Switzerland has not been kind to my bank account, easily the most expensive place I’ve visited but also the most beautiful. I can say with certainty that if you have any interest in mountains, waterfalls or adrenaline sports then you will not regret coming here. I may have spent more in these last few days than in the past couple of weeks combined, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
When I woke up on the first morning here in Interlaken, the weather was beautiful and the forecast for the afternoon and next few days was rain. I’d had a paragliding trip cancelled once already on this trip so I wasn’t going to let that happen again, I went and booked it before breakfast and got picked up an hour later.
Our launch zone was about a 20 minute drive up from Interlaken and had some really good views. After about ten minutes getting the gear set up at the top of the hill the first people started to take off. One after another they followed each other off into the sky, then it was my turn. A few walking steps down the slope, then a bit of a run and the parachute caught the air behind us and we flew off the side of the hill. What an amazing way to start my time in Switzerland, great views over the entire valley and beyond. The flight lasted about 13 minutes and ended with some spins down towards the landing zone, I had an absolute blast doing it.
After lying in the park for half an hour as the adrenaline rush wore off, I walked over to the train station to meet Sam (whom I had met at the hostel in Munich a few days earlier). It’s great to see someone as they step off the train in Interlaken, walking out of the train station and seeing massive mountains on every side is amazing. It was really fun to spend my time here with her, having someone to bounce excitement off as we explored this amazing area made these three days so much more enjoyable.
Since the forecasted rain didn’t seem to be coming and the temperature sitting in the mid twenties, we walked down to Lake Brienze. After taking quite a long route we made it to the lake and found somewhere to rent a kayak. It was a very peaceful hour paddling out into the lake, admiring the mountains along each edge and sitting with my feet in the cold water.
We got up early one day so we could beat the rain and hike up Harder Kulm, the mountain overlooking the town of Interlaken. It was a good hike that we did in just over two hours, although we did stop several times to admire the views as we got higher and higher up. At the end of this trail is the Harder Kulm Restaraunt and a viewing platform, offering some really great views over the city, the two lakes and the mountains up past the Lauterbrunnen Valley. After getting a few photos we retreated from the cold into the restaurant, had a coffee and slice of raspberry sponge cake while enjoying the view and watching paragliders take off from the next ridge over.
The next few hours after we left the Harder Kulm Restaraunt were probably the best of my whole trip. Since we didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon we hiked another half an hour along under the ridge line until we found a small trail leading up the mountain more. After following this barely used trail for another ten minutes we emerged out of the bushes onto the peak of the mountain, another 200 meters higher than the restaurant. I filled two pages in my travel journal just trying to get my thoughts down about this moment, but I don’t really know how to describe it in a coherent fashion for this blog. Sam and I sat up on the bench for a couple of hours just admiring the absolutely magnificent views. 360 degree views of the entire area, with mountains as far as the eye can see. While it’s only been a few days since it happened, I’m still completely confident in saying that it was the best moment of my life.
After getting back from our hike at 7pm and having quick showers we rushed down to the train station to catch a train up to Lauterbrunnen before the sun went down. Managed to make it just in time which I was awesome because I wanted to show Sam this place since she wasn’t coming further up into the alps. The train ride up to the town was pretty cool, looking at the massive cliff faces as we worked out way up through the valley.
The town is nestled in a valley between giant cliffs littered with waterfalls, and at the end of the town are the Staubbach Falls. The river at the top of the 300 meter cliff drops uninterrupted all the way down to the valley floor, even with very little wind heaps of the water was turning to mist before it touched the ground. As we walked up closer we noticed a path leading up to a hill beside the waterfall. We figured it was a viewing platform so it was quite surprising to come across a tunnel which led up into the cliff face. The path lead right underneath the waterfall where you can reach out and touch the water, very cool!
We sat on another bench down the bottom of the falls as the sun went down, really great view of the waterfall since it’s lit up by a huge light on the ground. We walked down to the train station and managed to catch a bus back to Interlaken, grabbed a kebab and a beer and relaxed in the hostel for the rest of the night. Oh and as we got back I found out that Real Madrid had won the Champions League, the perfect end to a perfect day!
On our last day in Interlaken we were supposed to be going canyoning in the morning, unfortunately the amount of rain meant that the trip was canceled. Because there really isn’t that much to do on a rainy day we decided to go white water rafting. After getting our gear on and having the safety briefing we met the rest of the group that would be on our raft, a stag-do group who were staying at our hostel. Such a great group to go rafting with, the guy in front of me in particular was clearly the joker of the group and always had a joke ready to go (although I think most of his concentration was going towards that, since he was useless at paddling in time).
The whole rafting trip was so much fun, the river was being fed by alpine water high in the mountains and so was absolutely freezing. You get used to being soaked while going over the rapids, but the few times where we had to jump right into the water were quite a shock. Although I still would have liked to go canyoning, I’m glad we decided to do the rafting. Plenty of fun moments through the whole thing: getting the raft stuck against a rock, jumping out to swim down one of the waves and the rescue practice which Sam and I won by a mile. Oh and the warm shower when we got back to the base was one of the nicest I’ve had in a long time.
The rest of the rainy afternoon was spent lying on the hostel couches, drinking coffee, eating Swiss chocolate and filling our travel journals with stories from the last couple of days. It wouldn’t be a Switzerland trip without trying some fondue, so we went down to a cool place down the road and got a pot of cheese fondue with bread and potatoes for dipping.
I know I’ve said this about a few places now, but this is without a doubt my favorite place I’ve been to. The incredible landscapes and views, the paragliding, kayaking and rafting, the weather which stayed sunny a lot longer than it was supposed to and the people met and spent time with. Everything has come together to make this a completely unforgettable few days.