Although our end destination for the day was Zermatt via the Glacier Express train, our travels along the way were spectacular.  The day was beautiful—perfect timing as this was one of the highlight days of the trip.

Our first stop was the charming and picturesque alpine village of Brienz where we strolled along the lakefront. The village is known for its talented wood carvers, and everywhere we looked, there were charming carvings that we enjoyed along the way.  We also visited a shop to see wood carvers working on their creations.

(For all photos, click on the image for a full screen view.)

This village felt like being in a post card or photo calendar that had come to life—a feeling I had felt repeatedly throughout Switzerland.  My photos don’t do Brienz justice, but these are the scenes I shot during a short visit to this tiny village:

I never thought I would see palm trees in an alpine village, especially after I turned my back to the mountain view below.
Behind this sign was a set of lounge chairs. There was another set further down the lakeside path. Nice!
Circling Lake Brienz on our way to our next destination.

What our group of nine was about to experience next was something none of us could say we had done before:  Ride on a car train IN our minibus!  This was required to get through the nine-mile tunnel that would lead us to the train station to board the Glacier Express.  While waiting our turn, there was enough time to run off to capture a few shots of the beautiful snow-capped mountains surrounding us. 

A popular spot for paragliding, I was also able to capture this paraglider getting a birds-eye view on a spectacular day.

After being ushered onto the train, there were a few minutes to hop out and catch a shot before we left for our dark journey.

A view from the bus windshield.
Headlights spared us from nine miles of darkness.
Our lunch stop in Brig before boarding the train was fabulous! Dining al fresco on a delicious meal of local cuisine.

All aboard the Glacier Express!  Known as the world’s slowest express train, the shiny and spotless red locomotive took us through tunnels and across bridges, from one gorgeous panorama view to another. 

I bolted from my seat as soon as I realized viewing the scenery and shooting photos through the windows just wasn’t going to cut it.  After a few attempts shooting through small open windows at the end of the car, I made my way back to the bar where I joined a German tourist who had the same idea.  We had the entire area to ourselves, the windows were huge, and they opened from the top down—perfect for photography.  As the two of us chatted, we wandered back and forth from the left side to the right, shooting whatever caught our interest on each side.  We had a blast!  Photographers take note:  If you ever ride the Glacier Express, abandon your seat and make your way to the bar car!

Our arrival to Zermatt brought smiles and feelings of excitement as we were about to see the highlight of Swiss beauty:  the Matterhorn and the charming village that serves as its gateway.  The mountain would have to wait until the following day, but checking into Hotel Alex, just a short walk away from the train station, was an amazing sight itself.  None of us expected what we were about to see and experience.

Tap the cowbell under your seat when you are ready for your next drink!
The restaurant’s wine cellar
The late afternoon view from our room. The Matterhorn, not visible from our room, was off to the right.

Founded in 1961 by Alex Perren Sr., the former ski instructor and mountain guide, along with Gisela Becwar who he married in 1964, put their love and full dedication (and a lot of money) into their resort.  The next generation currently runs what is one of the most memorable places we have ever stayed.

These are three of the large stained glass panels that were mounted on the walls of the restaurant where we had dinner our first night. They depict Alex and Gisela enjoying their outdoor adventure passions.