Published: June 2nd 2007June 2nd 2007
We got to Milan Centrale station with about 45 minutes to kill before our train to Spiez, Switzerland rolled away, so we bought paninis and sat on the cool concrete floors of the station. When 10:30am came around, we boarded the train, and five minutes later we were headed towards Switzerland. It was a very scenic train ride throughout the Italian portion and the Swiss portion. In Italy, the train went along Lake Cuomo and of course as we approached Switzerland, the Italian Alps were before us and then in an instant they became the Swiss Alps. When we crossed the border into Switzerland, the train stopped at the next town, the train crew got off and a new crew came on and checked our passports and Eurail Passes. We were also faced with a new language, German. We had just become pretty knowledgeable in Italian and now that was all out the window, even though we thanked the Swiss train crew in Italian on accident.
The train began its assent into the mountains and the landscape from the train was just walls of steep jagged peaks, some with patches of snow on top. After numerous tunnels and slow climbs,
we weren’t looking up on the mountains anymore, but halfway up them, chugging along the edges. It was amazing, looking down into the valleys and across them at the other peaks. The valleys looked like green velvet carpet that a child had built a bunch of Lincoln Log homes on. So many waterfalls too, just barreling down the edges of these peaks, the water probably from the snow melting from the tops.
Maybe two hours later we were in Spiez. Stepped off the train, the cool Alpine breeze smacked us across the face, but it was refreshing and not too chilly. We then had to board a twenty minute train ride to Interlaken which ran along the western lake that borders the city. Got off the train, looked at our printed directions to the hostel and embarked through the quiet streets of Interlaken. It was cloudy in the area, so the high peaks were hidden, but we could see the gray and black cliffs of some of them and the tree invested foothills of some. We made to Balmer’s, the famous or infamous hostel depending on who you talk to, and checked in. The hostel was like a large cabin that reminded me of how the Winchester Mystery House in California must be like. There are just rooms for laundry, TV, computers, hammocks, and sitting just scattered all over with a lot of twists and turns. There are two buildings and in the courtyard between them is a bunch of picnic tables were you can eat or just hang out. We dropped our bags off in the room and being that it was around 2pm, we went out in search of food. As we were leaving I asked an employee of Balmer’s, an Australian guy, where some good authentic Swiss food might be. He said in the central part of town, there is a good place right next to the Hooter’s. Strange that they had a Hooter’s in Interlaken, but it’s a big extreme sports city where you can skydive, hang-glide, paraglide, river rafting, just about anything that gives you an adrenaline rush. So we set out into town, found the main street, but couldn’t find the Hooter’s, and of course we didn’t want to ask anyone where the Hooter’s is located, they would really think we were ignorant Americans, coming all the way to Switzerland to only eat at a Hooter’s. Even though we were lost, its hard to complain when you are surrounding by amazing views and interesting shops, a lot of watch and chocolate shops.
Finally got the gusto to ask a lady in a store where the Hooter’s is and she said we were almost there, just a little farther down the main street. Walked some more, saw the orange awnings sticking out, found the Interlaken Hooter’s and, just like the Aussie said, there was a little restaurant next door. We sat down, asked the waitress for some Swiss beer, and she brought us two glasses of Rugenbrau, which is brewed in one of the mountains just outside of town. It was a light lager, kind of like Budweiser, but about 100 times better tasting and it was so crisp, it was refreshing. Unfortunately, it was in between lunch and dinner, so they were only serving sandwiches, which we were bummed about, we wanted the traditional hash brows covering in melted cheese, but we ordered two sandwiches anyways. They were still good. The restaurant was right by a park where the paragliders land, so we just watched them gracefully touch down and waved to a couple.
After lunch, we walked to a chocolate shop, bought some Swiss chocolate gifts to bring home, and I bought a little piece of “dunkel” with nuts in it for the walk back to the hostel. Incredibly good. We then walked over to a river that runs through town, the river connects the western lake and the eastern lake. The water is this steel turquoise color that I have never seen before. We walked along the river until it met the eastern lake and took some pictures and stared across the massive lake.
Walked back to the hostel and hung out for a bit. A couple hours later they were serving dinner in the courtyard, so jumped in line. Richard had a burger and I had the bratwurst. In Switzerland and Germany, no bun with a bratwurst, you eat it with a fork and knife. Not bad for hostel food.
At 9pm, we went downstairs to the Metro Bar the hostel runs out of its basement. It was happy hour, so two for one beers. The place had small groups of people already in it, watching, yelling, and cheering at a rugby match between South African and England. At least it wasn’t cricket, but still knew little about the rules of the game. An hour later the place was packed. Richard and I were all about the Rugenbraus. We ended up talking to these local Swiss kids. There were actually a lot of Swiss kids there, but few of them knew English, or maybe they just didn’t want to talk to us. But the Swiss kids we first talked to were really nice. It was more like shouting, because the music was loud. It was funny to hear their thoughts on America and of course, they asked us questions about politics and what we thought about this and that. After about another hour or two, the place just got too loud and smoky and I couldn’t squeeze another Rugenbrau into my belly, so left and just walked around Interlaken, got a little lost, but it was nice being outside in a chilly place, in disbelief that I am in Switzerland, engulfed by the Alps. Walked back to the hostel and Richard was just going to bed. He had hung out with the Swiss kids some more. Tomorrow we might rent some scooters and drive around Interlaken and maybe into the mountains some. Then we will head deep into the Alps, on a cliff overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, in a small village called Gimmelwald. Very excited for it. Interlaken is a cool place if you are into the extreme sports thing or curious about it. Think it would fun to come back here with a group of guys and do all the activities. It’d even be a great place to come back to and do absolutely nothing but relax and bask in the mountain air.