I trot off the picture post card Swiss train and arrive in Interlaken, it’s the middle of August and the weather is so pleasant, the sun is shining and a cool breeze blows throughout the day. Interlaken is located in the Swiss canton of Bern and as the name of the charming town suggests, it lies between two emerald and turquoise hued lakes, Thun and Brienz, these lakes are a sight to see, they gleam like brilliant gems encrusted in a royal crown. River Aar flows through the town connecting both of the lakes and riverflows from the mountains to the South. Towering Mountains, Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger staunchly stand in the South and Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s home mountain with a height of 1322 meters lies in the North. The town has a population of just over 5500, but because of tourists, the quaint town looks so much livelier.
For those who need a break from the eye soring concrete jungle, this is the place to be. The residences and buildings are low level so they do not obstruct the spectacular view..although there is one concrete monstrosity, it kinda sticks out like a sore thumb, I’m not quite sure how that must have happened but I pretend it isn’t there.
In Interlaken you get to witness nature at its best. The once quaint town cut off from the rest of the world previously known as Aarmuhle has now become a blooming tourist destination, offering visitors an array of activities. It’s a haven for the adventurous, the laid back and the luxurious. In compared to most of Switzerland, it’s not that expensive and great for budget travelers. Hostel style accommodations are available and it’s a unique experience.
I check in to the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof. It’s a lovely concept of hostel accommodation with select service hospitality; here you can get double rooms or bunkers. There is a common area where breakfast is served and a coffee machine is present for you to enjoy. You can do your laundry in the laundry area and even prepare meals in the common kitchen facility. When you check in, you receive a number of silver tokens with respect to the nights you plan to stay. You can use these tokens for various facilities the hostel has to offer. It’s a pretty neat concept, you also get to meet a lot of other travelers during your stay.
When I arrived in Interlaken, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful paragliders up in the sky. Just like every good munchkin, I too always dreamt of soaring like a majestic bird, so I decided I wanted to be up there too. I sign up for a paragliding trip with Paragliding Interlaken. This is going to be my first time. The next day, I wake up excited as ever and a little nervous at the same time. The Paragliding Interlaken van picks me up at my hostel and the friendly team greets us and assures us that everything will go smoothly. After a 20 minute ride we get off and walk for 5 minutes until we reach the drop off point. Here I get strapped with all the gear and then my pilot Miki and I take a running start. My heart beat sounds like drums playing at a rock concert. Butterflies went awry in my stomach as my pilot and I jump off the hill, I felt the parachute lift us up with a jerk. The view is absolutely awe inspiring. It is a clear beautiful day and I can see both the lakes, the entire town and the mountains in the background, it was magnificent, not scary at all. We stayed up in the air for about 15 minutes and it was a smooth glide. I would strongly recommend everyone to do this.I actually met some Interlaken residents who said they had never gone paragliding because they were afraid.I hope they change their minds eventually because they are missing out.
The next day I go to a popular excursion point. I take the funicular to Harder kulm.The ascend to the peak is incredibly steep. The funicular stops at the top and everyone steps off board, a short walk to the mountain restaurant we see a spectacular view; the protruding terrace offers a breathtaking panoramic sight of the entire town, the lakes and the majestic mountains.
Upon returning, I check out of the hostel, bid goodbye to the lovely hosts and head on over to Bönigen, my last stay point in Interlaken at the Seiler Au Lac hotel, it lies on the shore of lake Brienze. The view from my room is one I wish I could to wake up to every single morning for the rest of my life. I sit out in the balcony and just take it all in, the sheer beauty of it all. As I look out to the lake I see a raft float towards the shore and all the people in it joyously shout “wohoo” as they jump off the raft and into the lake. I get the strongest urge to want to do that myself.
I sign up for white water rafting with Outdoor Interlaken. The next day I start to have second thoughts, I am thinking maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, but it’s too late to chicken out now.The next morning I have a hearty breakfast and before I know it, The Outdoor Interlaken’s van arrives at the hotel to pick me up, we are briefed about the basic rules and the river guides assure us that we are not going to die. we will be rafting in river Lütschine.
We put on our wet suites, boots, helmets, life jackets and drive up to the spot where the adventure would begin. I look out the window of the van and I see the river we are supposed to be rafting in. We reach the drop off point and are divided into groups of 6 in each raft, the seventh is our river guide. I am put on board with five Arab men who are confused as to which direction is left and which is right .Our guide is Santiago. All the river guides show us how to paddle, steer and maneuver in different situations they also guide us as to what we should do if something goes wrong. After prep, we carry our rafts into river. The weather is chilly, its drizzling and foggy. We hop aboard the raft and the ride begins. Cold water splashes from all sides, our guide navigates us away from rocks and when its time, he yells “EVERYBODY GET DOWN!”, which requires everyone to secure themselves into the raft making sure the paddles don’t hit anyone.
After a while as we drift into calmer waters, Santiago shows us how to rescue someone if they fall into the river. “Use your knees”, he says “push them down and then pull em up”. Half the guys on the raft jump off, the other guys and I try to help them back up again. We head onwards and stop at one point. Our guide tells us that the river ahead is very difficult to navigate through and it would be dangerous for beginners, so we skip that bit and go back into the river after heading further down. By now we are all getting a little tired and then finally! lake Brienz appears, we swiftly flow from the freezing river into the warmer waters of the lake, when we almost reach the shore, our guide tells us that we can dive into the lake if we want, we all jump out . We are all wet and cold but that was an adventure none of us will ever forget. We drive back with our guides to change into our clothes; they offer us drinks of our choice. Judging by what I had just been through I asked for hot coco.
This is my last day in Interlaken, I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and spend time in such a gorgeous town, it truly was the time of my life.
“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure” ~ Willliam Feather
Happy Holidays everyone and I wish you all the best for 2014 🙂