By Joan Larsen
An unusual love story – the kind you hope for, dream of – has to have had “beginnings”. My mother’s dreams for her only daughter were not wealth and fame. She was a romantic, believing – showing – that when you had love, combined with a romantic life, that life could be a dream. I watched her. I learned the lessons well.
Marrying young, my own young man became easily part of the family, enjoying the joy and laughter, the fun that was in the air. The love at home was palpable . . . and it was very, very contagious.
She called them “second honeymoons”. To be honest, the word “getaways” just doesn’t have the same connotation, does it? To us – a young couple just starting out – her beautifully wrapped, hand-lettered Christmas gift at our second year of marriage was an invitation to her most favored romantic place in the world: Zermatt. The small village, circling under the famed Matterhorn in Switzerland proved (I say blushingly) all that. And more.
Think beauty beyond imagination. Think a sense of quiet as is never seen in our world. You see, there are no cars allowed in Zermatt and never have been. A delightful small train takes you through the valleys to Zermatt. Charming in itself, filled with windows, the ride tantalizes the passengers with the world of magnificence that lies ahead.
A horse and buggy was waiting at the station in Zermatt, the driver gathering our luggage and, of course, the two of us, who were stunned by all this, to be honest – and driving us to the famed, very old and beautiful Mont Cervin Palace Hotel.
The welcome – as it always is – was warm. The most beautiful mountain in the world – the Matterhorn – stood right outside the windows of our room. To us it was a small look at what heaven might be like. After many visits, I still feel the same.
In a hotel this gorgeous, you would expect the room to be beautiful. But, to be honest, we were young, still without the admiration of the beautiful antique furnishings that made it what it was. You understand that, I am sure. However, it is going to prove important that you know that we were surrounded by obviously prized European antiques.
A first night celebration called for champagne . . . and we let the Swiss-clad waiter choose the specialties of the region. In the candlelight, I am guessing our eyes sparkled, almost unbelieving that we could be in this other world.
So many years later, we still talk of how quickly the setting alone took over our minds and hearts. On that first night, we both knew we would be coming back whenever we could.
But, the two of us never – EVER – will forget what happened later that first night in our beautiful room, filled with antiques and fit for royalty.
Somehow – some way – we broke the antique bed. As we choose to recall the moment, we were both only sitting on one edge of the bed when the frame first splintered in several spots. The sound that quickly followed was of us finding ourselves on the floor as the frame was no longer in one piece.
“Appalled” and “embarrassed” are the words that still come to mind. Any thought in our heads that “we could fix it” were fast dispelled.
Still in our early twenties and only pretending to be sophisticated, we had to decide who was going down to the desk. Who was going to confess we had broken the bed in a most innocent fashion – and would be happy to pay for the damages?
Morning came. Neither of us wanted to be the red-faced one, so we chose to go together. I still picture the four young girls in their Swiss attire behind the desk, knowing enough English to make reservations and such. But “splintering and breaking their bed” had to be told with more than a little sign language, provoking a tittering behind hands that we have not seen before – or since. It was no wonder it took a while before one of them could speak. It was hard not to laugh.
In fine hotels, incidents are handled in a courteous fashion we soon found. This incident, however, added quite a bit of spice to Mont Cervin that week.
Zermatt, however, had so many offerings that our days were of unexpected beauty and delight. You may guess that we have returned over the years in all seasons, wanting more. But – breaking the bed aside – I have found that it is no wonder that my family exalted in the belief that “second honeymoons”, taken as often as possible, are the cement of the magnificent marriage.
And how can the two of us not reminisce and – yes – laugh over the days and nights of young love? With the splendor of the Matterhorn in the moonlight as your backdrop, it is no wonder that things may get out of hand.
I have to be truthful when I tell you that the two of us — after years together – return to Switzerland and Zermatt for its way it touches the heart with its beauty, the enjoyment and surprises in the beautiful outdoors, and the multitude of thought that has been put into retaining its charm over years and years. But it is here in Zermatt that we are young again, falling in love once more in that forever way in the “spell” that this small village and its most famous mountain cast, that is the drawing card that stands apart.
You must go. You will thank us forever after.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”