Dated – September, 2011
Nothing, and I really mean nothing, prepares you for the beauty that is Switzerland. As the train weaves through Interlaken, the scenery that unfolds in front of you is humbling. No prizes for guessing what I was up to while the train chugged into Interlaken. I slept like a baby! Paris and all the incessant walking had taken its toll (or so I’d like you to believe). I did wake up in time to see the train entering Lauterbrunnen and I knew the moment I woke up that this was going to be the high point of the trip!
Lauterbrunnen is a small U-shaped valley between two very steep rock faces. Don’t want to bore you with trivia you can find on Google. All I can say is that it is picture perfect. 🙂 The moment you step out of the station, the scenery stuns you. The view is straight out of a post card. A waterfall to the right. Lush green hills to the left. Ice capped mountains towering from all sides. One small quaint lane with people like us just walking idly. And a happy onset-of-winter kind of a chill in the air. Its the sort of a place where all you’d want to do is sit in the sun, drink hot chocolate and go on very very long walks!
The hostel we stayed in was one of the nicest for the entire trip – Valley Hostel! A garden with hammocks outside. Comfy dorms and a well equipped kitchen. And balconies with a view! Imagine waking up and walking out to the balcony, just to see a train (the kind that belongs to pretty hill stations) chugging up on the lush green hill I mentioned before. Perfect morning, right! 🙂 So, check-in was at 2 pm. To kill time, we walked over to the first cafe we saw. That place was such a find! Called Air Time. If you ever go there, you MUST eat the brownies. They were the melt-in-your-mouth kind. The kind which you dream about months later and still wake up drooling. 😛
After stuffing ourselves and checking in, we did the next obvious thing. Went for a long walk. I’d rather let the pictures speak for themselves, because words won’t do any good! 🙂 Saw Staubbach and Pissbach falls. The latter did look like someone was peeing from top. It was such a trickle! Trivia – Lauterbrunnen has 72 waterfalls!
The good thing about such trips is you meet new people. And if the new people are nice and fun too, its an added bonus. Switzerland was remarkable in many ways because of the people we met. The first day while we walked around in Lauterbrunnen, we met Krish. A student from London with an itinerary that had me very jealous. A quick exchange of hellos later, we realized that he was staying in the same hostel and in the very same room! Small world, eh? 🙂 The other new person on the trip was Chango, who was due to arrive next day. If you hear a really really bad joke, am sure he had a hand in coming up with it! 😀 Chango with his bottle of Jagermeister and wine (we had put conditions on his joining the trip! :P) was quite the ‘high’ point of the trip. 😛 There was also this old man from the US who preached for hours together, but well, he was not a lot of fun. Thanks to the old man, some of us got their brain frozen while sitting in the balcony, just to avoid listening to him!
Next day, our plan was to go to Schilthorn. I know, I know..everyone goes to the Jungfrau, top of Europe and all that. But, they charge 160 Euros just to go there! It was one of our wiser decisions I think. We chose to go to Schilthorn, which cost us all of 40 Euros (the hostel gave a 40% discount!). Now, if you don’t know about the place, this is where a few scenes of the Bond movie ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was shot. You can’t help but notice Bond memorabilia all over the place! So to reach Schilthorn, you first take a cable to Mürren. We spent a couple of hours there, walking around and soaking up the sun.
From there, it is a very steep cable ride to Schilthorn. I was switching between very scared and very awed by the view. Once at the top, the scared bit goes away. Almost. You see clouds when you look down. Valleys and mountains in every possible direction! We saw families and old couples hiking up this mountain! With an ease, that put us to shame.
It was S’ first snow moment. Yes, I know. Not the Himalayas, but Swiss Alps to see snow for the first time! 😀 She was like a kid caught in a candy store. Threw minuscule balls of snow at us. Hop-skip-jumped all over the place. Nicely walked to the end of the mountain trail and then disappeared promptly. We ran in a typical Bollywood melodramatic fashion, just to find her chilling on a rock face right below the trail! Kids I tell you!
There is a revolving restaurant right in the middle, which serves much needed hot chocolate and super desserts. I’ve forgotten what we tried, but I do remember being very very happy after all the eating and drinking. Oh, a note for the photographers. Carry your tripod to Schilthorn and shoot HDR pics. You will be charmed by the result!
We walked down from Mürren to Stechelberg. You can never get enough of the place. Long winding roads with snow capped mountains by your side. That beauty of a walk is my inspiration to settle down in one of those small villages and make cheese for a living! 😀 Evening was spent drinking wine and cooking some..well, lets call it interesting pasta, for the lack of a better word! It was one of those evenings when you don’t really realize how time flies by or how loud your conversations are. You are just content being happy and high and very merry!
Next day, we went to the other side of the mountains. We took the train up to Wengen. There is a small church at the end of the town, by the edge of the mountain which is quite a sight. So, this day we were supposed to go parasailing. We started with thoughts of skydiving, but the sky high prices put us in our places. Parasailing was the next best bet. Julian and his friend (cant remember his name) were our instructors. The jump site was a little above Mürren. While we huffed and puffed to the jump site, Julian lugged the parasailing kit (which weighs over 30 kgs!) as if it was cotton! Now, I could describe how it felt jumping off the cliff and gliding through the mountains but I am sure I’ll fall short. Julian taught us how to maneuver the sail, how to catch the wind and go in the desired direction and then he took us down in a whirlwind spin (it was his idea of having some fun!). Fun it was! For once, I wasn’t white as a sheet when pics were clicked. I smiled. This is a much recommended thing to do if you come down here!
After parasailing, we headed to Trummelbach Falls. This is a unique one. Glaciers drain here to create this waterfall. And its unique because you need to go inside a cave and up a tunnel to see it. The force of the water is scary strong here.
We walked all the way back from Trummelbach to the hostel. Then, the customary drinking began to get over the chill (and to avoid the old man!). Between S, Chango and I, we finished an entire bottle of Jagermeister. The two kids contributed majorly, while I was the partially sober caretaker. Once that bottle was done, we headed out to the best pub in town (because they are the only pub in town! :D). That’s actually their tag line. 🙂 Either that place was very nice or we were too drunk to differentiate. I’d like to go with the former. We had a super time there! Just the way a fabulous two days in Swiss should end!
We left our hearts behind in that small quaint village. I know I will go back there some day. For those brownies. The walks in the lush mountains. The general aura of happiness that was always there. I am sure Po’s Inner Peace exists somewhere around here. If you do visit this place, put Grindelwald on your itinerary too. Very near and very beautiful. We headed to Zurich from Lauterbrunnen. Spent half a day there, so don’t have much to write about. The half day was spent catching up with a friend and talking about how brilliant Lauterbrunnen was! But we weren’t very sad about leaving the place behind. Because the next stop was Oktoberfest! \m/