Interlaken, Murren & Jungfrau, Switzerland
This is Laura writing this one.Danny's had a tough week of school this week, so I'm back at the keyboard.
Last Friday evening we headed to Interlaken, Switzerland.Before the trip, I was super stressed out because I had a big test in my Microelectronic Circuits class (me - stressed, what? - I know! Haha)Anyway, I literally left straight from the test, went downstairs to get my luggage, found a note from Danny saying to be at the bus stop at 5:09, looked at my watch and saw it was 5:08 and SPRINTED to the bus.There is a lovely video of my running down the street with my luggage courtesy of all the other GTL students who were already at the bus stop that we may (or may not) post at sometime.Anyway, we made the bus and the trains, had some wine and beer on the ride and had a good time.
One of trains stopped in Berne, one of the host towns for the EuroCup.Up until that point, the train was really quiet, but all of the sudden tons of Netherlands fans piled on, all decked out in orange and in good spirits because they had just won (the Netherlands are doing REALLY well this year in the EuroCup).I was sleeping at this point, exhausted from my two days of cramming Microelectronic Circuits and the wine we had on the earlier train, so I became the amusement of some of the Holland fans.I woke up to a huge orange guy wearing a bright orange braided wig right up in my face.It was quite an experience…
We arrived at Interlaken around midnight and somehow managed to find our way to our hostel in the dark.We actually ended up seeing some other guys - some Delts - from GTL on our train so we hung out with them some and followed them to the hostel.We checked in at Balmer's Herberge, the oldest and by far most famous hostel in Switzerland, and were then shuttled to our ACTUAL lodging, the Balmer's Tent Village - literally a bunch of yellow-striped tents with bunk beds in them.They did have wood floors, electricity, and heaters, so it wasn't quite "roughing it" but the thin walls meant you could hear the first person who woke up in ANY tent as clearly as if they were in yours with you and the light from the sun shone in at about 6:00 am.
The next morning, we had our first chance to really see where we were.It was beautiful.Interlaken, as its name suggests, is a town situated between two lakes.The lakes are fed by water from the glaciers in the Swiss Alps.Thus, we had beautiful views of the Alps all around us.
Interlaken is known for being an outdoorsy and "extreme" town, a nice change from the traditional historical cities we've been visiting, so we decided to look into some excursions.Danny and I really wanted to go hang-gliding by it was full at the time we were looking.Erin and John really wanted to go paragliding so we all did that and it ended up being a lot of fun!I had been parasailing before and there is not much thrill involved in that, so I figured paragliding would be similar but it was actually awesome!We went tandem, so there was a pro at the controls and took off from the side of a big hill.We literally just ran a few steps down the hill and then the parachute just picked us up.From there, our pro navigated the winds so we ended up soaring well above the take-off point.We were able to see amazing views of Interlaken below and the mountains around us.Danny, Erin and John had their digital cameras (mine didn't have a string on it so I wasn't allowed to use it - apparently Swiss pedestrians don't take too kindly to cameras raining down on them…) and took some great pictures of the lakes, the town, and the surroundings.There couldn't have been a better way to see the area than that.The ride was supposed to last 10-20 minutes depending on the winds, so we must have had good winds because we were up there for a pretty long time.All of our guides took us on a "rollercoaster" ride - spinning us around in circles in the parachute.I think my guide went easy on me because mine was not nearly as thrilling as the rides that John & Danny described where they could barely breathe because of the G-force.
After paragliding, we went back to the tent village with intentions of eating the tuna fish we brought with us for lunch.We had heard that the food in Interlaken was really expensive so Danny bought 14 cans of tuna that we planned to eat.Unfortunately, the Tent Village locks all of your stuff up from 10:30 am until 4:00 pm, which we knew and so we had put our luggage in the luggage tent.Even more unfortunately, no one works at the tent village between 1:00 and 2:30 so our food was all locked up in luggage tent and we ended up having to buy food anyway.Danny got a tuna sandwich (didn't even want a break from the food we'd have to eat the rest of the weekend) and John, Erin and I split a big pizza that was reasonably priced and delicious!
We spent a while trying to figure out what we wanted to do next.The Tent Village was the base for the canyoning excursions which we had decided would be really fun, so we debated doing that the same afternoon or waiting until the next morning. In the end, we decided to wander around the town, check out one of the lakes, and get our souvenir shopping out of the way Saturday afternoon and go canyoning Sunday morning.Danny, who had been wanting another chance to drive a moped since Greece, really wanted to rent mopeds to explore the town, which was actually a pretty cheaply-priced adventure (30 franks, which is about $30 for 3-hours and two people could ride on one) but Erin and John weren't as experienced with scooter driving so we put that off and just ended up walking.
We walked all the way to Lake Brienz, the lake on the eastern side of Interlaken.The walked ended up being farther than we thought and Danny constantly reminded us that we COULD have gotten mopeds...the water in the lakes and the river that connected them was a pretty blue color, but not the crystal clear blue of the Caribbean or anything, just an odd turquoise, but cloudy color.Since the water came straight from the glaciers in the Alps, we had to see how cold it was - and it was definitely pretty cold.Danny and John decided it would be "perfect for chilling your beers."
We walked back to town along the river just as rain clouds moved in and it started to drizzle.When we got back to where the train station was, we walked along the street again to do our souvenir shopping.Erin and I are both collecting charms from everywhere we go, so it has become routine for us to browse stores until we find some, and even the boys are acceptant of it - I'm glad I have a partner in that endeavor or I don't think the boys' shopping tolerance would last nearly as long.We also went into a Swiss Army Knife store (they are everywhere) and saw a RIDICULOUS knife.You couldn't even call it a pocketknife because it was about a foot thick and had probably 100 gadgets.Danny took a picture of course…
After shopping, we headed back to the good old tent village for some tuna and Danny and John took advantage of the happy hour.We hung out there for a little bit before walking to the REAL Balmer's to watch some soccer and wait for the other happy hour.A lot of GTL kids were in Interlaken and most of them were hanging out at Balmer's too so we ended up having a big table with about 15 or 20 people.After the game was over, we went down to the club that Balmer's has in their basement, did some dancing, and then walked back to the tent village for the night.
The next morning, we had to get up early to go canyoning.The weather had not improved any - it pretty cloudy and chilly and looked like rain - definitely not what you want to see when you are planning to go hiking/wading/sliding through rocky rivers in a canyon.Our canyoning reservation was for 9:30 am.The guides warned us that it would be cold, but gave us wetsuits, two wetsuit jackets (because they said it was REALLY cold), special shoes and helmets.We were driven up into the hills in a van and then hiked a little ways up the river.
The whole area was really beautiful, but the water was FREEZING!My shoe had a hole in it so it didn't keep any water out and as soon as I stepped into the water, I couldn't feel my foot!We had a chance to get "acclimated" (as if that were actually possible) and then started our hike down the canyon.It was a lot of fun…we got to ride down chutes, do jumps into certain areas in the river, repel down a big wall, climb over lots of boulders, swing from one ledge to another and more.Danny, the hot dog that he is, did a flip on the second jump and impressed all the other people in our group of seven.At one point, one of the other guys in our group didn't land in the correct spot and got sucked into the "washing machine" as they called it…one of the guides had to rescue him…it was pretty intense!The whole thing was a lot of fun but pretty exhausting.After about 3 hours of it, we made it to the end, not a moment to soon (in my opinion)!The whole thing was really fun, but it would have definitely been better if your sinuses didn't freeze everytime you got water up your nose and your hands didn't go numb…it pretty much got to the point that I would try NOT to use my hands at all just so they wouldn't get wet!
The canyoning company took us back to the tent village where we took warm (heavenly) showers.We had some lunch - tuna of course - and then headed to the train station to ask about going to Jungfraujoch - the "Top of Europe".The trains up to there were private, so our Eurail pass saved us only 25% and the cost to go up there would be about 132 franks.We decided we'd decide for sure if we wanted to go after we went up to Murren, where we had a hotel reservation.Erin, John and I got on the train to Murren and Danny set off in hopes of going "canyon jumping" which he heard was even scarier than the 450 ft. bungee jump he had originally planned to do.The canyon jump had you jump, just like bungee jumping, and then swing through a canyon - sounded pretty crazy so I let him do that on his own, making him promise not to die before he left!
The ride up to Murren was pretty nice.The best part was the cable car we got to ride from Lanterbrunnen up the mountain.Once we were up in Lanterbrunnen, we REALLY got a feel of being in the mountains.The Alps are so huge - it was incredible.Even though the elevations of even the tallest Alps are lower than some of the Rocky Mountains, the Alps are definitely taller when you consider the fact that Denver is already a mile above sea level.We were not even at Denver's level until we got to Murren and that was right in the heart of the mountains already!The mountains were towering above us in all directions.We could see snow on some of their tops and we took some nice pictures as we strolled around the town.
Danny ended up meeting us up in Murren earlier than we had expected because the canyon jumping excursion got canceled due to the weather.He showed us a cheese shop he found and we bought some delicious local cheese.Switzerland has cows everywhere!And they all have these cowbells on so you can hear ringing in the mountains all the time.Danny bought a miniature cowbell for himself - not sure what he's going to do with it but it's a good momento…
I guess the clouds followed Danny because pretty soon the whole town was enveloped in clouds.Not just overhead, all around us.We were literally IN the clouds - it was crazy!We took some pictures out of the window of our hotel when all you could see was white EVERYWHERE!
The clouds stayed until the next day and we decided to try to go up to Jungfrau anyway.We hoped that the sun would come out and burn the fog and clouds away at some point and we found a later (overnight) train back to Metz that would allow us to spend the whole day up there - how often do you get to go to the Top of Europe?We knew it would be cold, so we bundled up.We each wore two pairs of pants and several layers on top.
All the way up to Jungfrau, the clouds persisted.When we got up there, all we could see was white everywhere, but we did get to explore the area.They had an awesome "Ice Palace" which was a whole exhibit made entirely out of ice, from floor to ceiling.They had ice sculptures and different displays.We had a lot of fun "bobsledding" as Danny called it through this narrow tunnel - we just ran really fast and glided as far as possible through the winding tunnel…it was pretty amusing.
We went up to the outlook but all we could see was white…lots of snow and then clouds.We took some pictures anyway, had a friendly snowball fight, and headed back inside where we ate lunch - you guessed it, tuna - and sent postcards home that are supposed to be postmarked "from the Top of Europe."Then we tried to find the sledge dogs that we were supposedly going to be able to ride and the free flying disks to sled on. Unfortunately the weather was too bad for the dogs (what kind of sled dogs can't go in snow?) but the disks were available and we did a few runs each down a big snowy slope.They also had skiing available, and if it had been a nicer day we might have considered that, but as it was the sledding was enough time outside!We got to take our pictures with the huskies because we found them inside and then we went up to the "Sphinx" observatory but…again pretty much just saw clouds.
We went back down to Lanterbrunnen, where we hiked up to a cool waterfall, and then hopped another train to Interlaken.On the way, John read something out of a pamphlet from Jungfraujoch that said the entire place is NOT heated.Instead, it is so insulated that they are able to trap everyone's body heat inside of it to keep it warm.There was something else about how they used the cold from the outside to keep the Ice Palace frozen too or something, but I can't remember it - I just thought it was interesting because I am taking this "Sustainability" class here and that is a very good example!
In Interlaken, we went back to get some more pizza (to spend our leftover franks) and then walked back to the train station to come home to Metz.The train ride back was long but Danny and I are pros at sleeping on trains/at train stations now so we didn't have a problem.Erin and John, on the other hand, were not so experienced, didn't get much sleep, and had class RIGHT when we got back.All in all, it was a great weekend!Very different from anything we had done so far, but a well enjoyed break from all that history we have grown so accustomed too (even though we do find it fascinating).
Offto Bratislava next…we'll have to see what that has in store!