made me feel safer. Together we figured out which was the correct path to hike all the way down, and decided that strength in numbers would be helpful. Since everyone else who had encountered the "sign of many directions" while we were standing there had branched off to the shorter routes, it was just me and the farmer couple from Holland for the rest of the hike...

The farmer couple from Holland

We quickly learned that this longer trail was also a very steep trail. Farmer lady often looked back at me, "Are you alright?" "You aren't afraid of heights are you?"
"Why yes, lovely farmer lady, I am in fact terrified of heights..but I'll be fine" I told her. 

Besides moral support and cheerleaders, the farmer couple was great for taking pictures. I took some of them, they took some of me, it was a beautiful exchange. 

I wasn't as daring as farmer lady, she laid out on that rock to the left sprawled over that cliff to pose for her photo...

We reached a point where we could see the town of Zermatt, that looked like tiny little houses fit for dolls. Since we could see it, it couldn't be too much further, right? Wrong.

Zermatt from above

I'd been hiking for hours, and although we could see Zermatt, it was still very far away. It was rocky and so steep that there were actually ropes to assist on parts of the trail. We continued down for another hour or so, and I was sure I'd need a knee replacement the following day. That is, if we ever made it back. Farmer lady kept looking back to check on me, and saying she thought we were getting closer. I was skeptical.

Finally we reached more level ground. My legs were like jello. I also wouldn't have minded some jello because the breakfast I had packed in hours and hours ago that morning had worn out, and I was famished. We were now hiking along the river which was a good sign, but the bad sign was we couldn't see Zermatt at all. But look at this pretty waterfall:

We kept hiking along, the river rushing next to us, and I learned that Holland farmer couple had three daughters, one about my age who was also a teacher. I also learned that they made all sorts of cheese at their farm. Mmmmm cheese. I couldn't wait to get back and eat. And drink. Alcohol.

Then we came to another multi choice sign. Two of the ways said Zermatt. The way we chose started to bring us back uphill a bit and that's when I started to get really concerned that my legs might fall off. Then the river rushing became louder. Except we were pretty high up again. Confusion swam in my head. Then I saw why.

Wait. We had to go over this skinny little bridge? I thought that was only in movies. I looked around for a film crew, but nope this was for real. I instantly regretted the large burger I stuffed in my mouth the previous evening. Any bit of extra weight and this thing could go down.

Holland couple assured me we had to go over the bridge.

I took a bit of convincing. By a bit I mean a lot. 

My choices were either follow them over the bridge that looked like it could snap at any second, with us pummeling down into the ravine hundreds of feet below into the racing river water..or turn around and try to find my way back by myself.

So I followed.

I tried to look straight ahead at Farmer Man who didn't look so sure footed himself. I held onto the rails with a death grip as the bridge shook, swayed, and bounced with our every step. 

It was a really long bridge. I don't think I breathed the entire time.

We made it to the end and all I could think was no one will believe I did this. So I got proof. 

By the way, the face of terror that I'm making in the picture is the exact expression I had frozen on my face the entire journey across the skinny bridge.

I had conquered the bridge! For sure we had to be closer to Zermatt now!

Why then, did it still look so tiny?!

Holland Farmers and I hiked along further until we came to another sign. The sign informed us that it was still another hour and forty five minutes to reach Zermatt. Oh hell no. Then we saw another sign for the lift at Furi. Only fifteen more minutes. Done.

Scenes from Furi, Switzerland
Scenes from Furi, Switzerland

Farmer Lady and I had to pee. Bad. We hurried to the lift in Furi and luckily they had a restroom. While we peed for what seemed like hours, Farmer Man looked at the schedule. Suddenly, he burst into the women's bathroom, yelling that the last lift ride was leaving right that minute. We ran, pulling our pants up, and leaping into the last lift car as the station manager yelled to us to just buy our tickets at the bottom. Phew!

Lift from Furi to Zermatt

We breathed a collective sigh of relief at the bottom, paid our eleven Euros, and walked into Zermatt together. Then it was time to say goodbye to my new farmer friends from Holland. Farmer Lady hugged me and did the double cheek kiss. I pulled away after two cheek kisses, since that's what I was used to from cheek kissing in Italy. Little did I know, in Holland and other places in Europe they do a triple cheek kiss. Oops! We laughed, "I'm used to two!" I exclaimed. I thanked them for hiking with me for the past several hours. I had loved meeting them, but I was ready for a shower, some food, and a drink or five with the two j's if they had survived their adventure too...

A Swiss selfie