Hiking in Zermatt

Hiking in Zermatt

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hiking in Zermatt is one of the greatest gifts you could give yourself. Take a journey with me through one of the most beautiful countries I have seen, in Zermatt Switzerland. Start your day off with a big breakfast and a heaping dose of patience with yourself. Zermatt Switzerland is 5,310 feet (1,620m) above sea level. At that altitude you will get winded no matter how ‘fit’ you are because the air will be thinner.

Traveler Tip:

Altitude sickness has nothing to do with your gender or fitness level, but it can lead to severe health complications if it is not addressed properly. Please review symptoms of altitude sickness so if it begins to happen to you, you will be able to address it properly. So if you feel out of breath, take frequent breaks and give your body time to catch up to the oxygen requirements.  If you are an asthmatic (like me), be sure to bring your inhalers 🙂

As I was only able to do 2 hikes while I was there, I felt these were the best ones for me due to the fact I was suffering from altitude sickness. (I almost ended up in the hospital because I did not give my body the time it needed).

Gorner Gorge Hike

My favorite hike was over to Gorner Gorge. This is a 15-minute walk from town along the gorgeous river walk along, go past the Forest Fun park and to a small cabin where you pay a fee to pass to Gorner gorge. (If you are a little more adventurous and avid hiker, I would also suggest hiking Jungfrau Mountain in nearby Bern. )

Traveler Tip:

Make sure you bring cash with you, as they do not have credit card machines (or bathrooms) at the cabin.

After paying the fee at the cabin, you walk down a flight of stairs and are met with an intricately detailed rock formation. This rock wall mesmerized me into a trance of contemplation, reflection and pure wonderment of how nature can form something so beautiful. I was unaware that this small portion of this elevated footpath was just the beginning of a stunning journey through the beauty of nature.

Traveler tip:

If you have a fear of heights, this may not be the path for you as the footpath is made of wooden planks & posts bolted into the mountainside.

There are also two different ladders that are quite steep, those with bad knees or hips may not be able to climb these without some assistance (there are about 14 steps per ladder). Even if you are not able to make it up to the biggest of the waterfalls, just contemplating life as you watch the water flow down the twists and turns of this gorge will be worth the effort. My mind wandered frequently of how I would be able to get a Kayak down the canyon, and if I attempted it, what would be the statistical probability of my demise, lol.

The twists and turns appear as though the wind carved out the gorge like a knife through soft butter. Sharp angles along the narrow canyon reflected a serene blue of the water. A stream flowed beneath in a soothing Zen-like way. The gorge makes you wish you could hook up a tent on the side of the cliff face and spend the night there.   Continuing along the path, I pondered how they were able to get the footpath posts into the walls. I found myself internally thanking the men and woman who made it possible to witness this natural wonder.

The Reward:

I climbed the two ladders up to the higher viewpoint and continued to explore the cliffs and gulley’s surrounding me. The view of Zermatt from the top took my breath away completely.  There was the waterfall and on the other side a stunning view of Zermatt Switzerland.

Beyond Gorner Gorge

There are other hiking options that could take an entire day for you to explore. To get to these other options, just continue up the stairs to the top of the gorge. I chose to just sit in the peacefulness of the mountain and enjoy the view.

Other options for hiking are listed on the sign below. Each hike is shown with their respective times and directions, which is easily found along the trail.

Other Hiking in Zermatt options: 
  • Rifelsee Lake
    • This is by far the best for the reflections of the Matterhorn
    • It is a short walk from the Rotenboden Station (on the Gornergrat Line)
    • It is mostly downhill and is both easy and rewarding at the end
  • 5 Lakes Hike
    • This hike goes past 5 different lakes the Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee
    • The Leisee is the best one to go swimming in and children tend to love this one the most.
    • The Grunsee has a more rough and rugged surrounding to it
    • Grindjisee hosts the rare Swiss Alps Wild Flowers on its shores

Of course, if you have more time there are plenty of outdoor activities to try, like Paragliding, Fishing and Mountain Biking. In the winter, there is ice climbing, sledding, curling, ice skating and of course Skiing in the Swiss Alps.

A Word of Caution: 

Before attempting to ski in a place like this, know that these slopes are steep with sheer and treacherous drop-offs. Many of the Olympic Ski Teams come to train before their Olympic Trials. Make sure that you are in tip top shape and able to deftly navigate while on your ski’s. Not being able to control your aim, speed or cutting would likely result in a tragic end. Even the locals have a deep respect for the Mountains that surround them, and all they offer and impose.


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Speculum Alchemiae: The Alchemist Museum of Prague

Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Alchemist Museum: If you aren’t looking for it, you might miss it as it appears like any other building in the vicinity. Alchemy in the 16th century was considered part of the Dark Arts, and was not popular with the religious populations of that time. Holy Emperor Rudolf II, did believe in the arts of mysticism and secretly had hired the Alchemist (likely Edward Kelley) responsible for this shop & had secret tunnels built from the Alchemy shop to his Palace. [caption id="attachment_10722" align="aligncenter" width="522"]Prague Alchemist Museum - The Alchemists Storage area The Alchemists Storage area[/caption] When you enter the shop it looks a little like a Wicken shop, but when you approach and buy a ticket, there is a tour guide ready to take you to the areas below ground that were hidden for so long.  She approached the bookcase and turned the small statue & voilà! The bookcase opened and we entered the first chamber where you could smell the age of this place! Well the age, as well as the massive flooding from 2002 that unearthed this place. You look around at the different bookshelves that have the collection of preserved bats, skulls and other paraphernalia you would expect to find in an ancient Alchemist lair. Prague Alchemy Museum Chandelier-1

Holy Emperor Rudolf II
My hostess explained the history of Holy Emperor Rudolf II and his ailments that were well known, as well as his favorite potions that Kelley would make for him. Rudolf II actually suffered from fits of severe depression which without modern medicine, would have naturally lead to seclusion and eventually seeking those things that would give a reprieve from the darker days. In 1583 he found a love for the arts and the sciences, after retiring to Bohemia. He truly transformed Prague into one of the leading countries for both the sciences and the arts. He loved sculptures in particular and had a particular affinity for Italian and Netherland artistic works. [caption id="attachment_10718" align="aligncenter" width="422"]Prague Alchemy Museum - Holy Emporer Rudolf II Holy Emperor Rudolf II[/caption] During his rule, there were major clashes between Catholics and various Protestant factions. Rudolf was often more interested in science and did not care to address these clashes. Rudolf found solace in plunging headlong into discovering the secrets of the universe. He went on a relentless pursuit for the philosophers’ stone and the elixir for immortality. The Emperor invited the best and brightest minds of magicians, alchemists, astronomers, scholars, and artists. They were promised protection while they delved into the mysteries of life. In the end the Alchemist Museum flourished, due to his passionate support of the Pharmaceutical studies for their time period. [gallery ids="10720,10719" type="rectangular"] The tunnel lead us to and fro with each curve producing a room filled with beakers, furnaces, or boiling potions. I just kept thinking, “This is by far the most unique thing I have ever seen! This museum is the coolest museum I have ever stepped foot in!” [gallery ids="10725,10717" type="rectangular"]
The Alchemist Museum Experience:
For some, this Alchemist Museum may seem a little gimmicky. For me, this  gave me a glimpse into the past of what it was like for scientists, like myself. The men working in these ancient labs were trying to create a better life; not only for the Emperor but for its citizens. It is so fascinating to me to think that those who sought for higher knowledge were so persecuted, often called ‘The Dark Arts’ for their time period, I was witnessing some of the first scientific experimentation & was sincerely grateful I chose to wander the city, instead of getting caught up in the tourist traps. Prague is a unique, artistic, fascinating city full of history and adventure. If you should visit Prague, be sure to check out this little known, but captivating Alchemist Museum. The scientist & nerd within you will not be disappointed. [gallery ids="10724,10726" type="rectangular"]]]>

ClinkNoord: A Hostel Run Like a Hotel

Reading Time: 11 minutes
ClinkNoord was no exception. There are two different locations in Europe looked very promising (London, Amsterdam). Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

When choosing a Hostel these are the things I look for:

  1. Reviews on 3 different sites: Booking.com, TripAdvisor, HostelWorld
  2. Read several reviews on each site (typically 5-6)
  3. Pay particular attention to the cleanliness rating, anything below 2-3 points from the highest score, knocks it off my list as a potential place to stay. I had that one bad experience with bed bugs and still have scars.
  4. Do they have free Wifi and how reliable is it – this is very important for me. Being able to communicate and edit material for my blog while on location. Wi-Fi also allows for last minute trip planning or changes if there is inclement weather or an emergency at home.
  5. Breakfast – European travel can get quite costly in some areas so I love me a good solid breakfast that doesn’t cost more than 6-7 Euros
  6. Activities: if there is inclement weather, do they have things to make my stay enjoyable still
ClinkNoord passed this first test with flying colors. So I booked a stay with them in a 4-bed dormitory room with a private shower and bathroom. The 4-bed dormitories are quieter, and the room that I choose to stay in typically. Being that I am a very light sleeper I find the people who stay in said 4-bed dormitories often tend to be so as well. They generally are quieter and more respectful when coming in late at night. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

The Greeting:

Prior to checking in at ClinkNoord, I had been kept awake by a screaming child the entire flight to Amsterdam (luckily it was a non-stop flight). Arriving at ClinkNoord I was grumpy, tired, and my 2 bags felt like I was carrying 5,000lbs. It was only 9am and typically you are not allowed to check-in before noon. Feeling hopeless as I entered, I knew I would be turned away and told the room wasn’t ready yet. Approaching the counter with reluctance, I was promptly greeted with a warm contagious smile. The receptionist told me she thought they had a room ready for me right then…..at 9AM…..WHAT!!!! This never happens, even in the biggest Hotel chains! I almost crawled over the desk and hugged her out of relief. Bottom Bunks are a hot commodity in dormitory type settings! Guess who not only was able to check in early, but also claimed a bottom bunk?!? OMG! I can’t tell you what a relief it was to walk right in and get a little bit of shut eye. The Wi-Fi had a good signal so I told my family I arrived safely.
Traveler Tip: Wifi here is free and very reliable, it was very useful during my stay in Amsterdam.
God bless me, I was able to lay down for 2 hours and could not have been more grateful. After I awoke I promptly started exploring the city, the staff were so friendly, and gave me recommendations on where they liked to visit and explore. Their recommendations were different than what a hotel concierge would give, it felt like I was talking to a long time friend that was giving me the inside scoop on the city.

The Room:

4 dormitory bed at ClinkNoord 4 dormitory bed at ClinkNoord There is an elevator to all levels of the building so getting to my room with baggage was no trouble. Directions to my room were colorfully displayed on all of the walls, and was easy to find. There are ART PIECES EVERYWHERE in this place! Being an artist myself, this made me smile from ear to ear despite my fatigue. Upon entering the room I noticed how clean it was, the crisp bed sheets were placed on my pillow, the bedspread neatly folded – hooks on the side of the bed for a towel or a coat. It was also very quiet…..HEAVEN! Two other beds were made of the 4 that were in the room, so I knew I would have at least one roommate. There is always a sense of excitement when I come to Hostels because I truly never know who I will meet. I often meet those who are adventurers, like myself & regale me with their travel tales. Inquires on my end are made as to what to see when visiting their home countries (to put in my memory bank). This is one of the main reasons I LOVE to stay in Hostels, to meet people & to have activities to participate in available in order to do so. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands
Room Details:
Upon further exploration of my room, I was very pleased to see a mat for the shower, towels for each bed, soap in the bathroom (which was a separate area from the shower). Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion were situated on the shelves. In my sleep-deprived state, I actually questioned if I was staying in a Hostel or in a Hotel. I really loved that the bathroom was separate from the shower room. Both rooms had doors that could lock as well as lighting and an exhaust fan. When you stay in a hostel with 4 other women in the same room things can get a little dicey with getting ready for the day. With my dorm being filled to capacity during my stay, there were no issues with access to the bathroom or shower, nor were we inundated with unsavory smells. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands I promptly inspected and made up the bed. In doing so I discovered some very nice amenities. Each bunk bed has a power strip at the head of the bed, with a personal reading light, an electric plug, a shelf above the power strip for glasses/contacts or other paraphernalia you may like to keep within reach at night. If you lay down on the bed, each bed has a decorative piece of wood that shields you a little more from both ambient light and light that may come from the neighboring bunk beds.
Electricity, A/C and Heat:
To get electricity in the room, you must insert your card into the slot near the door and keep it there. This is not a problem for me, but I also leave quite early every morning to go and explore. When back into the room I noted that in removing the card it also turns off the heat to the room. Each room has it’s own thermostat equipped for both heating and Air Conditioning. It would take about 20 minutes for the room to warm up, but the heat and humidity produced from my nightly shower helped accelerate this process.ClinkNoord Travel Shop ClinkNoord Travel Shop ClinkNoord was actually a former laboratory and was tastefully transformed into a vibrant place for travelers of all ages.
Traveler Tip: Most rooms have their own thermostats because the windows don’t open. For those who like to do laundry in the room during your travels, this fact, could create an issue for you. There hooks in the bathroom to hang wet clothing, as well as laundry services available at the front desk for about 6 Euros (self-serve) – they also have the laundry soap available, which is included in that cost.

Security:

Each room has an electronic card reader outside the room with correlating cards to allow the guest inside. The facility has a security guard on duty as well as security cameras everywhere! There are lockers in each room to secure any valuables you may want to have protected.
Traveler Tip: Be sure to bring your own padlock to each hostel you stay at. ClinkNoord does have Padlocks available for purchase should you forget your own.
I personally kept all my things unlocked while at ClinkNoord and checked out with every item. It is a rule at Hostels, in general, of “don’t mess with my stuff and I won’t mess with your stuff”. img_0524 The facility itself closes its doors around 7 pm every night. You can still access the building with a card scanner on the side with a buzzer for the front desk to be let in. I really appreciated this, as there was a new nightclub literally within a few hundred feet of the Hostel. Being able to ‘key in’ made me feel incredibly safe once I entered the doors of ClinkNoord. If you arrive early you can utilize their locker system for your luggage which is right at the front desk. They have padlocks for sale or you can use your own.
Traveler tip: When staying in Hostels it is much easier to travel with and store luggage when only traveling with a backpack and a carry-on.

The Food & Bar:

The Zinc Bar at ClinkNoord is a where you order both your food and your beverage of choice. In the offseason, it is not hard to order things & the bartenders are very friendly. They have so many options to drink, including rose and red wine that is pretty decent (aka no headaches in the morning). Summertime is the high season for tourism,  ZincBar is reportedly VERY BUSY. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands As I am one who does not like the large crowds, I really enjoyed a little quiet time and some conversation with the bartender. He shared his story (hint: it was the cutest love story – insert BIG aaawwee – to find out more about this story shoot me an email below). The food from the Bar is typical Bar food – potato wedges, burgers etc… Their food is nothing to write home to your mom about. It is cheap and fills the belly after a long day of exploring the city and satisfies the comfort food cravings. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands Breakfast in the morning is one to rival any fancy hotel chain. Both carnivorous and vegetarian options available, with plenty of variety for each. They have some of the best orange juice I have had in a very long time. A Hostel breakfast is often so much cheaper than what you would find in a city, so eat heartily and save on your budget. (Sample breakfast plates below).

Cleanliness:

Beyond the crisp and clean sheets for the bed & blankets have duvets over them. Towels were provided for the 4-bed dormitory, and are available on request for the other dormitories for a small fee. There is no carpet in the dorm rooms, which is great for sanitation. I also saw someone cleaning the hallway floors the next day with one of those big machines you see going around at hospitals. The staff do not change your sheets daily unless requested, no extra cost incurred. Extra sheets and blankets are also available for those who need it. Bed Bugs are disgusting vermin that can easily follow you home, so I always ask about them when checking in. You will be happy to hear that Housekeeping passionately denied any infestations within the building at any time. So at least at ClinkNoord you can sleep easy, knowing you won’t be bringing unwanted guests home with you. (How to Spot Bed Bugs Video coming soon). Extra shampoo and conditioner available at the front desk for those who need it.

Who Can Stay At A Hostel?

There really is no age limit to most Hostels, unless it says ‘Youth Hostel’. ClinkNoord actually had quite a range of people there. Entire families were staying there, older, younger and everything in between. ClinkNoord does have a rule that if you bring children (younger than 16) you have to rent an entire room. If the children are under 18 they have to be accompanied by an adult. Those under 18 years old cannot stay in the 14-bed dormitory unless a parent is with them. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands There are too many people (especially in the States) that do not realize that Hostels are for EVERYONE! The atmosphere is soooo fun to be in, the breakfasts are surprisingly delicious, and having in house activities ensure a good time no matter what. The best part is, this is a perfect way to save on your budget. Budgeting allows you to do really incredible activities and visit destinations further away — because your money is going further. ClinkNoord actually offers musicians a ‘stay for play‘. If you perform 1-2 nights during your stay, you receive a free room and board (offers may vary).

The Staff:

The staff at ClinkNoord are incredibly kind, helpful and love to just chat with you and listen to your story. While interviewing a staff member, I asked how it was working for ClinkNoord. Her response warmed my heart,

“I will never forget when I first started working here, how nervous I was. The manager came up to me and told me that I shouldn’t be. The most important thing while working at ClinkNoord for her, was to be myself. When my manager said that, I knew this was going to be a great job”.

What is the Best Time to Stay in Amsterdam?

Culture Trekking in the Netherlands Amsterdam is beautiful all year round, with plenty of activities in each season. If you want to be outside, ride your bike through tulip fields and climb 12th-century Cathedrals to see the massive bells — well Spring & Summer are for you. Cooler weather, less crowded streets, museums & Christmas Lights suit your fancy? Well then Fall and Winter are good for you. ClinkNoord’s offseason is from November to February. It does get incredibly busy almost every other time of year so be sure to book in advance. I stayed with them at the end of November and still found the area & surround towns beautiful. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Festivals:

A good time to plan your trip to Amsterdam is around one of their many Festivals. ClinkNoord staff recommended: Festival of Lights, Amsterdam Music Festival, King’s Day, and the Gay Pride festival. [gallery ids="10665,10664,10662" type="rectangular"] Amsterdam is full of Art, Engineering feats, Culture and much much more. Stay tuned for my full review of Amsterdam, a City Guide. I will also be offering my full itinerary with pricing I encountered at each juncture.

Activities at ClinkNoord:

Culture Trekking in the Netherlands There are so many activities at ClinkNoord, there is no way I could fit them all into this post. You can choose from: Karaoke, Solo Traveler Meetup, Air Hockey, Foosball and much much more. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands The activities change each night and all are listed on their website. For those who enjoy a more relaxed vacation, then head over to their reading nook. [gallery ids="10660,10659,10658" type="square"]

Other Tidbits to Consider:

Gender for the rooms is based on self-identity gender. There is access to all parts of the building for wheelchairs. The staff at ClinkNoord do not expect to be tipped for their services. There are no rooms with views of the canal. The staff recycles everything they can & is produced by guests at ClinkNoord.  Interestingly, grocery stores will actually offer 25 cent euro for every plastic bottle that you bring back.

The Takeaway:

If you like to find amazing deals at incredible prices, then ClinkNoord is going to be your best bet. They have it all – a 3-minute ferry ride to the Central Train Station, Concerts, Karaoke, Games, Full Bar, Food, Fun, Bike Rentals, Amenities, Free Walking Tours, friendly staff, sleeping arrangement options, safety. The staff can help you craft an itinerary that ensures you make the most out of your stay & create those memories we all crave. I will personally be back to ClinkNoord as often as I can and was truly sad to leave; mostly because of how kind the staff was in helping me celebrate my Birthday. This was one of the best Birthday’s I have ever had, and I owe that to the staff at ClinkNoord. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to review your Hostel. Culture Trekking in the Netherlands **This stay was in Collaboration with ClinkNoord for a discounted stay. Read my Full Disclosure for more information. All views are my own, as I value truth more than money**
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