In the morning one of our party was called at halfpast three, and saved the rest of us from a like fate; and we were not aroused at all, but woke early enough to get down and find the diligence nearly ready, and no breakfast, but “the man who spoke English” as lively as ever. And we had a breakfast brought out, so filthy in all respects that nobody could eat it. Fortunately, there was not time to seriously try; but we paid for it, and departed. The two American gentlemen sat in front of the house, waiting. The lively waiter had called them at half-past three, for the railway train, instead of the diligence; and they had their wretched breakfast early. They will remember the funny adventure with “the man who speaks English,” and, no doubt, unite with us in warmly commending the Hotel Lion d’Or at Sion as the nastiest inn in Switzerland.
When one leaves the dusty Rhone Valley, and turns southward from Visp, he plunges into the wildest and most savage part of Switzerland, and penetrates the heart of the Alps. The valley is scarcely more than a narrow gorge, with high precipices on either side, through which the turbid and rapid Visp tears along at a furious rate, boiling and leaping in foam over its rocky bed, and nearly as large as the Rhone at the junction. From Visp to St. Nicolaus, twelve miles, there is only a mule-path, but a very good one, winding along on the slope, sometimes high up, and again descending to cross the stream, at first by vineyards and high stone walls, and then on the edges of precipices, but always romantic and wild. It is noon when we set out from Visp, in true pilgrim fashion, and the sun is at first hot; but as we slowly rise up the easy ascent, we get a breeze, and forget the heat in the varied charms of the walk.
Everything for the use of the upper valley and Zermatt, now a place of considerable resort, must be carried by porters, or on horseback; and we pass or meet men and women, sometimes a dozen of them together, laboring along under the long, heavy baskets, broad at the top and coming nearly to a point below, which are universally used here for carrying everything. The tubs for transporting water are of the same sort. There is no level ground, but every foot is cultivated. High up on the sides of the precipices, where it seems impossible for a goat to climb, are vineyards and houses, and even villages, hung on slopes, nearly up to the clouds, and with no visible way of communication with the rest of the world.
In two hours’ time we are at Stalden, a village perched upon a rocky promontory, at the junction of the valleys of the Saas and the Visp, with a church and white tower conspicuous from afar. We climb up to the terrace in front of it, on our way into the town. A seedy-looking priest is pacing up and down, taking the fresh breeze, his broad-brimmed, shabby hat held down upon the wall by a big stone.