Schweiz – Interlaken

After a full week of work, the second weekend with my mother and brother had arrived. While they were in Spain, Chelsea helped me pick out an airbnb apartment overlooking the beautiful Swiss town of Interlaken. I had heard a lot about Switzerland- it’s expensive, beautiful, a little exotic. I had showed my family clips of Switzerland before they had booked their flight over. While they loved their taste of the alps in Germany (and briefly Austria!), I decided they could do with a little more.

We had been hoping to leave in the mid afternoon, but unfortunately I had a meeting at work (all in German) which ran right until 5:00. When I left work, we stopped for a few things in the grocery store to take along with us with the hopes of mitigating costs a little. I drove on the autobahn for around 2 hours; I was surprised by how well traffic moved during rush hour. We drove through the Black Forest towards the border. When we neared the border, I stopped to fill up the tank and we purchased the toll vignette to affix to the windshield to legally drive on Swiss highways. Shortly thereafter we crossed the border without incident, though we did notice several cars being searched at the checkpoint. The Swiss take their security and trade protections very seriously.

After the crossing we had a few more hours of driving. My mom and brother took the opportunity to sleep as darkness fell.  When we got close to the mountains, the road got a bit more adventurous: seemingly endless tunnels, twisting switchbacks, and roadside cliffs made the drive interesting to say the least. Thankfully for my mother, the heights were hidden by the night. All that you could see were silhouettes of giant mountains looming in the distance.

We found our apartment after a little searching, checked in and I made a plan for the next day. We ate some cereal and headed to bed early to get an early start to our Saturday. Waking up was worth it; shout out to Chelsea here, because this is the view we were treated to whenever we looked out of our front door:

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The view from our front door

I had decided it would be good to go high up into the mountains to get a closer look. You can hike up, but we weren’t sure we were up for such a climb, and so we decided on taking the train. Trains in Switzerland in this area feature cogwheel drives and so can take on pretty steep inclines. Because of this and because its Switzerland, this makes them very expensive. Consequently, I wanted to drive as close as possible to where we were heading before catching the train. We ate a small breakfast from our groceries and drove to Grindelwald, a small town at the base of some of the most famous mountains in the area. The drive took us through Interlaken and through some small farms which were interesting to see. We parked our car, bought tickets, and caught the first train we could. Before long we were chugging up the mountain, and my mom couldn’t look happier. Views from the bottom were amazing, but paled in comparison to sights as we made our way upwards.

The train made several stops along the way, but most people were bound for the top like us. Eventually we reached our destination, Kleine Scheidegg. Arriving there we discovered there was some sort of concert going on, and massive crowds of fans gathered in the snow to hang out, enjoy the music, and party. We briefly wove through the crowds but we were here primarily for the views. The Eiger wall loomed above us, one of the most notorious mountains to be climbed in the alps. The wall formed a picturesque backdrop, which I couldn’t help but take advantage of. Here are a few photos from around the area.

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Grindelwald from above

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After a long while taking in the gorgeous views and exploring along a ridge towards a big glacier, we decided to hike over across the area towards another small town that was inaccessible by car, Wengen. We walked for a good 3-4 hours, and were treated to more fabulous views along the way:

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The train station at “the top of Europe”. We didn’t make it up there due to cost

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The trail on our hike towards Wengen

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The hike took us longer than expected between picture stops and getting a little lost. My mom was tired by the time we got close, so we opted to ride a train back towards the concert area and eventually went down from there. The afternoon was great, but I had forgotten one very important item at our apartment near Interlaken: sunscreen. By the time we were on the train back down towards Grindelwald I knew I had a pretty nasty sunburn. But it didn’t matter how brightly my burned skin was shining, it seemed dim compared to the smiles on our faces. We had seen the beautiful alps in Switzerland.

As the afternoon turned towards evening, we drove back to our apartment to get cleaned up. Before dinner, we followed a tip our airbnb host had left us and went up to the point where paragliders jump over Interlaken for their flights. Here, we observed the setting sun in the mountains which were now tinged a pretty shade of pink.

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Sunset from the viewpoint

After the sunset we drove down into Interlaken to do a bit of exploration and find dinner. We found a Swiss place and ate fairly well. Unfortunately they did not have the dish we had picked out for my mother and she ended up with a very overpriced Schnitzel ($36!), but overall it was a pleasant experience. After dinner we drove back to the apartment and went to bed, tired after a long day of fun and sun.

The next morning we checked out and bode our apartment farewell. Here’s what the backdoor view looked like:

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Backyard views

We hadn’t organized as much today. Without much of a plan we drove into town and started walking towards one of the lakes, only to find that it was farther than we had estimated. We found the landing point for the paragliders, walked past some hotels and a few old churches before we turned around and went to the car to drive to a lake shore.

Around 20 minutes later we parked in Thun, a town on a lake of the same name, which is one of the lakes Interlaken sits between. There we enjoyed marvelous views from a park by the lake:

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Some swans were curious about my camera

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The park itself was vibrant and green. We spent a good while just exploring there before we walked into town to check out a small castle and find lunch. The town itself was pretty, but I think everything would look better when framed by those mountain peaks.

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Overlooking Thun from the castle

We ended up getting lunch at a cheap-ish place – I got a pizza with a bunch of ingredients. After a late lunch we made our way back to the car and drove home.

Switzerland was everything I had imagined. Wild, beautiful, and yes, expensive. But I know I will be going back someday, it was too gorgeous not to.

Until next time,

Best wishes and safe travels everyone,

– Ben

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