Chilling in Zermatt with the Matterhorn, bee houses, ski, and endless Swiss skies
Charming chalets, a breathtaking Matterhorn view, endless ski slopes, a car-free village, Alpine landscapes, everything felt like a dream. Except I was wide awake and feeling every bit of the chilly Zermatt air.
A European vacation that includes a Swiss escapade is like the Superbowl for travelers. It’s a dream vacation for many and experiencing it would have to be one of the highlights of any tourist’s life. And The Matterhorn… that majestic mountain of beauty that I’m only used to seeing on a Toblerone pack, in full display! I knew it was going to be one great European adventure.
Zermatt is where it’s at
This town in the district of Visp sits at the foot of the world-famous Matterhorn. If you’re looking for a breathtaking view of the iconic mountain and a great ski experience, Zermatt is the perfect place to go. Skiing here is a year-round thing and you’ll never run out of things to do.
And what could be more heavenly than a car-less village dotted with lovely chalets, cafes, ski resorts, and warm locals, against endless mountain range views? This picturesque town is winter wonderland!
The biting cold climate blends well with the warmth of the people here and the town’s easygoing vibe. There’s no need to worry wondering how you’ll get about because of the no-car zone policy. Everything is within walking distance which allows you to simply take it all in, breathe in the fresh air, and savor the sights around every corner, path, or pavement, and all the lovely spaces in between.
The low-range mountains give it its signature look that had Mark Twain gushing- “Nature is built on a stupendous plan in that region. There is nothing tame, or cheap, or trivial — it is all magnificent.”
And the literature genius couldn’t have said it better.
Zermatt’s main street is Bahnhofstrasse where you can go for a walk, or shop for classic Swiss pieces – from chocolates to watches to cheeses and all of those great Swiss products the world loves. I had to grab some of them, along with all the interesting local honey products I could find. The honey hunt was something I was looking forward to as Zermatt is known to be the epicenter of gastronomy in the region.
There’s a certain kind of rhythm to this town that’s both exciting and relaxing at the same time. Something you couldn’t really put into words (except if you’re Mark Twain) unless you immerse in it yourself. So I just decided to take in everything, imbue the spirit that is Zermatt while exploring and enjoying everything the town had to offer.
“Cog railway to the sky”
After two days of exploring the town center and the outskirts, it was time to see Matterhorn in all its splendor. From Zermatt station to the summit of the Gornergrat (1469 meters higher), the whole railway ride was a feast for the eyes – cutting through wilderness and tunnels. It was simply panoramic no matter where you looked. Nature in all her glory was magnificent indeed and I wish I could wax poetic eloquence to express a small bit of that magnificence in words.
Alas, there’s no poet in me, not even an artist who could have captured all that sheer beauty with some magical brushstrokes. With my head in the clouds, literally, I felt like a part of a Bob Ross painting. Just picture-perfect. Oh deer! Yes, that deer. We spotted a few of them while we were chuggin’ and it was totally awesome.
Reaching Gornergrat is like the height of ecstasy. What with the amazing view of the Matterhorn right before your eyes- one that I’d like to describe as one of my life’s most breathtaking moments.
And my experience in that open-air cog leading to this wonder of wonders was also one for the books. It’s Europe’s highest and the world’s first electric-run cog railway. An unforgettable experience indeed.
Ski resorts, scenic hotels
A trip to Zermatt isn’t complete without a fun ski activity. The Zermatt Snow Park in Theodul Glacier provided the perfect venue for skiing and snowboarding. The snow condition and terrain here is great for ski enthusiasts from beginners to pros.
There are many ski-in and ski-out resorts in Zermatt like the Hotel Pollux, Hotel Riffelalp Resort, Best Western Hotel Butterfly, Hotel Mirabeau, and more. Those looking for small, private accommodations may like the Haus Venus holiday apartment, The Matterhorn Hostel, Apartment Bergere, or Le Gros Caillou. Each one offers a kind of coziness in spite of their outdoorsy feel.
Pie in the sky
And the icing on the cake? Turns out my dream trip to Zermatt couldn’t have been any better since I was able to combine it with my love for all things honey. Right there in my dream destination, over a thousand meters above sea level, I literally had a pie in the sky.
I’m talking about the Swiss Walnut Pie recipe from Artandkitchen that I recreated, with the intent of making the most of the raw wildflower honey I bought from a nearby local bee farm where 30 or so bee houses are kept. The quaint facility was as classic as it was innovative with its ingenious idea of color-coding the entrance to the hives to help worker bees find their way to their queen while keeping them safe from the snowy air.
And so somewhere along my gastronomic indulgence with the classic and awesome local fare – fondue, rosti, tarts and quiches, Swiss cheese and sausages, I had to assuage my desire for honey and try a pie Swiss-style.
Sharing the recipe here!
Swiss Walnut Pie (Engadiner Nusstorte or Bündner Nusstorte)
READY IN: 1hr 40mins
350 g flour
200 g butter
200 g sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg beaten
200 g sugar
2 tablespoons water
250 g walnuts, coarsely chopped
150 ml heavy cream
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg white
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
● Put all the ingredients for the pastry in a food processor and pulse until homogeneous; if necessary, add 1 or 2 tablespoon of water.
● With the dough, prepare 2 balls (2/3 and 1/3 respectively of the dough) and keep in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
● Put the sugar, water and honey in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and let it continue to boil until it becomes a dark golden color. Stir from time to time.
● Add the nuts and the cream and stir the walnuts until well coated.
● Remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside to cool.
● Preheat the oven to 180°C Grease a 30 cm tin (heat and timing are based on a convection oven).
● Roll out the larger ball between two sheets of cling film to a 34 cm circle and use it to line the tin of 30 cm square. Press the edges of the pastry against the side of the tin.
● Scrape the filling onto the pastry. Level the top as well as you can, but don’t apply too much pressure, or you may tear the pastry and the filling will leak out. Fold the excess pastry inwards over the filling.
● Roll the second piece of pastry to a neat 29 cm circle. Moisten the edges of the pastry base in the tin with the egg white and position the second pastry circle on top of this. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Mix the reserved egg yolk with 2 tablespoon cream and brush the cover. Prick with a fork in several places. If you like, you can score a plaid pattern onto the surface with the fork.
● Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool until lukewarm then loosen the sides, release the clip and carefully transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool completely.
OR you can link to it here.
Sweetly satisfying! And the single-pollen wildflower honey added that delightfully distinct flavor to the whole pie. The filling was indulgent and the crunch of the walnuts was just perfect.
Warmth in the cold
Winter wishes granted by the Matterhorn, the divine glaciers, frosty forests and mountains, smooth ski slopes, a taste of locally grown honey, and the warm locals!
It was one great experience and I look forward to coming back to Zermatt where the cold winter truly warms the heart. Totally cool!