“Youth” was something the pair of them might not have been classified as in 1997 but that “youth hostel” in Zürich took them in and it was beautiful. Tracy had been in many youth hostels and was used to community rooms and bathrooms and having to clean up after herself. This hostel was different. It was more like a hotel. Walking in, the room for just the 2 of them, was extremely clean. To the left, a pair of beds and directly in front an en-suite bathroom. Tracy and Paul had experience with an all-tiled bathroom where if water sprayed everywhere from the shower it didn’t matter. To their memory, there was not a spot of mold anywhere in that white, bright bathroom. What was surprising were the down blankets on each bed! These beds were looking pretty soft and comfortable after many, many hours of travel.
Paul had decided when they had to leave for the train. He called ahead for a taxi to come early so they would have plenty of time to get to the train. “I’ll set the alarm for 7 AM. Will that give you enough time?”
“Yep, that should be just fine.” Tracy said with a tired smile. They dropped each into their own bed and fell directly to sleep. Tracy was in awe of Paul. How did he know what time it was in Zurich? There were no cell phones and no television to tell them the time but she just trusted Paul and the thought left her mind.
Sometime later, the phone in the room rang.
Paul got up and answered, “Yes? What? Okay, thanks. We’ll be down in 5 minutes” His voice was calm until he turned around to Tracy and said, with a bit more urgency, “the taxi is here.”
Silently, they dressed, packed and were out the door somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes. Later Paul told Tracy that he was impressed that she could get ready to go so quickly but, frankly, so was she!
That difference between getting to the taxi on time vs. what actually happened, made them late for the train to travel to Zermatt. Remember those movies where people run for trains? They lived it in person. As the train pulled out of the station slowly, conductors were encouraging the pair to get on quick and they made it in time. Luckily they had that easy-to-carry luggage! The roller suitcases had not come into style at that time but really, they would not have helped in this instance.
Onward to Zermatt.
Zermatt, Switzerland is the village that lies at the base of the Matterhorn. There are no automobiles in this city and only one, special, red train takes you to this lovely little place. At some point on the ride from Zurich one changes trains to ride through the beautiful Alps, the final destination Bahnhofplatz, Zermatt. Paul had acquired the tickets for the trip and they found their seats and settled in for a calm ride. The mountains were breathtaking. Even though it was December the ground was not buried under snow but some green peeked out. At one point, Tracy glanced out just at the right moment to see a goat whose front half was black and it’s back half was white. She was so obsessed by this creature that she bought a stuffed toy of the little guy as a souvenir.
Traveling on a budget is usually highly entertaining but one thing they needed while riding the train was food. The cost of meals on this train was too extravagant for Paul and Tracy. Suddenly, Paul remembered he had a Power Bar stashed away in his trusty backpack! He was gracious to share some with Tracy. If anyone remembers the Power Bar in 1997, it was more like very stiff taffy with a very fake protein-esque flavor. Even though it was strawberry/rubber flavored, it did kill the hunger for the rest of the trip.
During every train ride, there will always be someone who comes by and takes a look at your ticket and stamps them or punches them. This person took a look at Tracy and Paul’s tickets and said, “you only have tickets here for one person.” Now, that is not a reason to be thrust into Swiss prison but more tickets needed to be purchases and, by golly, those who ran the train wanted to make sure that was taken care of. At the next stop, Paul was escorted off the train to the ticket counter and, while under supervision of at least 2 uniformed train employees, was required to purchase the tickets for one more person. They brought Paul back to where Tracy was still sitting and the entire episode was over with a handshake and a smile but with a great deal of authority!
Zermatt was a wonderland. At the train station there was a kiosk with photos of all the local hotels and a phone that was free! After observing the price and look of each place, Paul made a phone call and they walked to their hotel. During that trip, there was some special luck that the two had in finding fine hotels. This one was the first. White down blanket covered beds, black furniture a lovely bathroom and a fantastic deck overlooking a square with the mountains and Matterhorn
in the distance. They took a photo on the deck that day. So much had happened in such a short time and they had survived.
Next: Zermatt and off to Venice.