June 24, 2018

Interlaken, Switzerland – Trip Summary- Plucked from a Painting

Plucked from a painting
Jungfraubahn 400x200 Interlaken, Switzerland   Trip Summary  Plucked from a Painting

When a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her on a trip to Switzerland in November of 2011, it took everything inside of me not to place the bottle of red wine I was holding back on the market’s shelf, grab her arm, and head straight for the airport. For me, Switzerland had always been an intriguing country; with the chocolate and fondue, and beautiful scenery, how could you go wrong? But my trip to this breathtaking country exceeded all of my expectation, making it one of my favorite trips of the last year and a half.
IMG 4192 433x325 Interlaken, Switzerland   Trip Summary  Plucked from a Painting
Although typically I organize and book all of my trips, this adventure was done through my friend’s study abroad program in Florence. The company was called Bus2Alps, which travels to Switzerland from Florence, Rome, Paris and Munich. Although we rode a bus from Florence, Italy to Interlaken, Switzerland that lasted about 8 hours, the company did a great job of accommodating the students and guests. Bus2Alps gave us the choice of two popular hostels in town, Balmers Herberge (which is ranked number one on several sites; having a full bar and dance club downstairs) and Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof (which is a five minute walk from Balmers, and a more modern, quiet accommodation). Since Bus2Alps gave all of the guests’ free admission into the bar/nightclub at Balmers, I decided to stay in the Villa for the weekend.
interlaken overhead 400x200 Interlaken, Switzerland   Trip Summary  Plucked from a Painting
  With the help of Bus2Alps, I was able to sign up for   weekend excursions and activities at a discounted price. When I had originally signed up for the trip, I thought Zurich was the place to be; the place that truly embodied the Swiss experience. Not having heard much about Interlaken, I was slightly apprehensive. Surprisingly, it proved to have a little something for everyone.
An hour outside of Zurich, this small sleepy town with a population of a mere 5,429, provides activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snow shoeing, and night sledding for those winter lovers, and even extreme sports like canyon jumping, zip lining, hang-gliding, bungee jumping, rock climbing, skydiving, and paragliding for the risk-takers. They offer private lessons for beginners, and take experienced skiers to a glacier up north. If sports aren’t your thing, Interlaken also rents out ATV’s, bikes, and small two-door vehicles to gallivant around the city in. Located in central Switzerland, in between the two Alpine lakes, Brienz and Thun, Interlaken offers Scenic hikes up through the Swiss Alps, relaxing Alpine spas, and trips up to Jungfraubahn, also known as the top of Europe.
The crystal blue lakes, brown and white capped mountains standing side by side, and random waterfalls scattered throughout the land make this location a stunning vacation spot. Small log cabins are perched on cliffs as you climb to higher altitudes, and the buildings in the local towns resemble gingerbread cut-outs. As you walk out of the center of town towards the mountains, have your camera ready, because the combination of the colorful landscape with the array of paragliders floating down to the ground is spectacular.
Harderbahn funicular 400x200 Interlaken, Switzerland   Trip Summary  Plucked from a Painting
Interlaken Ost, is the main train station in town, providing trains that travel out of town as well as up the mountain, stopping at Winderswil. In Winderswil, there is a funicular that travels even further up the mountain to a quaint little town called Lauterbrunnen. I went up the mountain in search of a good hike, and Lauterbrunnen provided just that. Once one exits the funicular station at Lauterbrunnen, it becomes all too real that this little town is perched in a valley on the Alps. Massive rocks tower above you on the right and green meadows stretch out to more mountains on your left. Breathtaking waterfalls pour out of nearby cliff faces almost 1000 feet in the air. With 72 waterfalls in Launterbrunnen, it makes the small resort town look like it was plucked straight from the jungle. There are several seasonal accomodations and restaurants that make this area worthwhile. Since I was looking to take in more nature than city, it was recommended to me to hike from Lauterbrunnen to Murren. As you walk more out of the town and more into the mountains, there is a path that provides benches along the way to stop and take in the unbelievable view. The path weaves up two different hills, ultimately stopping at a tram that takes hikers back down to Lauterbrunnen, if they choose not to walk. Overall, the cost of transportation up to Murren and back down to Interlaken Ost was around 27 francs, which is equivalent to 30 UD dollars.
Typically, Switzerland is known for their watches, chocolate, cheese, army knives, cow bells, cuckoo clocks and woodcarvings. Luckily, most of these goods can be found in the local souvenir shops, ranging from lower scale to higher quality. The main street that runs between Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost Railway stations, called Hoheweg, has several souviner shops lining the sidewalks. Places such as the “Swiss Knife Center” have a wide range of knives for sale, and “Bucherer” offers up an assortment of traditional Swiss brand- name watches, including the lower-scale Swatch. Often times, you can buy a watch or Swiss army knife in one of the Souvenir shops, and they will engrave it for free. Unfortunately, I was unable to make my way over to Brienz, which is 30 minutes by train from Interlaken Ost, but they are known has being the center for Swiss woodcarving.

swiss chocolate 400x200 Interlaken, Switzerland   Trip Summary  Plucked from a Painting

Awesome

The locals pride themselves on having the best sweets, so be on the lookout for an hour chocolate show, where you can taste-test and learn how Nestle creates such yummy goodness. I was able to attend one at Schuh, which is also located on Hoheweg, for a reasonable price. After the show your ticket becomes a 10 franc voucher to purchase some chocolate.
Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world. And although I knew this country was going to be expensive, I wasn’t prepared for how expensive the price of living actually was. Typically the exchange rate is better than when I went last Thanksgiving, but I will warn fellow travelers that between excursions, daredevil activities, and eating, the wallet can take a beating. In my opinion, this trip was worth every penny, and although I have been to other places for cheaper, nothing really compares to the Swiss experience.

Interlaken, Switzerland – Paragliding

Paragliding in Switzerland

309806 2420652599959 1360740268 32690690 627628853 n 400x200 Interlaken, Switzerland   ParaglidingWhether you’re afraid of heights or not, Paragliding is one of those activities I insist you try at least once in your lifetime. Ironically, I am petrified of heights, and yet when I found myself in Switzerland looking up at a sky filled with hovering parachutes, I figured what better way to see the countryside than from the air. Plus, how many people can really say they got to paraglide through the Swiss Alps?

Interlaken, Switzerland is famous for paragliding, and it seems to be an activity that runs year-round. I booked my ride through Paragliding Interlaken, located at Hoheweg 115. When the big day arrived, a van picked me up outside of my hostel. They drove us 20 minutes up a mountain to an area called Beatenberg Amisbuhl. We were told this starting area was 800 meters above Interlaken. Yeah, my nerves were definitely a bit jittery at that point.

The crew gave us our backpacks, and we walked a little further up the mountain to reach the parachutes. The sun glistened off of the snow-capped Alps, and a light set of clouds calmly settling above the city.

IMG 41191 1024x768 Interlaken, Switzerland   Paragliding

Once I got my helmet on and was strapped into my parachute and to my instructor, I was ready to go. He counted down, we ran as hard as we could, and once we caught wind we were off.

IMG 41311 1024x768 Interlaken, Switzerland   Paragliding

It was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life. Initially, I was scared to let go of the measly string that was holding me to my parachute, and I refused to look down. But once I stopped thinking about the height and my fear, it was amazing to feel how calm and quiet everything was.

It was Thanksgiving weekend, and surprisingly it hadn’t snowed, making it difficult for some of my fellow travelers to do the crazy snow sports’ they had anticipated doing. Locals told me I had made the best choice by going paragliding because I had the perfect weather to do it. As the cold air nipped at my face, I couldn’t help but smile. Between the iced-over lakes and rolling green hills thousands of feet below me, I felt like it was all just utter perfection.

IMG 41352 1024x768 Interlaken, Switzerland   Paragliding

After my instructor answered his phone, while steering the parachute (who knew you could get reception above the clouds? I definitely need that network.) he pulled out a camera on an extendable pole, and snapped a few pictures of me floating in the air.SDC138221 768x1024 Interlaken, Switzerland   Paragliding

Later he took a video of me, but with the wind blowing into the speaker it is a little difficult to decipher. Halfway through the video, (when I start squealing) that’s when he decided to flip my parachute into loop-de-loops. I had him stop after the first one, because I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle it.

SDC13821 1024x768 Interlaken, Switzerland   Paragliding

As we got closer to the open meadow, my instructor told me I would need to start running once my feet hit land again. Although it was somewhat complicated to run while my parachute was still filled with air, my instructor and I managed to land in unison.

Paragliding in my opinion is absolutely worth the money (170 francs). Even though this may be a little steep for the average backpacker like myself, the views are undeniably beautiful, and the ride is a once in a lifetime experience. I honestly believe it is the best way to see Interlaken. It’s one thing to see everyone floating down from the sky, but it’s even better when you decide to take the risk and ride yourself. Carpe Diem!