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- Visiting Europe
My Experience in the Swiss Alps
My first stop in Switzerland was Zurich, but only for a layover to go to Kandersteg. It was raining, but since I had already bought my train tickets long ago, I had to go. I contemplated just waiting in the train station for a few hours to go to Interlaken, but I decided against sitting there for five or six hours.
I got my poncho and rain pants out for the first time this trip, and I set out in the rain. It wasn’t raining too hard, just sort of sprinkling, so it didn’t really bother me. But, visibility was very low which I think made it not really worth going outside.
I could see how beautiful the landscape otherwise would have been if it weren’t raining though! There were waterfalls everywhere on the mountain, and there was a river next to the path I was walking on as well.
At one point, I could see the waterfall on the other side of the mountain very clearly, but by the time I got my camera out of my bag, the clouds had settled in between the mountains and blocked my view to it. So sad!
Anyway, I walked up to Oeschinensee, otherwise known as Oeschinen Lake. It took me about an hour and a half to walk up, and the signs were very clear so that was nice. Once I got up, of course the lake had very low visibility as well. But, I was happy and at peace.
I sat there in the rain for a bit just to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the serenity. Nobody else was around although I was near a hotel and a restaurant. The lake would truly have been beautiful if I could see it; I could see outlines of waterfalls falling into the lake.
After enjoying the peacefulness for a bit, I walked back down in about an hour. I actually saw two people walking up when I was walking down!
I got to the train station super early, so I sat there for about two or three hours to wait for my train to Interlaken. The train came on time and I made my way to my hostel.
The next day, I hiked up Harder Kulm, the top of Interlaken. Signs said it would take two hours ten minutes but it took me an hour forty-five minutes. I was very determined not to stop on the way, and although I was walking at a snail’s pace at some points, I made it to the top without stopping, always one foot going in front of the other.
I didn’t see many people on my trek up, just passed an old couple in the very beginning of my trek.
The hike was all uphill, so it was a bit tiring, but the view gradually changed as I got higher and I knew the reward at the top would be great.
And great it was indeed. Once I hiked up, I sat down on a bench to rest and drink water, and once I felt replenished, I went onto the viewing platform. There were no clouds in the sky and the sun was out, so the view was wonderful and so were my pictures (blue sky really makes a drastic difference compared to cloudy sky). Up at the top, I could see the city of Interlaken of course, the two lakes on either side of Interlaken (the word Interlaken is a Latin word that means between the lakes), and snowy Jungfrau, the highest peak around here, sandwiched between two green mountains.
It was beautiful.
There were paragliders everywhere (I’m going to do this next time I go to Lauterbrunnen; I think Lauterbrunnen is prettier than Interlaken), and they were just peacefully floating through the sky. It was fun to watch them.
I stood and sat at the viewing platform for a while, just enjoying the gorgeous view and nice sunshine.
I was at the top for about an hour, and then I started walking down. I saw the old couple I had seen during the beginning of my trip make their way up.
On my way down, there was a man running up with his dog, and then later, both of them ran past me while I was still going down. I’m not sure whether they went to the top, but I don’t think so.
I saw a lot more people going up during my way down than when I was going up. A couple asked me how far it was when they were probably about a third of the way up, and I told them to keep going because the view is stunning.
I made it down in about an hour and fifteen minutes, and I was pretty satisfied with the hike. Most of it was shaded so it wasn’t too hot going up, the reward was great, and I felt very satisfied.
I took the bus to one of the lakes surrounding Interlaken, Lake Thun. I didn’t spend much time there though; I basically went over to see what it’s like, took some pictures, and took the bus back to my hostel in time for a free walking tour!
The free walking tour group was pretty small, just six of us, but it was very fun and had a pretty homey feel. I met this couple who was on their honeymoon – they went to Greece before Switzerland for ten days, and then they were driving through Switzerland for ten days. Another girl from China just quit her job in Italy and was traveling around a bit before going back to China, and there was this other girl from Toronto. I don’t remember what she was doing in Europe or in life though.
Our first stop was Interlaken’s castle, which was originally built for monks in the 13th century. After the Protestant Reformation, it became a government building.
Switzerland used to be split into different cantons, which are basically like states. Then, all the cantons got gathered together, and parts of Italy and France wanted to join those cantons as well. That’s why there are Italian and French parts of Switzerland!
At our next stop, the tour guide showed us a place with the Bern canton flag. It’s a bear because back in the days, the king said that whatever animal the hunters first shoot would be the symbol on the flag. So I guess they shot a bear first!
Next, we walked through to the Aare, the river that flows east to west. The tour guide talked about Interlaken Ost, the second train station to be built in Interlaken. As a small city, having two train stations is pretty impressive, and Interlaken Ost has direct connections to outside the country like Prague and Paris.
The Aare River has a murky green color, because the water is from the glacier above and glacier water has a lot of minerals. The tour guide said you could probably drink the water, but maybe not that day because it had just rained. The water didn’t feel too cold though, so people could definitely swim in it somewhere!
We also talked about Harder Kulm, and there’s a legend about the mountain. One day, a monk saw a beautiful girl walking through the forest, so he followed her around. Eventually, she realized she was being followed, so she tried to find her way out. He still continued following her though. She didn’t know how to get out, so the only way she could think of the escape was to jump off the mountain, which she did, and resulted in her death. The monk was punished for the rest of his life, forced to live on Harder Kulm. His face is forever engraved in the mountain as well.
We walked a bit into Harder Kulm, and the tour guide showed us animals there! I don’t know what they were but they were really cute. We also saw Stone Goats, the national animal of Switzerland.
We did a walk through the forest to some viewpoints, but by this time I had already seen Harder Kulm so these viewpoints didn’t really impress me.
We ended up in Unterseen, a city near Interlaken West. To be declared a city, there has to be 10k people living there. Interlaken only has 4500, so they teamed up with Unterseen with 8k inhabitants and became one city. Both cities’ names even mean the same – they both men between lakes! Their animals are also the same.
Our next stop was where the city center used to be. The Aare used to run there to a mill, and Interlaken’s original name was Aaremulle, Aare after the river and mulle means mill. The tour guide said not many locals knew this!
Anyway, the river was redirected and the mill is no longer there, but what is there now is a place with many restaurants and a farmers market on the weekend.
We ended the walking tour at the square dedicated to the musicians who made Swiss rock, and we ended with the tour guide singing the song and us singing an easy part of it. It was great!
We walked back to the hostel, and I left for my train to Lauterbrunnen.
The next day in Lauterbrunnen, I headed out to go hiking! I went to the train station and got a ticket to Kleine Scheidegg. The view to the station up there was really pretty, and people constantly got up to go next to the windows to take pictures.
Once I got to Kleine Scheidegg, I hiked up to Eigergletscher which took about an hour. The view was wonderful though, so many snowy mountains but green mountains too! Then the Eiger Trail started, and it was mostly downhill (yay). View was amazing, and there were a lot of older people hiking up! Most of them had huge backpacks too, I was so impressed! That is my life goal, to be that fit when I’m old.
I started walking down the trail, and at one point, there were cows in my way on the trail. It was an interesting dilemma. I kind of just walked behind them and beside them on the grassy area next to the trail but a ways alway. All the cows had cowbells which was cool, there was like natural music all the time.
There was this couple with a dog and the dog ran around the cow, which then decided to chase it. Entertainment for the day!
I made it down the Eiger Trail and then continued down to Alpiglen, Brandegg, Grund, and finally Grindelwald. I took the train from Grindelwald back to Lauterbrunnen, checked into my hostel, and chilled. At this point in time, I looked up what Swiss coins looked like because I was too embarrassed to ask the reception, and turns out the coins I have are actually Czech Republic coins. So basically, the coin machines running the shower were broken.
After eating dinner, I met up with a person I met in a travel Facebook group. It was actually really cool! We just walked along the street and walked about our travels, and gushed over how awesome Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen are. It was really cool to meet up with another traveler that I met online! He’s from India and this is his first time to Europe, and he’s going off to Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam after Switzerland.
After that, I went to sleep. My dorm room had 15 beds in it but were quite spaced out and had walls in between, but there was nobody else there! So quiet and peaceful.
The next morning, I checked out of my hostel and went hiking again. I hiked starting around 9:15AM, and my first stop was up to Grutschalp. It took me about two hours to get up there, climbing 2200 feet! There’s a funicular to that point as well, but I hiked it instead (and didn’t have to spend 9 CHF).
From there, I hiked over to Murren, which was a much flatter and more enjoyable and scenic hike. Along the way, I met an Austrian who was hiking towards Murren as well, and we had a good chat on the way over. I saw her picking and eating something from the wild so I asked her what it was, and turns out they were wild raspberries! I picked some too and ate them. We started talking a bit afterward. She has been in Switzerland since June so has done a lot of the hikes, and she still has a month or two left. So cool!
We passed quite a few people on the trail as well, and they were all pretty old people. So impressed still!
We made it to Murren, where we sat and enjoyed the view a bit and ate our brought lunch (I had a nectarine). We then parted ways and I started my hike down to Gimmelwald then Stechelberg then back to Lauterbrunnen. I was really tired by the time I got back to Lauterbrunnen around 4:30PM, but it was a worthwhile hike. I really enjoyed the view down to Gimmelwald and then through to Lauterbrunnen, surrounded by the mountains. It was really awesome. I also saw this paraglider land!
I headed back to the hostel to pick up my belongings and to shower, and due to a train cancellation, I ended up getting put up in a hotel in Brig. In any case, that was the end of my travels in Switzerland.
It is an amazing place for hiking and for mountains, I highly recommend it!