The word Interlaken means, “between the lakes.” That’s exactly what it is, a quaint and beautiful little town in the Swiss Alps in between the lakes of Thun and Brienz. I flew into Besal Airport on Friday morning and took a two hour train into the Alps and got off at Interlaken West to be greeted by Heather!
Here’s a little back story for you. Several decades ago, my Grandma hosted a student from South Africa. Fast forward thirty years and out of all 24 people on my mom’s side of the family, I am the only person not to have met Heather (even my dog has met her). Well I was more than happy to travel to her home in Switzerland to come face to face with someone I had spent my life hearing so much about!
Friday afternoon she took me out to the Jungfrau region, what the people of Interlaken refer to as “the valley.” Despite the low clouds, I was taken away by the beauty of the mountains. Snow covered the peaks, but farther down the slopes were forests filled with foliage. I have spent the last two falls in DC, where the leaves don’t ever change. This was the closest thing to a New England fall I’ve had in three years, maybe that’s why it felt like home. Friday was an early night, as I had been up since 4:30 AM and I had to rest up for all that Saturday had in store for me.
Interlaken to me was like a large family rather as much as it was a small community. As it tends to attract a lot of tourists, being one of the most beautiful regions in Switzerland, all of the locals tend to work in the hospitality business. And I don’t mean hotels, etc. I mean they skydive, paraglide, hang glide, bartend, make chocolate, or any combination of these for a living. What a very fun life to lead, spending your days flying over the Alps or interacting with all the wonderful people that inhabit them.
Saturday I was lucky enough to do not one but two very popular attractions in Interlaken. First up: paragliding. Ever since I decided I was going to be studying abroad, I had figured I would be visiting Interlaken and had gone back and forth with whether or not I would get over the minor fear I have of heights in order to jump out of a plane. I decided to start with a baby step. On Saturday afternoon, I ran off a hill in the mountains and flew through the air, touching the clouds for the first time. (They didn’t feel like anything but air, Molly.) Halfway through, the man who took me paragliding asked if I was nauseous because I was being so quiet. I felt completely fine, I was just so awestruck by everything I was taking in there simply weren’t any words. Next time I go back to Interlaken, I will go sky diving and I don’t even think I’ll be afraid. It’s too beautiful a view to pass up.
After my first adventure of the day, I got to go to a delicious brunch at one of Heather’s friends house. This was the first taste I really got at what their community was really about. Neighbors of all different ages, who live, work, and travel together and share in the same love for adventure and exploring the world. Maybe I am romanticizing it all, but I don’t think I could really idealize a place any more.
After a delicious brunch (I so appreciated the real food bc homemade bagels), we went out on the lake! Jet boats in Interlaken are essentially what they’re named. These boats, however, take you out on the water and while they go around lake make 360 degree turns, causing you to get a bit wet. Due to the fact that the water was near freezing, we bundled up and put on wet suits before going in the boat as we probably would have become icicles if we didn’t. The jet boat was fun and actually pretty informative. The Swiss water is beautiful and so clean. Too clean, in fact. Literally. Apparently the number of fish in Lake Bern has decreased by 10x over the last thirty years because it is so clean there is no bacteria or algae for the fish to survive on. I’ll be back in the summer sometime soon, so I can swim in that beautiful blue water.
Saturday night was spent at the pub watching Rugby! As mentioned in one of my previous posts, the Rugby World Cup is going on right now in England. The final game is in Twickenham, in fact. I hadn’t really hopped on the Rugby train up to this point, however, that changed this weekend. People in Europe love their rugby. Interlaken is no exception and since the locals are from all over the globe they get quite competitive with each other. It makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
Sunday, we walked along the rivers in Interlaken before Heather took me up to Harder Klum, which is a restaurant and observatory deck up one of the mountains, only accessible by a steep hike or a special train. We opted for the train.
The view from up there was spectacular. It was like I was paragliding again but I had stable ground beneath me. We were lucky enough to get up there before the clouds came in. Oh yeah, I may not have mentioned that it was cloudy basically the whole weekend. I can not get over how beautiful this place was and I didn’t even see it in all of it’s glory. That’s saying something. We enjoyed a nice lunch up there before heading back down to town and catching one more rugby game before I had to catch my train back to Basel.
Interlaken was without a doubt the most beautiful place I have visited thus far, also making it my favorite. Maybe it was because I was with someone that felt like family, but I think it was more than that. I loved everything about the place, the way of life that all of the people who live there carry out, waking up to see the peaks of the alps covered in snow and the yellow and orange trees below and the sun shining down all the while. I don’t think I could ever get sick of a place like that. I will without any doubt in my mind be back one day soon. I want to visit in the summer, so I can go hiking in the Alps when its warm and jump out of a plane without getting wind burn.
I am happy I did this trip when I did. This coming Friday I’m leaving London for 10 days to travel on my own. I will literally be backpacking through Europe, starting in Budapest and making my way back to the UK, going to Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Brussels in between. I wonder if any of these places will top Interlaken on my list. I am so excited to be able to do this, and actually very excited to be doing this on my own (for the most part, I will be throwing some friendly faces in there). I’m starting to realize that you get so much out of your travels when you do it alone, it makes it personal and you have to find the way to making the most memories for yourself. Until I leave I will be in the library working on papers that are due the week I get back. Sometimes “Studying Abroad” actually does entail studying, but it makes all that comes after it worth it. 🙂 Be sure to stay tuned. Cheers!