50 years ago this summer I went to Zermatt for the first time as a young teenager and fell in love with it and its mountains (especially the iconic Matterhorn), and I’ve been going back there ever since – 18 times at the last count, I think. Our children started younger than I did and their visits number 10 or more already and they are a little over half my age!
Zermatt has expanded dramatically during these last 50 years, as of course it had during the preceding 100 years since the Matterhorn was first climbed in 1865. Every time we go, the village scene is staked out by cranes indicating the sites of the latest developments.
Think Zermatt, and you are likely to think Expensive, High-End, and Posh Hotels. And you would be partially right – it certainly attracts the rich and famous, and caters for them. It’s like a magnet: attracting tourists from all over the world. But it’s also well within the reach of the ‘average’ tourist. There are Bed and Breakfast hotels and a huge stock of apartments for rent, and it is perfectly possible to live on a reasonable budget – there’s even a McDonald’s!
People come to ride the uplifts, for the astonishing views, to see the Matterhorn, to walk climb and ski, to relax, to eat and drink well. Most of them stick to the main streets, the enticing shops and restaurants and so they miss the little back alleys.
Behind the glitz and the glamour there are still reminders of the original village – they are just harder to find these days, but they exist. If you go looking and head down some of the little narrow alleys, you will find the ‘Old’ Zermatt.
This is one of a number of ancient Stadels (Barns or Hay Lofts), where in winter if you stand still and listen you will hear the faint sounds of animals breathing and chewing hay, and there is a faint ‘farmyard’ smell.
This image I felt needed to be processed to black and white, to which I’ve added a hint of sepia and some grittyness, to remind us of the old days.
Animals winter in these old buildings. In early summer the grass on the lower valley sides is cut and dried and loaded into Stadels, and as winter approaches the cattle and goats are brought down from the summer pastures and some are still wintered within the old village. It’s easy to forget that for centuries this was a farming community, and that spirit lives on.