July 10, 2011
I have two different recurring dreams, which probably symbolize where I belong or long to belong. One is of swimming in the oily thick waters of the Dubai Creek with the dhows driving past me dangerously. The other dream is very pleasant and it entails me opening shutters of a chalet with direct access to a frontal view of the Matterhorn peak, in Switzerland.
While the Dubai Creek was an integral part of my childhood (although I've never actually swam in it!), I have never seen the Matterhorn, and certainly never had a frontal view of it.
A few days ago, my dream in mind and children in tow, I travelled the distance by train from Geneva to finally see the Matterhorn. After all these years spent living in Switzerland, none of us had seen one of the most iconic peaks in the world, one that adorns every chocolate box, every Swiss watch publicity, every calendar and stamp. It is the peak on the Toblerone chocolate and for that reason, we bought a small symbolic one, and shared it.
It turns out we had brought too many nick nacks and snacks to to dwell on the Toblerone. We had Swiss cereal bars, almonds, fresh fruit, homemade sandwiches all packed in a hefty package that I carried for refueling. Not that we exerted ourselves. I am to blame for not hiking. I came ill prepared. I didn't expect the temperatures to be so low at an altitude between 2000 and 3800m and thus dressed my kids in two summer layers. Needless to say, they froze, up at the peak of the nearby mountain.
The trip in the cable car was breathtaking,even for me a pretty seasoned skier of the Alps and the Rockies. I have always said that Verbier, for example, offers "Swiss Air" views as they resemble those you see when you fly over the Alps on a Swiss flight. Courchevel is also very high in altitude and has nice views. But Zermatt, which we visited for the first time in order to view the Matterhorn, is magnificient, and this even in summer.
There is nothing more authentically Swiss than the village of Zermatt. Granted it has its hotels, tourist shops and restaurants but its beauty lies in its pedestrian roads, and its strict architectural zoning, even more so than Wyoming. From the cable car, Zermatt is a town built of wood, and the higher we went, the more it began to resemble the remnants on the floor of a carpentry store. Zermatt fits well in its environment.
We were delighted with our trip, dwelling in the Swiss ambiance (we even had fondue). And my delight surpassed the disapointment of not making my dream come true. I traveled 4 hours by train to see the Matterhorn and I actually didn't get a frontal view of it. I climbed into a cable car to catch a closer look and the closer I got, the more eclipsed it got.
When we approached the peak, a huge gray cloud covered its summit. The surrounding peaks were shining and white with snow in the mountain July sunshine. However, this particulat cloud didn't budge during the five hours we spent in Zermatt.
Like a veiled woman, the Matterhorn refused to show her face. I choose however to ignore nature's games and have promised to come visit again, in another season or again next summer. What a perfect reason to get some fresh air and take in splendid landscapes.