My friend in Switzerland is heading to Zermatt for a week. Am I jealous? Yes.
Why? She gets to see the Matterhorn.
So I decided to do a bit of research in the place, and the first website that came up said to me, “Welcome to the destination Zermatt”.
Nice, let’s check out what’s happening with this destination, or “physical location one may journey to” (Wikipedia).
On the Italian border of the canton of Valais in the west of Switzerland, at the end of the 30 km-long Nikolaital, lies Zermatt, the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. For our guests from all over the world, Zermatt epitomizes their image of Switzerland: high-alpine, awe-inspiring and original. Almost one-third of the 4,000-metre mountains in the Alps are grouped around this word-famous health resort, which has been visited by mountaineers from all around the world since the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. The hotels and restaurants are world-class, and the ski area is not only the highest in the Alps – it is also one of the best developed and most convenient in the world, ensuring thrilling sporting experiences on the steepest slopes in the world – and that 365 days a year. The climate is of an excellent quality: with 300 sunny days a year, there is less rainfall than anywhere else in Switzerland. The air in Zermatt is clear, dry and clean, because, since 1947, only electric cars without a combustion engine are allowed to operate in the village. Things are a little different in Zermatt. Zermatt – A world of its own.
I hope she takes the Glacier Express when she is there too, sounds like a great experience:
Glacier Express: pure pleasure for eyes and palate
The Glacier Express – the cult train for railway fans – travels from the Matterhorn to Piz Palü and St. Moritz. Admittedly there are quicker ways to reach the Upper Engadin, but none more beautiful. Alpine landscapes seem to glide past the train’s panoramic windows on this pleasure trip. You can also enjoy fine food and drink. Head waiter Thayan Sellathurai, is one of the many staff looking after the wellbeing of passengers.
Born in Sri Lanka, Thayan Sallathurai has been working as head waiter on the Glacier Express for three years. The 43-year-old has lived in Switzerland for almost two decades and has always worked in the gastronomy sector. He lives in Chur and will return there after the train trip to St. Moritz. Today he starts work at 10.00h, and after returning home can enjoy the evening with his son from about 20.00 h.
By the time the train reaches Chur, Thayan Sellathurai has already completed most of his duties, because guests seldom ask for hot meals on the second half of the journey. “People mostly order smaller items such as a plate of cheese or an afternoon snack, cake and coffee or just a drink,” says the head waiter.
Who gets out when and where?
Once passengers have studied the menu and order lunch, it’s all systems go for the kitchen and service staff. Thayan Sellathurai first discusses the gastronomic situation with the head chef. Then he finds out the guests’ culinary preferences and if they have dining vouchers. If so he collects these and passes on the orders. “The most important task is to find out who will be leaving the train during the journey and where,” he says. This is the only way to ensure that guests have enough time to enjoy their meal without feeling rushed. “Once I’ve got an overview, I can organize a reliable service sequence.” The head waiter then deploys staff in the individual carriages as needed.
Mastering unforeseen circumstances
It can happen that groups board the train without prior reservation. “It’s easy to understand that they suddenly feel hungry and want to eat when they see what we have to offer,” he admits. The available time then has to be taken into account when deciding which meals it is possible to serve. If requests can’t be met, then as head waiter, Sellathurai has to find the right words to console the disappointed guest. It is also an on-board custom to, at the very least, enquire at each table if the guest has enjoyed the meal and was satisfied with the service.
With his calm, composed manner, Thayan Sellathurai is able to deal masterfully with such unforeseen situations during the trip. “I always enjoy meeting different people and talking to them during my work. I have new encounters every day,” says the head waiter. What the man from Sri Lanka finds particularly fascinating are the four seasons, which for him always turn the journeys on board the Glacier Express into extraordinary occasions – however, with one slight reservation. The unique railway engineering on the Albula section presents him with major challenges. “There are so many curves that I sometimes have trouble keeping my balance while serving.”