60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, 10 July 1952:

I just gained consciousness at 12:15 p.m. in the afternoon. What a wonderful 12 hours or more of sleep! It was the most sleep I had had since long before I can remember—long before I left the USA that’s for sure.

Wow! I realized I could eat a horse to put it mildly. A crowd of kids in front of the hotel directed us to their favorite restaurant. The restaurant was a red shuttered deal down the street in a charmingly typical village. Everyone seemed to be on their way to hike or returning from a hike. They wore coats by the way. Guess we didn’t lug ours all this way for nothing.

The waitress wore a Swiss costume. They even let us take their picture. I had a delicious dinner for 4.50 franc. I filled my soup bowl twice and there was still enough left for a third time. It was in a copper warmer on legs with candles inside. My platter included a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes on top of two pork chops, bowl of salad, and turnips. There was enough for several servings of each. But I had to gulp down the delicious ice cream because there went the mob around the bend to the ski lift. That made us tail-enders again.

Such a picturesque trail with all kinds of little chalets. There was a saying that Zermatt had the population of 1000 inhabitants and 7000 tourists. The natives were almost exclusively engaged in taking care of the visitors. I was glad that we made it in time to go with the mob because it saved me 1.50 franc, net cost 3.50 franc. Alicia and I were next to last in line. Herr Rogers and Mrs. Rogers brought up the rear after seeing that everyone was duly taken care of. It was my first ride on a ski lift! And it was quite a thrill with a wonderful view of the countryside. I went over the top of the first hill just to see another hill beyond that. The lift ended on the top. A sign on the bar that held us in the lift said “Do Not Swing.”

We hiked on up from the lift house and waited for the clouds to clear in order to take pictures of the Matterhorn. On the trail we met many Swiss German, Swiss French, and Swiss Italians. I tried to talk to them, but found it a little difficult. However, I managed to get a few ideas across. People were very friendly and most of them spoke several languages which usually included French and German.

We topped a couple of hills and returned to the lift. Then I had a great big bottle of orangeade. Now I was ready for the return ride. Halfway down the lift I had a tremendous urge to take a picture, but I had used my last picture up on the mountain. I had to curb that urge.

Back on the street, I saw a lady milking a cow. She was very friendly and lived above the barn. Next stop was the hotel. After a quick break to lighten our load, we took off for an excursion to the village. We picked up a bunch of food—apple, pear, box of raisins, delicious Swiss chocolate—as we left. We washed the fruit in the first watering trough. There were people returning from the mountains on every trail. It seemed all trails led back to Zermatt.

Switzerland was really international as you could hear any tongue your heart desires. Most of the people were dressed comfortably, but not richly with heavy shoes and socks, often long wool socks. I had picked up a picture of a beautiful waterfall at the hotel, so we inquired how to find our way to the real thing.

As we left for the waterfall we met people coming back from the fields with their scythes and forks. It was hay making time. Then we made our way to Gorner’s Villa, a little inn upon the mountainside. Around the corner a frau was waiting for us by a sign. It cost 1 franc to go by. Wouldn’t you know it! The man at the hotel didn’t mention this. Well if it was worth charging for, it must be worth seeing. I guess? Far be it from me to turn back now.

There were stairs going down to a bridge. The path was built right into the side of the perpendicular gorge. Another bridge went across the gorge with water foaming angrily below it. The waterfall was cutting its way through the mountain. A man came along behind us and explained that the rushing water had cut the gorge out of the mountain over a period of years. Now the gorge was deep. I chanced a couple of pictures even though the light was poor.

I think we missed the trail on the way back because we ended up in a hay field. A farmer stopped his work of turning hay and talked to us. In addition to his occupation as a farmer, he was a guide and professional skier. He was a farmer through the summer months in order to grow feed for the other nine months of the year. The cattle were put out to graze during the summer months. He tilled the same land ancestors had tilled for the last 600 years. Furthermore, he spoke very good English in addition to several other languages.

Now that we had found our way back on the pathway, we discovered a crossroad with several paths leading back to Zermatt. We tried to find out which path was the prettiest. “They were all pretty” was the answer. We chose by the eenie meenie miney mo method to decide our direction.
We ended up going back by the church graveyard, where all those who had been conquered by the Matterhorn were resting their bones. It was quite an imposing area of tombstones with some rather recent tombstones as well. Those who wanted to attempt to climb the Matterhorn should visit here first. Then perhaps they would exercise every precaution in their attempt to conquer the Matterhorn.

The graveyard was peaceful and beautiful. Flowers were growing on almost every grave with lots of big wreaths of little colored beads, trees, and shrubs. Many other natives of the village rest here along with the daring mountain climbers. I ate pretzels on the way home.

As we went back to Hotel Victoria everyone was all excited. A lady down the street was offering a 15% discount if our group bought $200 worth of merchandise. Most everyone succumbed to this deal as witnessed by the loot that was brought back later. From reports I gathered our mob had driven the shop lady slightly mad. Carol and Alene had succumbed earlier, as well, and both were sporting quite beautiful Swiss specimens. Carol and I crawled down through the village to see what was brewing, but things seemed relatively quiet.

So we returned and drooled over the loot before returning to our luscious beds. I would love to take this bed with me wherever I go. I received mail from my parents at each mail stop so far. I wrote them about Zermatt and the Matterhorn. It was as beautiful in its own way as Venice, Florence or Rome.


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