Day * ~Mohit Agarwal
Little did I know, that today was going to be the most exciting day of my life. SEE THE PICTURES on TopToTop Picasa Album
The plan was- pack your stuff as soon as u get up early in the morning, have breakfast, check out of the hotel, take a gondola to the gorge, come back to Zermatt through the gorge, see a electric car manufacturing facility, take you bags and leave for grindewald. Sounds Simple?
Not really…one of the most exciting days in my life…easily! WHAT A DAY!
We had some safety gear donated from a skier and close friend of Dario. To make up for the remaining gear, we went to local sports shop and Dario rented it for the day. As soon as we got out of the cable car, at the Furri station we strapped on our harnesses, tied on our slings and set out for a memorable excursion into the Gorner Gorge. A signboard “No entry without mountain guide. Zermatt Alpine Center does not take responsibility if without a guide” gave me a good idea of what lay ahead. But we the best person to guide us – Dario. So I hooked on my carabiner to the steel cables and prepared myself for the exhilaration that lay ahead.
The Gorner gorge between Furri [1865m ]and Zermatt [1620m] has awe inspiring rock formations and a lot of water polished rocks, within thundering floods of water – a wonderful creation of nature!
The way through the gorge is around a kilometer of fixed rope route. It has three abseiling passages, a pendulum swing and three flying foxes. One of the flying fox was really long, the longest I have ever done in my life.
Traversing the gorge was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Switzerland has these beautiful creations of nature, and the Swiss people also know how to enjoy the bounties of nature. Who would have thought that such a safe “fixed rope ” route existed in such a treacherous gorge. And the most interesting part is, it is open for general public, even for tourists. You dont need to be a professional to do this, but professsional help from a mountain guide. See ” Zermatt Alpine Center”
After we came out of the gorge, we went to the Forest Fun Park, Zermatt (Which is another beautiful example of how Swiss people love to be close to nature and adventure). Salina and Andri had their share of fun and exercise at this park, which can bring out the child in anyone. Sabine even arranged for all the adults to enjoy a trail.
On a hindsight, this day brought three observations for me. First one is the Swiss love for nature and their idea of environment sensitization. When you get really close to nature, so close, that u can feel its power and beauty at the same time, that it sends adrenaline pumping in your blood, it is then that u start having a feeling of respect for nature. The gorge route and the forest fun park are both examples of this respect instilling process. If you are exposed to such adventures from childhood, you grow up to be a sensitive man/woman towards the environment. You cannot even unknowingly harm nature, which is then a source of extreme exhilaration and joy for you. And the Swiss parents do a great job in building this attitude in their kids (maybe it is a culture here). A mother or a father cylcling/trekking with their kids is a very common sight
Then we went to “Sombit” car manufacturing facility in Zermatt. Some 45 years before,in 1964, Zermatt had a public voting which banned cars in the village! Wow! If a small village in the hills of the Swiss Alps can have so much foresight,(that too half a century back), why can the cities of the modern world wake up now??
The entire story about Zermatt turning into a car free town and the growth of the local electric car manufacturing company is very interesting.
In 1964, a public vote in the village was conducted, and it was agreed that the village would have no cars. But Mr. Imboden father had a taxi business, which implied that he could lost his means of living. But then his father and friends had an idea. What if they run electric cars in the village. They don’t pollute like petrol cars and are not noisy. So they bought 4 electric cars from Zurich. But the laws of the village did not permit any cars (who had thought that some taxi drivers would be such big visionaries), so there was another public vote and it was agreed that electrical cars could be allowed in the nights. People found the cars really useful (at times of medical emergency, etc. these electric ambulances were more effective than horse drawn carriages) and with time businesses were allowed to drive these cars whole day.
Now a little about the “STIMBO electric car company”. Its owner Bruno Imboden was generous to give us a tour of his factory in Zermatt. His brother used to repair electric cars in Zermatt and thats how it all started. Since the last 25 years the STIMBO company has been maufacturing custom made electric cars for its customers. They make from 10 to 40 cars a year.Currently there are 500 electric Cars plying on the roads of Zermatt. since the last fifteen years, the cars are made with an all aluminum body and have a max speed of 20kmph.
The visit to the electric car company brought me to my another observation.In this strange phenomenon of global warming, people who are the most environmentally conscious are the worst affected. Although the earth as a whole is warming up, but some people/nations have a greater role in it , but everyone has to bear the consequences- and it is not fair. For example – Zermatt, which was so far sighted to ban cars 45 years ago, has to struggle with the receeding glaciers on the mountains around this town. If the rate of melting remains so high, probably this towns beauty and consequently its tourism industry will be gone!! What a price to pay for being so caring towards the evnironment. You have underdeveloped countries which have extremely low CO2 emissions, but have been facing strange issues due to earth warming up. Bangladesh is losing its islands slowly to the rising Bay of Bengal!
Switzerland, being a rich country can somewhat mitigate tricky situations presented by a warmer climate, but it always has a constant anxiety of a lurking disater. But again it is a very environment friendly country, and it is not justified that it has to spend so much effort and money tackling problems for which it is not at all responsible (The huge wall at Pontresina to hold the permafrost and the tuunel at Grindewald to drain the glacial lake, are two of numerous such examples)
After completing the visit to the car factory, we had to take a train to Grindelwald, where we would be staying in Tiffany’s chalet for a couple of days. The train was in 30 minutes. I had to buy something from the “Coop” store, which took me a lot of time, and I could not make it to the station on time. Just as the train was about to leave, with everyone else from ToptoTop on board, Dario shouted out to me that I have to come to GRINDELWALD by the next train.
I took the next train, and had to change at Tasch.
There was a huge parking lot at Tasch station, which was meant for parking of private vehicles headed to Zermatt. People had to park their cars right near the platform and take shuttle train of Matterhorn Gotthard Railway to Zermatt.
It was then that I realised the power of network integration for public transport to work successfully. The Swiss system of transport is that all modes of transport are available at the same place. For example at Zurich airport, I did not even have to step out of the premises to take a train to St. Moritz. At St Moritz, I just had to cross the platform to get a bus to Maloja. In India, I would probably have to take an intermediate transport from the airport to railway station and another intermediate transport from the railway station to bus stop.
You have a Network~1 and Network~2, and you want to get from node A in Network~1 to node B in Network~2.
Now Network~1 has a node C which is closest to node D in Network~2.
A normal travel system would mean, you would have to find a system to transport you from Node C to Node D. But what if you could bring Node C and Node D so close that they just overlap. Then then two Networks effectively make one bigger seamless Network, in which it is easier to move around.
Also a lot of fuel and time is saved in the process.
So when you want car owners to leave their cars at Tasch, and take the railway to Zermatt- the best way is to integrate the Road Highway Network with Gotthard Railway Network. The huge parking lot at Tasch Railway station is the point where the two nodes overlap.
Day * ~Mohit Agarwal