This was my first adventure in the Swiss resort of Andermatt, which sells itself as a place ‘far, far away’, yet still within easy reach of Zurich.
We stayed at the three-star Hotel Schlüssel, run by the ever-helpful Thomas, who was on hand to help with everything, from trip planning to what was going on in town.
One night he warned us of a dawn chorus of drumming, which was bound to wake me. I hoped I’d misheard him, but right on 5am, I heard the sound of distant drums growing louder and louder as what seemed like everyone in the town marched along the main street towards the town centre…
Andermatt through history
The canton’s ancient annual Schmutziger Donnerstag (or Fat Thursday) starts on February 23 each year, and, despite losing out on sleep, it was good to see the morning parade.
Roots to the past run deep in Andermatt, with our visit including much about the history that shaped the place and its colourful local legends.
The 57km long Gotthard Railway and Railway Tunnel is key to Andermatt’s economic development, and a tour will whizz you back 135 years to see just how hard it was to hack through this rock.
The tunnel was the longest in the world, from 1882 until 1905, and was built with engineering skills that were unequalled at the time.
This was interesting, but it was the Schöllenen Gorge that really got me. Legend says it was the devil that created the first bridge crossing between Andermatt and Göschenen – now named The Devil’s Bridge.
Claims to fame
Combine the mystic with the bridge’s strategic significance during the Second World War, high profile visits from behind the Iron Curtain, and the odd treacherous avalanche, and it’s easy to see why James Bond’s Goldfinger was filmed in the area.
But Elvis was ahead of Sean Connery, having visited in the 1950s during his army service. He’d followed in the footsteps of JMW Turner, who painted the Devil’s Bridge in 1803. Charles Dickens and Conan Doyle also came here, but it was Goethe who got in first in 1775.
Alpine adventure in Anderamtt
So many stories and celebrities were enough to make my head swirl, so it was good to escape to Arnisee, and up the mountain (in a vintage cable car) to our very own Alpine adventure.
A night at the Berg-Gasthaus Alpenbick was one to remember, with music from an Alpine horn, many accordians and, of course, the occasional yodel.
The refuge is more like a basic hotel than a bothy, with great food and the stunning Lake Arni just a five-minute hike away.
We spent a blissful 24-hours away from all of our usual routines and technology.
But getting back to the 21st Century, there’s no doubt that those who wish to push the boat out should definitely book some time at The Chedi and sample its five-star chic.
There’s an understated elegance to its Asian-infused fashioning that seems to make superb service ‘simply happen’.
Stepping – once again – back in time, we took horse-drawn carriages out of town to the welcoming Golf Club House, where we dined in fine style.
Just remembering the grilled veal cutlet, creamed spinach and buttered noodles makes me want to go back, and that’s before the chocolate mousse, raspberries and pistachios.
Who’s for marmot?
Those braver than me also loved their specially requested marmot lunch at Bären. I’m way too keen on the little critters to crunch on them, but can recommend the restaurant for its finely prepared food and incredible service.
So after all the good food we took the cable car to the top of Gütsch to gulp in the giddying and glorious mountain views from our Alpine vantage point, not realising that panoramic would be followed by just a little panic.
Sizzle and sledge
Secure on our little red train we chugged up the mountain to take in the sunset and a super barbecue supper in our very own Hobbit hut, known locally as a Scandinavian Grill Cottage.
Warmed by yet more fine food, and feeling set for adventure, we then tugged our trusty toboggans to the start of a blue run. From there we whizzed down to town under a glorious star-studded canopy.
Andermatt – Useful information
Briony flew with SWISS from London to Zurich and travelled by train to Andermatt. The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination. Prices start at £112 per person. Find out more on the Swiss Travel System website.
Find out more about the ski resort of Andermatt at www.andermatt.ch.
Discover the history of the Gotthard Railway.