Sunday, 9 September 2007

Walking by Matterhorn


Last week I visited Yvonne Borloz in Geneva. The flight with Easyjet was only £3.99 each way.  I Had intended to go by train, taking the Eurostar to Paris which would have cost £59.00 and then the TGV from Paris to Geneva.  The cheapest TGV there I found was a piccolo fare which only cost about €15.00.  Even so, nothing could compare with the Easyjet price.  I would certainly have preferred to go by train, if only because the budget airlines seen to be having such an effect on climate change if the scientists are to be believed, but so often the airlines are so much cheaper than the trains.

Nevertheless, whilst I was in Geneva we had the freedom of Swiss railways for one day when citizens of Geneva are permitted to buy rail pass tickets at a very low price.  There are only so many of these tickets are available each day, and so you need to book a long way ahead.  Last time we did this, we spent all day from Geneva to Montreux and across the Bernese Oberland to Berne.

This time we got up very early and took a train from Geneva to Visp where we changed to the local train to Zermatt. From there we took an underground railway steeply up to about 2000 metres, and then a cable car up to 2600 metres where we began our walk.  We walked all day in the mountains in full sight of the Matterhorn.  Altogether we must have covered 18.1 km.

Our plan was to take another train back to Brig to the Italian Cisalpino tilting Pendolino PCR train at brig for the return to Geneva. Unfortunately this train was more than 1 hour late, but while we were awaiting we got talking to the driver of the train, who invited me to ride in his cab all the way back to Geneva.  This seemed something almost impossible in any other country where security considerations would have prevented any such intrusion into his work space, but it seems that in Switzerland this was allowed.

It was somewhat scary to be travelling at 160 kilometres an hour in the dark, when there were various alarms indicating parts of the train at had gone wrong, signals to be observed , parts of the line which had been closed for maintenance, and contacts on the radio and by mobile phone or to be dealt with whilst we were travelling at speed.

I don't think I shall ever again have the opportunity of riding in the cabin of a tilting train, although I do hope the new Virgin fleet will be more reliable than the train I took back to Geneva.