"I always look forward to summer in Zermatt in a very special way"
Sylvie Margelist (36) is the head of the Zermatt Guest Service Centre and has worked at Zermatt Tourism for four years. She informs the guests at the counter on Bahnhofplatz in Zermatt and has an answer to virtually every tourism question. Here are her summer tips.
Sylvie – what are you looking forward to most this summer?
That is a pretty difficult question, because we have countless events throughout the entire summer. These include activities taking place on a weekly schedule, such as guided village tours or accompanied mountain hikes. In addition, many traditional music groups add a special bit of magic throughout the village every summer. As a mountain girl, I naturally look forward to hiking through the heights above Zermatt.
What do guests ask about the most?
That depends on where they come from. Many ask about which excursion mountain provides the most beautiful view of the Matterhorn. Then I have to ask them a question in return: What are you looking for? As high as possible, the best view of the mountain’s form – which is often called the Toblerone view – or perhaps the most convenient view when time is limited. We are familiar with an actual guest typology. Those from India like to go to Matterhorn glacier paradise, the mountain station at almost 4,000 metres above sea level, because they like to do things in the snow – throughout the year. There, they can ride snow tubes and go into the glacier palace. They enjoy the fact that they have been in the highest mountain lift station in the Alps and did not see only the Matterhorn but rather 37 other four thousand-metre peaks in Switzerland, France and Italy.
Our Japanese guests are very different. They like to go to Gornergrat and would like to also see the mirror image of the Matterhorn in Riffelsee. The Swiss often chose the Rothorn, because the triangular form of the Matterhorn is the only thing on the horizon and can be seen especially well. Precisely! A piece of Toblerone!
Isn’t it dreary to have to answer the same questions time and again?
No, because there is a great variety and we can also offer an enormous number of things to do. However, I very much look forward to when deeper questions are asked. For example, why are there wooden houses on stilts and round flagstones in the village and hamlets? This gives me an opportunity to explain the traditional art of building in Valais.
What moves guests when they visit the village in summer?
Under no circumstances do they want to miss the Geissenkehr or goat procession. They are amazed by these black and white animals. Our goats are shooting stars. These are certainly the most photographed goats in the world. Their procession along the Bahnhofstrasse is the great attraction in July and August.
The destination has many events to offer each summer. Do guests come to Zermatt just to see them?
Of course. Many accompany athletes to their sporting events. For example, entire families come to the Gornergrat Zermatt Marathon to cheer on their athletes. Like all of the other events, the Swiss Food Festival is also a real drawing card for guests. There is a very broad programme, which means that many guests take the time to inform themselves about their very specific events each day.
What takes place on the First of August?
Our National Holiday in Switzerland really is a highlight. When evening comes, one can sit together at long tables and benches, and enjoy the countless local, national and international specialties available at the many food stands. At this Street Party, sometimes there is international and spontaneous flirting to be watched. I once saw a group of Chinese, Swiss, French and those from other nations standing very close to a Swiss hand accordion group and spontaneously dancing and laughing together.
What are the evening attractions on the First of August?
They are impressive. The Bahnhofstrasse is the most frequently visited strolling and festive mile. At 6 pm, one can listen to speeches on the Kirchplatz. In the night-time darkness the Bengali fireworks light up the cliffs in the Trift area. After that, the rockets of the major display of fireworks appear in the night sky.
What do you personally do at the Folklore Festival?
The parade on Sunday afternoon with the festival party afterwards is a real highlight. Around 1,200 people and their clubs and groups from everywhere in Switzerland present Swiss customs: yodelling, flag swinging, costume dancing. What I like the most is the fire wagon of the old Zermatt fire department with its antique water hose. The spectators do get a few blasts of water from the past, but this always leads to a lot of laughter and it is a welcome change under the intensive Zermatt sunshine.