Gornergrat Bahn, Zermatt
Two GGB cogwheel trains meet with the Matterhorn as a backdrop.
above Zermatt, is Switzerland's highest open-air train station. The Gornergrat Bahn
electric railway opened for business in 1898, hauling tourists from Zermatt to a scenic
overlook 9.4 km (5.9 miles) away. The Gornergrat excursion hasn't changed significantly
since Paul Guiton wrote his florid description in Switzerland: Western and Southern
more than 70 years ago:
In the course of this winding ascent, that lasts about
an hour, we see it [the Matterhorn] as a whole, take possession of it and study every
detail of its structure....It is more than a mountain; it is no longer matter without
expression, but rather a nobly sculptural work, the Titan Michelangelo dreamt of hewing
from the rock itself, realised with stupendous variations of outline and masses. The proud
peak seems conscious of its glory; it stands apart, as if in all the Alps there were none
The panorama at the Gornergrat is of dazzling beauty. At
the food of the ridge stretches the immense frozen river of the Gorner Glacier where the
moraines have marked out thin grey tracks. And into this central valley great glaciers
from the mountains have poured the floods of their snow-drifts into the chaos of their
ice-blocks. Above, high in the heavens, there is an indescribable alignment of white
domes, an architecture springing all divine from earth at the call of the Spirit.
Even if you're too modern and jaded to appreciate such
hyperbolic prose, it's hard not to be impressed by the Gornergrat ridge and its
surroundings, including the Matterhorn (see
Michelin gives the Gornergrat three stars (its
top rating), and the meter-gauge cogwheel railway is generally regarded as a
"must-see" excursion for Zermatt visitors--or at least for those who can afford
the steep fare. (If you're a skier, you can ride the GGB with your Zermatt lift
The Gornergrat Railway's lower station is in Zermatt,
next to the main Brig-Visp-Zermatt
Railway station. As the unofficial route map shows, there are half a dozen stops
between Zermatt and Gornergrat--including Riffelalp and Riffelboden, which give access to
two mountain hotels.
Total travel time is 43 minutes, and trains depart two or three times an hour
throughout the year. (The day's first train normally leaves Zermatt at 7:05 am, and the
last return train leaves Gornergrat at 7:07 p.m. From late October through late November
and again in early to late May, the first train departs Zermatt at 8:00 am and the last
return train leaves Gornergrat at 5:07 pm.)
At the Gornergrat (GGB)
station, you'll find a hotel, an astronomical observatory, and an aerial cablecar to the
Hohtälli, where you can connect to cablecars for the Stockhorn and Rote Nase. (The
Hohtälli and Stockhorn cablecars operate during the ski season and the summer tourist
season, while the Rote Nase cablecar serves skiers from from the end of November to early
ABOVE: A GGB train hauls skiers to the slopes.
Check winter and sumer timetables, view photos, read about the railroad's
history, and more at the multilingual GGB Web site.
More than 40 years after the legendary Riffelalp Grand Hotel was destroyed by
fire, a stunning new resort hotel was built with help from the Gornergrat
railway (which hauled some 2,000 cars of construction materials up the
mountain from Zermatt).
3100 Kulmhotel Gornergrat
Come for the a meal, book one of the traditionally furnished bedrooms, or have
a wedding for up to 100 guests with a view of the Matterhorn. The restaurants
are open year-round, and the hotel operates most of the year.
The Italian National Telescope is on Swiss soil, and it's optimized for infrared
Top photo: Swiss-image.ch.
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