Monday, July 21, 2014

Europe Trip - Interlaken, Switzerland

Driving from Bern to Interlaken in the early evening was thrilling, mostly because we drove through tiny Swiss-German villages and along gorgeous Lake Thun. Combine that with the magical backdrop of the Swiss mountains, and you can imagine why it was so breathtaking. It was not quite dark before we reached our hostel in Grindelwald, a town just up the mountain from Interlaken. Our hostel was nothing special, except for the fact that it was settled right at the foot of the mountains and we had sweeping views every time we stepped outside. We finally settled in after a long day's drive, and went straight to sleep.

Saturday morning we took the train up to Jungfraujoch. The train left from Grindelwald and made a slow and steady climb up the mountain, passing through cow pastures and mountain meadows full of wildflowers. We were never sure where to look next - everywhere we turned our heads there was either an adorable Swiss chalet, or a snow-capped mountaintop, or the picturesque valley below. After switching trains in Kleine Scheidegg, we finally the summit. And it was freezing! 0 degrees Celsius and 60 km/h gusts of wind is not my idea of a summer vacation, but I should have guessed as much. I mean, it is the mountains. Consequently, we were ill prepared, wardrobe wise, but we did pack as many layers as we could. (They helped a little.) In addition to the cold and snow, it was also quite foggy at the top, but we were still able to get some good views as the clouds shifted intermittently.

All of our crazy is on display in this photo.

While at the top, we visited the Ice Palace, and saw a few other little touristy-type attractions. Thanks to the year-round winter, Jungfraujoch has some skiing and snowboarding areas, which we passed up on because of our lack of gear. Instead, we stayed inside for some Swiss hot chocolate (a decision I don't regret). 

After seeing all there was to see, and after becoming quite dizzy from the lack of oxygen, we decided to head down. Once in town, we stopped by the grocery store to get a few bars of Swiss chocolate and then relaxed at the hostel for a bit. By the time we were recovered, it was dinner time, and we found an excellent restaurant just a few minutes' walk from our hostel - the C und M Restaurant. After a satisfying meal of steak and ravioli, and a bite of our Swiss chocolate for dessert, it was off to bed. 

. . .

While we had anticipated doing some fun outdoor activities on Sunday, the weather had a different idea - it was rainy when we woke up, and the forecast predicted that it would be all day. So we made a few adjustments to our plans, and explored the great indoors instead. We went to a nearby cave, St. Beatus-Höhlen, where we took a guided tour nearly 1,000 meters into the cave. It was really cool, and the cave itself was set in the cliffs overlooking Lake Thun, so we had great, albeit rainy, views.


I call this one "Impulse and Regret"

We then drove to Lauterbrunnen, a beautiful town on the other side of the mountain from Grindelwald, to see Trummelbach Falls. These waterfalls (almost literally) blew us away. The force with which they pounded down the mountain was incredible and frightening, and all along the path up to the top you could see the jagged tunnel the water had cut through the hard stone. It was truly amazing.

Elevator shaft. We took the stairs up, but the elevator down to save our knees.

I couldn't get over the color of the water in Switzerland. It was either a cold, steely grey (as above) or a warm, tropical blue (further below). 

We ate dinner in town at the Hotel Oberland where we stuffed ourselves with fondue and raclette before going back to the hostel for our last night in Grindelwald.

Monday morning we said goodbye to the beautiful mountains and started driving west for the last leg of our European journey. Until next time, Interlaken!