Zermatt - Matterhorn
Favorite thing: One of most impressive mountains I have ever had the pleasure to have been acquainted. I enjoyed a full day of skiing under the mountain. Everytime I looked up I was just think how lucky I was. Unfortunately, it also reminded me of Toblerone chocolate, which I didn't have at the time. The town of Zermatt is also very cool. No cars, just electric taxis, horse drawn carriages.
- Skiing and Boarding
Old Mountain Village Homes
Favorite thing: Scattered about in many of the villages are homes that are still based upon the old time designs of animals on the lower floor, then people living above them. Several of these old wooden structures were still in Leysin, although I could not tell if they were still occupied.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
The Alps as Movie Stars
Favorite thing: The Alps have been the set of many movies, and in some of them the mountains are co-protagonists, as for instance in Erich von Stroheim’s Blind Husbands (1919), Edward Dmytryck’s The Mountain (1956), with Specer Tracy, and in Fred Zinnemann’s Five Days One Summer (1982) starring Sean Connery. The most recent I know of (but I have not seen yet) is the German movie North Face released in 2008, about the true story of the first climbers who managed to reach the top of the Eiger.
The Alps have featured also in many adventure movies, including one of the James Bond series: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However I can remember only one movie where the name of a mountain is mentioned in the title: Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction.
When I went to Interlaken for the first time I noticed there were many Indian tourists. I soon learned that the Swiss Alps have been made popular in India by many Bollywood movies.
The St Bernard Dog
Favorite thing: This big, strong and tranquil dog is most certainly a symbol of the Alps. The name of this breed origins from the Hospice du Grand St Bernard, a shelter for pilgrims and travellers created and run by monks for centuries, at the alpine pass of the same name, at the border between Switzerland and Italy.
These big mastiffs can weigh from 70 to 120 kg, and are not the kind of pet that everybody can afford. A curiosity for you: Buck, the protagonist of 'The Call of the Wild' was described as half St Bernard.
You can read the history of this breed in the following website: St Bernard History.
If you want to be sure to see some of these dogs when you visit the Swiss Alps, you can go to Martigny, where there is a kennel, or even better to the kennel at the Grand St Bernard pass, where I took the pictures I have posted here.
The Alps and Romanticism
Favorite thing: For centuries art had pursued an ideal of harmony and serenity, praising reason over passions. In those times high mountains and peaks did not inspire artists. Leonardo painted rocks and ravines, but we must remember he had a naturalist’s eye, and gorges attracted him because of his interest in water dynamics.
Things changed almost suddenly. In the late 18th century Geneva-born J.J. Rousseau was the first intellectual to express his preference for mountain landscapes, but it was the Sturm-und-Drang thing that changed the scenario.
As Robertson Davies put it, in ‘the Romantic Era, and ever since, mountains topped with cloud, untouched forests, crags and river ravines have been promoted in human estimation into the most splendid sights that Nature can offer’.
Goethe, Lamartine, Byron, Gautier, Hugo made feelings and passions fashionable, and with them those environments that seemed their best symbols. In a few years this view had become so common that other intellectuals, for instance Flaubert, openly derided it. Not strange, if we consider that by the mid-19th century the Alps had become the dream destination of all middle-class tourists.
National Borders in the Alps
Favorite thing: The border between Switzerland and Italy corresponds for most part to the ridge of mountains that mark the water divide. I wrote most part, because the Canton Ticino is actually on the southern side of the water divide.
Some of the highest and most famous peaks happen to be on this border, so there is no point in asking whether the top of the Matterhorn is Swiss or Italian: it belongs to both countries, because the top is exactly on the border.
These things were clearly defined in 1941, in a treaty between the two countries, but some new agreements were made necessary in more recent times. In fact mountains are not so still as one may think, they evolve due to erosion, and further changes are caused by climate. In fact the melting of snowcaps has revealed the true shape of some mountains, and the ridge has slightly changed. These things are easy to verify now, in the age of satellite mapping, so in 2009, according to the principles of the old treaty, the border has been modified to adjust to the physical changes.