On a personal note, the most intriguing characteristic of this lovely place was the total (well, almost) absence of cars and the absolute dependence on the oldest mode of transport - our feet. Although a handful of electronic taxis run across this tiny, linear town in order to cater to weary travellers with an alarming amount of luggage, Zermatt is one of the most eco-friendly places on this planet. I was convinced that Mother Nature would be kind to the locals once the world incurs the worst of her wrath and she finally decides to send doomsday upon us. Zermatt would then be the capital of a post-apocalyptic earth. Apart from being environmentally conscious, the residents are also a very warm and welcoming bunch of people, so much so that when I asked a friendly young girl for directions to a pizzeria called 'Grampi's', she played an elaborate session of dumb charades with me, our facial expressions emulating all the grumpy people we had known and then personally escorted me to the lane that housed the said restaurant.
I must admit that luck has favoured me when it comes to certain aspects of my life, especially travel. I have had the chance of visiting Zermatt twice and while I was swooning the first time around, the second encounter was like meeting an old friend after a very long time,with all the memories fresh and the love intact. While I stayed in a lovely two-storied Swiss chalet during the latter visit, the former was in a Best Western property which was very homely despite the fact that it belonged to a hotel chain. On both occasions, the cheese was nutty and essentially perfect, the wine was fragrant and just the right amount of fruity, the amalgamation of Swiss, French and Italian cuisines was a delight to my taste buds and the rich hot chocolate was always plentiful.
Zermatt is all about relaxing to your heart's content, visiting a museum or two and conversing with fellow travellers some of whom turn out to be tiny humans nestled in prams with their golden curls, hazel eyes and toothless grins being strongly reminiscent of Cupid. It is also about going as close as one can to the mammoth known as Matterhorn, admiring its magnificence while keeping a safe distance so as to avoid disturbing its composure. I did all of these things during both my trips and then so much more. I arrived for the first time with memories of one of the most magical train journeys I had ever taken aboard the Glacier Express replete with arresting views of green valleys dotted with cows and snow covered mountains with countless boulders. I left with love but not the DDLJ-esque love that most Indians look for. I did not find a Raj for myself but at the impressionable age of fifteen, I had discovered my love for travel and the fact that this little hamlet was where I wanted to live in the future. Nine years down the line and a second rendezvous later, the resolve remains.
Getting There and Around:
Hop on the marvellous Glacier Express that starts from St Moritz and gets you to Zermatt in roughly eight hours, providing you the most brilliant views of the mountains and the countryside. However, you can personalize your itinerary as per your convenience, for instance, I boarded the train from a relatively lesser known Swiss city called Chur and my journey was reduced by four hours. If in case you own the boon known as a Swiss Pass, your ticket prices will be covered, but remember to validate your pass before boarding by asking a railway personnel. For more information on the Glacier express and the Swiss Pass, visit www.glacierexpress.ch and www.swiss-pass.ch respectively.Zermatt, as mentioned before, is car free and everything is walking distance, however, there are a limited number of electro-taxis to take you to your hotel/apartment and are usually arranged by the staff themselves. The box-like vehicles can be found near the train station on the Bahnhofstrasse.