We arrived in Interlaken during the night, our faces plastered against the train windows wondering what magnificent sights we were missing as the train zipped by. Checking into the hostel late wasn’t an issue. We got our skeleton room key, headed up to the third floor and hit the hay. Balmers Herbage Hostel would be home for the next three nights.
The sun came up and we dove for the window. Opening it let in the chilly mountain air and there it was, that beautiful view we imagined the night before. Early morning clouds shadowed the mountains that towered over the little Swedish town. Located ten minutes from the city center and about fifteen from Interlaken West station, the location couldn’t be beat. We got ready and headed downstairs for the free coffee, juice, cereal, toast and yogurt that were available; a typical free hostel breakfast.
Next door to the hostel is Outdoor Interlaken, an adventure sports wonderland. Paragliding, white water rafting, bungee jumping, skydiving and canyoning. You dream it, they do it. Trying not to blow our budget more than we already had, we decided on a mid-price range package. We chose the Vertical Rush, which included the entrance to the Seilpark and canyoning at Grimsel Pass. That cost us a hefty $225 a person. An hour later we got into the van and drove a few minutes to our first activity.
After we were all harnessed up and our death certificates signed, we entered the Seilpark, a forest adventure full of zip lines and obstacle courses suspended 60 feet up in the trees. After being hoisted up 40 feet, we attempted to walk a slack line between the trees, which proved to be impossible for all of us. Next was the base jump simulation. Hooked up to a decelerator, we leaped off the platform, scaring the shit out of all of us because we didn’t know when it would stop our fall. Then came the swing. There was a small slide jetting off the side of the platform that we were instructed to sit on. Kali went first and after getting tied in she shoved herself off the slide only to hear our guide yell, “WATCH OUT FOR THAT TRUCK!” The swing went right over the road and she sailed clear over the truck. After the screaming was done and we all took our turns swinging, we rode a 500-foot long zip line out of the canopy and down to the entrance of the ropes course. For the next few hours we would be climbing from tree to tree attaching our own harnesses, moving through obstacles suspended 40-60 feet in the air and zip lining from one challenge to the next. It really kicked our asses, but it was a lot of fun even in the rain. We took off to rest up because a cold day in the canyon was still to come.
That night, we were tired, but we were thirstier. With a little searching we found Hüsi Bierhaus. They had a delicious west-coast style IPA and some cider for our gluten intolerant companion, Kali. They had live music, good local food and a great beer selection. It was off the main road a bit and packed with more locals than tourists, which seemed to be a rarity in this area. After a few beers and a good meal we were ready for bed.
The next morning we awoke with excitement and headed for Grimsel Pass. A sleepy one-hour ride later, we pulled over on the side of a winding mountain road. Motorcycles whizzing by and clouds resting halfway up the snow-capped mountains, we jumped out of the van and got half naked in a farmer’s field to change into our attire for the day. Wetsuits on, we got back in and took a short ride up the mountain only to stop again on the side of the road. Confused we jumped out with all our gear and the van took off.
Next thing you know we’re being belayed down 150 feet by our new Scottish friend Lain. “You’ll know when you hit the bottom when your feet are cold and wet” he told us as he lowered us down the cliff.
One by one we landed in the icy water. After we were all down, nipples piercing wetsuits and manly parts hiding for their life, we made our way through Grimsel. The water was ice cold; being fed from the glaciers above us we didn’t expect anything else. We threw ourselves off rock ledges into pools of glacier water, glided down natural rock slides and froze our asses off for almost two hours. You would never know how cold we were by looking at our faces. Our lips were quivering, but we were grinning from ear to ear. After the trip, we changed out of our wetsuits in the same field as earlier, only this time the brisk mountain air was refreshing compared to the artic water in our boots. Outdoor Interlaken provided us with some sandwiches and cold beers after we changed into some dry clothes, which was just what we needed after that adventure.
The next day we took a quick ten-minute ride on the funicular railway up 1,322 meters to the top of Interlaken, called Harder Kulm. A round trip up and back down the mountain will set you back 30 francs. Luckily for us, Balmer’s provides their guests with a Visitors Card, which entitled us to a half price rail way ticket as well as free public transportation and other discounts throughout the city. When we reached the top of Harder Kulm, we weaved our way through the selfie sticks long enough to get a few pictures for ourselves. After our photo shoot, we had a few beers and hung out in our Eno Hammocks. The clouds were looking ominous and in a few minutes we found ourselves running for the railway as the rain came down. Our day outside was over.
You may have seen pictures and postcards of Switzerland, but you can’t fully appreciate its beauty until you see it in person. That blue water you see in all the pictures is really that blue in person. Lake Brienz is said to be so clean that there isn’t enough algae and nutrients in the water to support life, so don’t bother fishing there, although some still try. Maybe they know something we don’t…
Either way, Interlaken will always hold a special place in our hearts. We had the time of our lives there and those memories will be with us forever. We love you Interlaken.
Until next time…