Animals, Switzerland, Urban Walking
Comments 4

The Cats of Hinterdorfstrasse

LATE DECEMBER, 2010

ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND

Bahnhofstrasse, the main drag in the mountain mecca of Zermatt, has its glittery Christmas-season charms…

..and there is even (bad) Australian beer in its supermarket…

..but I don’t ski, and wouldn’t fool anybody in designer clothes, plus I was living on the tightest of budgets — well, okay, I was penniless after half a year of hiking and living off a very generous girlfriend — so the flickering lights couldn’t snare me for long.

I spent most of my two days there hiking around the tight valley walls enclosing the town, or at 3,130m on the Gonergrat, mesmerised by the towering talon of the Matterhorn looming over the town, over everything, or wandering, happily alone and melancholy, in the museum and climbers’ cemetery, exploring the often-bloody history of those who dared to test that great stone claw.

When my exploring was over, I’d walk up into the slippery foothills towards my cheap hotel…

..to hide from the bone-creaking cold in my little room, with a few necessities…

..and perhaps some raclette and a nice cheap bottle of red:

Oh, and there was Hinterdorfstrasse, the backstreet alley snaking down to the icy river, where a remarkable string of very, very old shacks and barns has survived, somehow, the transformation from alpine farming village to hip resort strip.

I must have liked it there…

..because I visited three times between hikes.

These granaries and pig stalls and mazots — huts on stilts incorporating stone discs to deny access to hungry rats — are a fascinating glimpse of the old Zermatt:

Like some kind of camera-toting troll, I spent an hour or two down there, skulking around the ramshackle but amazingly resilient structures…

..down there where few tourists ventured on those bitterly cold December days, with my fingers still numb within two layers of glove, and even the Matterhorn wisely hiding beneath its blankets.

Only we masochistic trolls were scuttling about beneath the mazots — oh, and there were the cats:

There were three or four of them when I was there, though the personnel changed a bit with each visit:

They seemed healthy and content, if a little aloof at times…

..and there was always some food and water left out for them.

They indulged my intrusions quite stoically…

..though they seemed to sigh in a world-weary feline fashion when I got too close with my pesky Cybershot:

Here, a resident guards one of the famous stone discs. I pity any unfortunate rodent in these parts:

I liked the match between its ginger fur and the log-ends in that woodpile:

Occasionally I would drag my attention away from these somehow intriguing beasts to take in the weathered timbers…

..but just when I’d start focusing on another piece of history, another local would saunter into frame:

Suddenly this amazingly lovely young human female strutted past this early-18th century residence. Startled, I jumped back, almost knocking myself unconscious on a beam of 16th-century oak:

They knew how to make a good beam back then. When I regained my composure, and my consciousness, I thought I detected a mocking glint in this tabby’s eye…

..and I barely had time to snap the shutter at this hallucinatory apparition:

It got better. I thought I saw some BLUE SKY up there:

Just look at these weathered window frames, shutters and doorways, straight out of a Grimm fairytale:

I’m a lousy note-taker when I take pictures, so I can’t guarantee which plaque goes with which structure…

..but it doesn’t really matter.

I love the carvings, and the little wooden latch:

I was amazed to hear bleating or baa-ing near here. Through a mesh-covered window, I could make out a little flock of livestock sheltering in a dark basement as though it were several centuries ago:

Some nice detail — I love imagining the carver at work inscribing this date:

The Cardinal sign reminded me that I had refreshing beverages, and hearty bread and cheese, waiting in my room:

“Thanks for having me. Might see you again tomorrow,” I offered in farewell:

“Whatever,” the cat seemed to say.

~ And that’s all the Goat Wrote

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post, Goat. Nothing beats a stroll through a traditional village wherever it may be – it makes me think I missed something only going to the French-speaking side of Switzerland… and talking about the French, I know a handful of people who wouldn’t mind getting their hands on your portable raclette maker.

    • Thanks, Cameron. I wish I’d seen a lot more of the French part. I have two of those raclette makers — haven’t even used them in Australia yet. I’m worried if I put inferior Australian cheese on there, it might exlpode!

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