8/19/08 - We watch the morning commuters at the Aigle train station and then board the train to travel southeast up the vineyard sloped Rhone Valley to pass through Bex, and then into the neighboring French speaking Canton of Valais where we continue to a stop in Martigny, the oldest town in Valais dating from 15 BC during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. There are remains of a Roman Amphitheatre that seats 6000 and serves as the site of the annual Combat de Reine which are cow fights organized to determine which beast is to be most suited to lead the herds up to the summer pastures.
Leaving Martigny, we pass through Sion and its two towering hills topped by the medieval fortresses of Tourbillon Castle and the Basilique de Valere and then continue through Sierre and Visp to a train connection in Brig that will take us on a steep and scenic journey to Zermatt bathing in the reflected glory of the Matterhorn.
After a lunch of bratwurst and rosti we purchased tickets on the cog railway to Gornergrat. Along the way we had magical views of the Matterhorn and of Zermatt far below. When we arrived at Gornergrat (10, 270 ft.) we could look down on the huge river of the Gorner Glacier flowing below us and up at an astronomical observatory..
It is so raw and beautiful in Gornergrat that I opt to walk back down to Riffleberg so that I can stand alone on the bare rock across from the Matterhorn and be swept away by the strength and clarity. It is so awesome that up until about 140 years ago fewer men had stood at this spot than have now walked on the moon and now over three million tourists come here every year on this most popular railway in the country. The Matterhorn itself is concealed by veils of cloud but the winding path downward is like the skeleton of the earth. The rock is so sun blasted and corroded that it seems like the photons themselves are boring into it to weaken it to be blown by away by the winds and into the glacial streams for washing into the valleys far away. My Domestic Affairs Advisor, George Wilson, has charged me with reporting the five high moments of my visit to Switzerland and I have no doubt that I have found one here.
When I get back to Zermatt I have only 30 minutes before the train leaves for Brig so I get directions to the churchyard where the ill fated climbers of the Matterhorn from 1865 to this day are buried. One stone marks the final burial place of a pair from Cambridge University who were lost on the mountain in 1959 and found 30 years later. From Brig we catch the last train of our day and return our tired bodies to La Nichee at shortly after 9:00 PM.