We awoke at sunrise and drew the heavy draperies to reveal the distant Matterhorn, glowing with the warmth of the rising sun.  The day was sparkling in its clarity and the golden light of early morning blanketed the Alps encircling the village of Zermatt.  We were novices and did not realize that the occurrence of the golden light on the Matterhorn was the exception and not the rule.

Blissfully ignorant, and without taking a single photo, we prepared for our day and after a lovely breakfast with Mom and Dad we made our way to the Gornergrat railway station in the Bahnhofplatz, in the village of Zermatt.  There, we boarded the world’s first electric cogwheel-train, making its debut trip to Gornergrat in 1898, to make the ascent to 14,700 feet .

All along our journey up the mountainside we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Matterhorn in between forests and residing over Alpine meadows.  We also stopped at several small stations where hikers joined the train with poles and backpacks.  At one such stop we noticed a lovely announcement board advertising the Riffelalp Resort which prompted much speculation amongst the four of us and we made a note to get off the train at that stop on our return trip.

Reaching the Gornergrat station we proceeded to make the short walk to Switzerland’s highest hotel, the Gornergrat Kulm Hotel.  The hotel includes two observatories and dining options.  As we enjoyed refreshments and shelter from the Alpine winds, while we straddled Italy and Switzerland, we took turns studying the Matterhorn with binoculars attempting to find climbers who were carefully working to avoid joining compatriots in the climbers cemetery in Zermatt.

Satisfied that we had soaked in the majesty of the Matterhorn, we descended the walkway from Gonergrat Kulm to the train station.  Along the way, a photographer offered to take our picture with his Bernese mountain dogs.  What could be more perfect for a Christmas card than sitting with the dogs who were bred in the Bernese mountains with a backdrop of the Matterhorn?!  Satisfied that we had a nice photo we began the return trip.  When we approached the stop advertising the Riffelalp Resort we disembarked and learned that we would be taken by an even smaller train into the Resort.  

After a 10-minute ride through pine trees we emerged into a clearing where a classic swiss chalet style hotel overlooked the valley down into Zermatt.  Stepping into the hotel lobby we learned that it was closed for its annual maintenance but that their outdoor dining area was open for lunch.  After enjoying the high altitude sunshine and cool breezes we were granted a private tour of the hotel wherein my dad declared that on another trip he wanted to come back and stay at this charming alpine hotel. 

When we returned to Zermatt we had several people ask us if we had seen the golden light on the Matterhorn.  And with each inquiry we began to realize, with some dismay, that our experience of the morning’s view was a rare occurrence.  Indeed, we did not witness the golden light again during our time in Zermatt on the 50th Anniversary Celebration Trip.  It wasn’t until we returned for a stay in the Riffelalp Hotel that we were rewarded with a sunset of golden light on the western facing side of this majestic mountain.  

Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.

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