September 25-27, 2009
I lacked the funds to make it to Interlaken when I backpacked Europe in 2007 and I vowed I would make it there on my next trip, so I wasn’t passing up the chance this year. My host in Zurich tried to convince me that there were better places, less touristy to go instead, but I had my heart set on making it to Interlaken. I didn’t do anything my first night, as it was a bit rainy and my feet needed a break from all the walking I had done the past few days. I hung out in the lobby of the hostel I had found, caught up on some postcards, writing and reading. I planned out my course of action for the next couple of days. I knew I wanted to do some hiking and possibly some sort of sporting activity—skydiving, canyon jumping, paragliding, etc. over the next two days. I also wanted to find another hostel for the next night or two, because I wasn’t all that impressed with Funny Farm, where I was staying that night. Yes, it was nice that it appeared I would have a whole dorm room to myself, including bathroom and shower, but I wanted something a little more central and social. So I booked a room at the Backpackers’ Villa Sonnehof for the next day. Turned out, I would be sharing my room with one other American guy who showed up around midnight, small world, but we would end up being roommates for the next 2 nights as well…
What intrigued me about Interlaken were the unlimited options of outdoorsy things to do. It’s located in Switzerland’s Jungfrau region and provides the chance to do a lot of mountain hiking and exploring. I decided that my first full day would be dedicated to hiking. I caught the train up to Grindelwald to hit up some trails. Grindelwald, much like Interlaken, is there strictly for the tourists—tons of shops and restaurants catering to the interests of outsiders. It really hits you when you step off the train and notice all the shops subtitled in Korean (I think). There are also a couple of “American” restaurants. Maybe it’s me, but if I’m somewhere away from home, I’d rather eat local cuisine rather than a greasy burger and fries. That aside, I had picked up a map at my hostel that outlined the various hiking trails in the area, so I headed off to find some. Three hours later, I was ready to head to another town for some different trails. I looked at my map and price-wise, I opted to head to Lauterbrunnen, which is known for having some good trails and waterfalls. As the train pulled into the station, I noticed a slate-gray creek running alongside the track. I got off the train and while everyone headed in one direction, I headed toward the bus drop-off to find a path along the creek. I walked alone along the water, every now and then climbing down the rocks to the bank. I walked for about a mile, crossed a bridge and then turned around to head back toward the station. I was surprised that out of the amount of people who got off at Lauterbrunnen, that I was the only one walking along this path. It was so tranquil and I couldn’t get over how gray the water was. I made my way back to town and went in search of a waterfall. It didn’t take too long to find one and the best part, there was a stair case leading up the side of the mountain to walk underneath it. So I took a stroll up there, took in some amazing views and the start of a thunderstorm, so I headed back down.
That evening I met up with some Aussies staying in the same room as I was, so we headed out to downtown Interlaken to find some food and drink. They had just come from Munich and Oktoberfest, so they gave me the low-down on what to expect when I got there. We walked around for a bit afterward and then headed back to the hostel to crash for the night. I decided that the next day I was going to go paragliding and possibly canyon-jumping.
Today I went paragliding! I ran run off the side of a mountain and prayed that a bunch of nylon connected to some rope would catch wind. ! I had signed up with Outdoor Interlaken to head up in the early afternoon, when the wind would be most favorable for a longer “flight.” I met up with the van and discovered I was the only person meeting downtown, so I rode up the mountain with the driver and 3 pilots. We picked up 2 more guys half-way up, to bring the grand total to 3 of us. My co-pilot was going to be Simon—half the time he works in IT the other half he jumps off mountains. He was pretty cool and very reassuring that there was nothing to be concerned about. It’s not like I was scared or anything, maybe just a little hesitant. He explained that we would start out running—slow at first and then we would speed up. We would go airborne for a brief moment, but we need to keep running, as we’ll touch land again. Simon and I went second behind Jose from Costa Rica. Pretty much it’s one of those things where you take off running and don’t look back. Next thing you know you’re gliding through the air for 20 minutes. Interlaken from the air is amazing. You see the teal green water of the River Aare between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, while surrounded by the mountains. Simon and I made landfall in the park in the center of town. When we got down, I looked up and saw that there were about 20 paragliders in the air. I was glad there were only a couple of us when we went, mainly for the sense of security knowing that I wasn’t trying share air space with a lot of other people.
I opted not to go canyon-jumping, mainly because it would take up the rest of my day and I still wanted to get some hiking in. I headed back to the hostel to see if anyone was up for a hike and Michael, my roommate from the past couple of nights was game, so we trekked to Lake Brienz, explored some old ruins and then made our way back to town with the hope of finding a place that showed American football on TV. We struck out on the last goal, but thanks to the internet, we were able to enjoy some drinks and follow the games online. We would both be heading out the next morning, he to Venice and I to Berchtesgaden.