All Aboard for the Glacier Express

mountain top

The Matterhorn-Photo by T. Glover

Wine, cheese and chocolates at every stop appealed to me. My husband and I traveled through Switzerland for ten days in 2003. Every stop on the itinerary left us in awe of Swiss beauty. If you ride with me on this trip, you may want to buy a ticket for the next flight to Europe.

My cousin suggested we visit Zermatt where he spent many vacations throughout his life. He loved the place, both summer and winter. I discovered the Matterhorn Mountain, one of the most photographed sites in the world, looms over Zermatt.

A friend told me about her ride on the Glacier Express, which travels from St. Moritz to Zermatt. Research increased my enthusiasm for riding this small train, which is neither an express train nor a glacier but travels slowly towards St. Moritz.

St. Moritz

Our trip took place in late May. Upon our arrival at the airport in Zurich we boarded a train to St. Moritz.  After an extremely long travel day, we sighed with relief for the bright light over the hotel door and the friendly innkeeper, who spoke English, French, German, and Italian.

In the morning we hiked around the lake with the warm sun shining in our eyes. The snow-capped Alps surrounded us. We drank hot chocolate near the town square.

When we explored the back streets of the hilly, little town I expected to see Hansel and Gretel or hear someone yodel from a balcony. We discovered a small waterfall. We could touch the icy waters splashing down the brown rocks where green ferns dotted the rocky hill. I recall a plethora of yellow flowers growing out of cracks in a stone wall along a narrow road. I ate white asparagus for the first time, drank superb, regional wine, and gorged on chocolates.

The Glacier Express

little swiss train

Glacier Express Train

We departed St. Moritz on the Glacier Express, a small train with few passengers aboard and no tour guide that day. The weather report reflected heavy snow storms on our eight-hour train ride from Saint Moritz to Zermatt on Memorial Day at home.

Huge pine trees and cows (each with a different bell) in the pastures peppered idyllic views as train ride began. Frigid rivers raced beside the tracks.

As the train clicked along the track the snow began to fall. We rose higher with increasing snow around us.  I don’t mean the sideways snow crossing a road which I would have recognized from living in the Midwest. My husband thought it looked like we were traveling inside a full milk carton. Nothing but white appeared outside the windows. At times the engineer used cog wheels to climb and descend through the snow and ice.

A new, more glamorous train takes tourists on this panoramic experience today through a nine and a half-mile tunnel on the 180-mile adventure. The data shows 91 tunnels and 291 bridges across the Oberalp Pass at 2033 meters in altitude (almost 7000 feet). Arches, some built in the Middle Ages, stand like aqueducts with the small train rumbling along the tracks to Zermatt.


Dusk surrounded us as we departed the train when we arrived in Zermatt. Cars are forbidden in Zermatt in the tourist district because of limited space. However, small trucks rushed through the narrow streets finishing daily deliveries to the hotels, gift shops and restaurants.

hotel ceiling

Hotel ceiling with hand-painted tiles

A five-minute walk dragging our roll-arounds through snowy slush led us to our hotel. The hand-painted flowers on the ceiling of our hotel room fascinated me. Later, we ate pizza at a cozy restaurant with a roaring fire, a glass of local Swiss wine, and stinky cheese for dessert. What a way to spend Memorial Day!

The Matterhorn


What is he doing here?-Photo by R. Glover

After wandering through town the next day we boarded another, small train, which rattled up the side of the mountain for tourists to see the Matterhorn Mountain more closely. While we ate sandwiches on a chilly patio at the top, a crow lit on the railing. As a little boy in a red and white snowsuit tried to feed the bird; the crow seemed as far from home as we were.

Thanks to Gay Vencill who suggested the Glacier Express. If you’d like to hear more about this trip, let me know. Next stop was Montreux on Lake Geneva.