Flashback to Easter weekend 2017:
I found myself strolling the streets of a small Swiss town known for it's outdoor adventure, lying below towering mountains between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. In Interlaken, you're just as likely to see a swirling human paragliding in the sky as you are a bird catching mountain breezes. April in this central Swiss town is quiet, between the winter and summer high tourist seasons. After stopping in the local grocery store and picking up more chocolate bunnies than we'd planned on -- I mean I ate a disgusting amount of chocolate bunnies over five days -- myself, Meg and Helene (my travel sistahs) found ourselves strolling in the misty, quiet streets below the mountains. The mountain peaks pierced the clouds, gifting us with glimpses only momentarily. Do people even live here!? It was that silent. A silent storybook setting.
Backup - how did we get there?
The three of us flew on Ryan Air from Dublin, Ireland to Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland. We had pre-booked a driver to bring us to Interlaken. It was nearly the same cost as all of us arriving via public transportation at the time. Might I HIGHLY recommend Josko Ben! He took great care us and carried lively conversations on our way back to Zurich after our Interlaken stay.
We were dropped right at our ADORABLE hostel (also home to the best nightclub in town!?) and immediately found ourselves lounging and feeling right at home in Balmers hammock room. It was quiet and cool mountain breezes were finding their way through the cracks of the wooden board walls. Before we arrived we'd bought a handle of vodka at the Zurich airport duty free shop in anticipation of how crazy expensive Switzerland can be. It was ambitious. We sold the remaining 3/4 of the handle to some young men five days later. Anyways.
Balmers Hostel gave us bus passes to use for the duration of our stay and had maps and suggestions for things to do. Cue us being dead set on paragliding atop the Swiss Alps. Ahhhh. We'd decided on purchasing pasta and shredded cheese, as well as a loaf of bread to feast on all week, because balling on a budget. And some lettuce -- can't forget the greens (but really, we mostly ate mac and cheese for five days.) Plus, the hostel had a nicely stocked kitchen, perfect for cooking and socializing.
We found two adventuresome, chatty Australian girls who looked to be in their early twenties in our bunk room. (Hey Cara and Kristin!) The two of them were doing a six month European backpacking tour to celebrate finishing school. Interlaken was one of their first stops. It was one of our last. Needless to say, the five of us hit it off and when we set out to paraglide the next day, they had already booked a skydiving adventure.
Paragliding In The Alps
We booked "Paragliding Experience from Interlaken" through TripAdvisor's Viator and it was somewhere between $150 and $200. We paid extra to get our raw videos. I spared you my cheesy-ass self and cut it down to a less-cringey 30 second video.
The tour company was run by locals and our instructors could not have been friendlier. Mine was fittingly named Geronimo. We were picked up in a van and drove to the top of a nearby cliff where we then saddled up, and were instructed to basically run off the side of a mountain. Next thing I knew I was floating in the Alps above rivers so crystal clear you could see the riverbeds from hundreds of feet up. While the majority of the experience is a peaceful glide, Geronimo ramped it up at the end, swirling us in tornado like circles, catching pockets of warm air to glide us back up. Gosh, the views were breathtaking. We reached the bottom sad to be finished but happy to take our videos for keepsake.
Interlaken Bar Crawl
Okay, this one in hindsight is just funny. We signed up for this bar crawl looking to meet some young and fun people in this seemingly empty, mysterious, beautiful town. The humorous part is that where we were staying, was in fact, the most fun bar/nightclub of them all. We hopped around for a while led by a local man, blonde and fair skinned as you can imagine, checking out cute little bars all of which seemed too far apart. Long story short, the best part was letting loose with our new Aussie and Canadian friends and getting to break open our entirely too large a purchase of vodka.
The days felt long and relaxing and we made our way through most all stretches of town. We did a ropes course, had local foods, bussed around to the two lakes, trained to Lauterbrunnen where we walked in snow and rain and sunshine and explored the stunning Trümmelbach Falls, a series of ten glacier-fed waterfalls inside the mountain only accessible thanks to human tunneling systems. We became friendly with Czech workers who were making updates to the hostel in the off-season and were happy to practice English over beers.
Dining on Top of the World
We had met another friendly gal in the hostel. If I'm being perfectly honest I cannot remember her name or face or native country -- nothing. Nonetheless, she informed us of First Berggasthaus Mountain Restaurant on Jungfrau, one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps. For a small price, we took a gorgeous, jaw-dropping gondola ride up the side of the mountain and ate with panoramic views of the Alps and the valleys below. The entire valley soon filled with fog, but even watching such a thing happen takes your breath away. The scale is unlike anything in the world.
Interlaken in the off-season was a place of magical mystery. One of misty mountains and intricate Swiss architecture. A place where we became friends with strangers and immersed in adventure and spent A LOT of moolah. Sorry, not romantic enough? I mean, we could barely afford a pancake in the airport on the way home.
Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen were only small tastes of what I hope to continue to explore in the beautiful country of Switzerland.