It was good to get away from the piddling paper chase, the daily routine, and the monotony of driving to work along the same streets. So when I left on holiday, I chose to appreciate an atmosphere nearer the heavens, surrounded by mountains where the terrain gets high. I found storybook scenery too beautiful to believe, where greenery prevails and lakeshores glisten in perfect mountain-water blue. Whatever my preference, be it recreation or romance, no setting in the world maintains more magnificence than Interlaken, Switzerland.
For me, Swiss railways are unequalled throughout Europe for their comfort and class, so the three-hour train ride from bustling Zurich is well worth the fare in Francs. Journeying across the lush countryside, I cannot dismiss the towering Alps, the charming mountainside villages, or the abundant lakes and white-water rivers that illuminate the region. Stepping from the train, serenity surmounted any concern, fresh air and solitude flooded my senses, and the chatter of thrill-seeking adventurers invaded my ear. This is Interlaken.
The literal translation from the German word “Interlaken” means “between the lakes.” Brisk hikes up rugged mountain trails offer extensive views of the city. From various lookout points, I saw the two great basins of Thun and Brienz, the winding river that runs rushing between them, and the clusters of buildings that span inland from both lakeshores. An excursion not fit for the heavy-footed. Mt. Harder Klum reveals not only the town below, but also the extensive ranges beyond, while higher peaks include the mighty Jungfrau and its perpetually snow-capped summit. Looking down into the heart of town one will observe the green that serves as a landing strip for paragliders, the dauntless dozens that throughout the day swoop from a nearby promontory. For those with a yearning for death-defying leaps, this is the place to be.
Interlaken is the most popular spot in Europe for young backpackers to get their summer dose of adrenaline. Extreme sports play a major role in the city’s appeal. Paragliding, rock-climbing, ice-climbing, rafting, bungee jumping (offering the second-largest leap in the world), canyon-jumping, and parachuting are all available throughout the season. Canyoning, one of the most popular activities, involves a morning drive high into the mountains where day-trippers don a wetsuit and follow the shallow, frigid, rushing watercourse down through a ravine. When one needs to steeply descend, they repel with ropes and a harness or simply jump where the pools run deep enough. In some places, the water cuts smooth into the bedrock and trail leaders give specific instructions so people can safely slide down. Though guides are experts in instruction, the element of danger is always about, and the feeling of exhilaration is nearly unshakeable.
Because most of the sporting takes place in the morning, afternoons in Interlaken consist mostly of less stressful affairs. By midday, the town’s two youth hostels are packed with exhausted clientele. At the Funny Farm, a hostel more likened to a hippie-commune, one can partake among wayfarers lounging by the pool or drinking Crestas (a delicious local brew) in the sun.
Throughout Switzerland, food and accommodations are expensive by most standards. The current exchange rate for 1 U.S. dollar is 1.69 Francs. To put Swiss currency into perspective, twenty pieces of McDonald’s chicken nuggets might cost upwards of 17 Francs, or about $10 U.S. dollars. Visitors will need a small horde of cash in order to make the trip. With proper planning the resourceful traveler can find ways to conservatively manage funds.
Written by Bradley Fink