A midst the valleys and snow-covered mountains of Majestic landscape of Switzerland lies a car-free Alpine village right out of fairytales-Zermatt. Surrounded by ranges of fabulous mountains it is also known as a platform for skiing and mountaineering.
So keeping aside the mountains, skiing. Camping and everything that happens all around the Alps. I am going to share with you the unkempt secret of Zermatt
Few things you need to know about Zermatt:
- It is a Car free city-So if you haven’t experienced such a place, You have to be here(especially the time I was)Though there are battery driven cars in case you need a taxi, which more or less look like toy cars running on the streets.
- There are only 5-6 streets and you can walk around by foot, there is no noise and combustion.
So as we woke up in the morning by our balcony overlooking the Majestic Matterhorn. We decided to have some coffee and just relax in the lush green garden outside our room with just nature doing the talking and then stroll across the city for some lazy Sunday brunch. But as we stepped out it was full of surprises, it was bright, colorful and smell of delicious food wandered in the air. Where am I? I looked around!
There were People of all ages dressed in their lovely costumes, there were food stalls, there were people peeping out of their balconies and lots of tourist like us with cameras. For once I felt like I was in some fairy-tale. As we relished our ice-creams. We saw parades coming our way dancing, singing offering wines and chocolates Yes, it was completely beautiful and lively. It just continued for next 2 to 3 hours and each parade that came one after another kept the Magic-Alive!!We had arrived at the –Zermatt folklore festival!
#What is Zermatt folklore festival
Every year in the second week of August Zermatt is overrun by Swiss folklore groups from all over the country showcasing each of their regions. There are about 50 parade groups which perform through the town and then perform at the fairgrounds. You can hear yodellers and alpenhorns. It’s a collage of diversity and culture across the country ,each village comes up with its specialty and tradition in its own way during the parade. People of all ages participate enthusiastically in the parade. From little kids swinging huge Swiss bells to oldies dancing their way through the parade. There are the lot of instrumental performances as well, all of them with perfect co-ordination. I was amazed by the quality of music, costumes and synchronization. Each group was different from another in some way or the other, the costume and the accessories differed as well,.
The festival begins a day before with fireworks and continues the next day at the Catholic Church with a yodel mass after that the area around the church is arranged with some nice local stalls for brunch and beer before the program commences.
A fun-filled day as its combined with the Swiss food festival and streets are decorated with dozens of stalls selling wide range of local produces like cheese,jam,ice cream, sausages etc.There lot of souvenir shops which will pop up as well. The parade begins at afternoon goes on for the whole day with various kinds of entertainment and activities. By the night it becomes silent little village with locals sitting at some café drinking a wine with family and friends spending quality time.
So as the night fell and we were soaked in the Swiss culture, we decided to unwind ourselves at a restaurant with some wine and cheese fondue(must try) as the locals do. Even the owners & staff of the restaurant were celebrating within themselves. After a bright colourful day at this village with the mountains at the background, with so much life in the air and lots of local food it was definitely a bonne nuit!!
#Where to Stay & Eat
There are various kinds of accommodations ranging from hostels to luxurious hotels. There are Hostels ranging from 20 to 30 Euros per day. Chalets and Apartments ranging from 70 to 100 Euros. Hotels of varied budget. So it’s like which budget you want to slip into according to your requirement. We stayed in an apartment called Jolimont Ferienwohnungenwhich was pretty huge and comfortable. We had a kitchen with all the amenities (vessels,spices,oven etc),a balcony facing the Matterhorn, a nice bathroom plus all the other amenities like iPod deck, music system. It even had a garden to relax and chill. We booked it through booking.com for 99 Euros.
#When to book
There are number of people that descend down to participate and witness this festival (1000-1500 participants). As I saw there was lots media coverage and photographers this year (comparatively to the previous years as said by locals) it’s expected that it might be more publicised and there will lot of tourist planning their trips to enjoy the festivities. So book early for accommodation and also grab some good deals. So if you’re going in August book at least by Feb-March.
The best way to get to Zermatt is by train. If you have hired a car for Switzerland then you will have to leave it in the nearest village Tasch (Covered parking lots) and then cover next 7 kms by shuttle train. From there Trains run every 10-20 mins in, it costs about 6-7 Euros. But talking of travelling around Switzerland is best explored through Swiss Pass.The railway system is well-connected, organised and passes some stunning scenery at every place!
Visp connects Major places like Zurich and Geneva for Airport/Train transfers. So if you have a Swiss Pass you can take a train from Visp to Zermatt which runs almost every hour.
Getting around Zermatt would be by foot, rent a cycle or taxi. Most High end hotel have porter services (small electric car will ferry you) to pick and drop you from station.
#Tips for the festival
*You get hand-outs of the events. So keep one of that to keep a track.
*Go before afternoon near the Church. That the main street where everything happens.
*After the parade don’t miss the performances at the fairground.
*Have lunch before the events begin as it becomes very busy and you don’t want to miss anything.
*Don’t forget your camera.
*Do try a glass of wine and cheese fondue in the evening.
*Last but not the least “book early” if you really want to be there.
If you are looking out for an average trip which lies between budgeted and luxury. Then here it goes we dint find Zermatt very expensive like the other tourist places of Switzerland. A good stay in an apartment would be 80 to 100 Euros. A sumptuous Local dinner with wine, main-course and desert for two would be 60 Euros. You have cheaper options for both food and stay as well. But if you don’t want to splurge on food you can always go to coop supermarket near the railway station and get some nice cheap food there. A descent stay at Zermatt for one night with food for two would be approx 175 Euros (excluding travel to Zermatt)!
So now you know where to head to in Europe in August if you don’t want too much mush-mush in Tomatina festival in Spain!