The Amazing Interlaken
Buried deep in the Swiss Alps, and nestled neatly in between two lakes, Interlaken is a tale of two cities. First there's Interlaken in the winter, quieter than the summer months but one of the best places in Europe to engage in adrenalin-pumping outdoor winter sports. Then there's Interlaken in the summer, a livelier city with even more outdoor sports and some great hiking. If you're not the outdoorsy type, don't fret. Thanks to the surrounding mountains and lakes, it's worth visiting for the scenery alone.
Unfortunately, I was coming here during neither of those times, but I have heard so much praise for the area over the last few days that I decided to check it out and got on the train after spending a few hours in Bern. I am sure glad I decided to make the unplanned stop there.
Interlaken a small city in the heart of Switzerland, located between two large lakes (hence the name) and surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Europe. The views of the lake Thun from the train were already amazing - a large (very large), blue, calm body of water surrounded by beautiful mountains dotted with picturesque little towns all over the place. It was definitely the most scenic train ride I have ever taken. The views, once I got to Interlaken, did not disappoint either. Everywhere I looked, there were mountain peaks covered with snow that looked even more amazing with the sun setting down.
Funny Farm Hostel In Interlaken
The walk to the Funny Farm hostel took about 15 minutes and everything seemed to be way too quiet. I discovered the reason for that once I checked in - the season is over already so the town is pretty empty. Because of that I got 'upgraded' to a four person dorm instead of the eight person room I booked. The hostel itself was a part of a larger hotel and as such did not have any kitchen facilities, meaning another cold dinner for me (after I found an open grocery store, which was not an easy feat on a Saturday evening).
There are many hikes and trains to other towns up in the mountains that can be taken from Interlaken, including going up to the 'top of Europe' - the Jungfrau peak (elevation 3454 meters/11332 feet). Unfortunately, it gets pretty expensive pretty fast, and requires a lot of time which I did not have leaving the next afternoon. If given enough time, one can buy a train pass for the region good for six days for close to 200 CHF , which I do plan on taking advantage of the next time I am back (it really is not the question of if, only when).
Hiking Harder Kulm
Because of time constraints, I decided to take the funicular to Harder Kulm which is situated on the side of town opposite to the highest peaks and, as such, offers a great viewing of those. While it takes less than ten minutes to get up there, the funicular itself has an interesting history of being the first in the area, opened way back in 1907 and unlike the other funiculars I have experienced before, it does not go straight up, but rather bends pretty significantly over its 721 meter/2365 foot journey. This was done to address locals' concerns about the impact on the environment (yes, even back then).
Soon after we started our ride to the top, we entered the cloud layer, but just as fast, we emerged above it to the bright sunshine and spectacular views of the mountains and fog-covered valleys. Once we reached the top, it was a couple minutes walk to the Harder Kulm restaurant/observation area where everyone seemed to enjoy the breathtaking views and the sunshine. I was afraid that it will get pretty cold at the top so I brought some extra layers with me, but that was not necessary as the sun was warming everything up.
After taking a few pictures, I decided to go on a hike as there were multiple trails around according to my map. Unfortunately, there were no signs in English and the directions they showed did not really match anything on the map I had so I was not sure which hike I was going on, but it appeared to be the only one available so it was an easy choice.
The first part of the hike was through the woods and the trail was pretty wide in most places and not near the edge. I got to the first sign post where the trail was splitting into two, but once again, it was an easy choice as the walk to the right was tapped off for some reason. After that point, the trail became pretty thin and eventually it was running right on the side of a pretty steep drop off and required some quick thinking to allow the hikers coming in the other direction to pass.
The next splitting point allowed to continue to move along or turn to the left and hike up the hill which was what I chose. It was a pretty steep and narrow one, but it did not take me long to reach the top where there were a few clearings providing spectacular views of the mountains, Interlaken and surrounding towns, the lakes and the valleys on the other side of the mountain. Almost all of the clouds have cleared up by now around Interlaken, but there was still a solid layer over the lake Thun valley. After snapping a few pictures, I destroyed the little food I brought with me and hung out at the top for a bit waiting for a couple people to leave from the other corner as it was so narrow that I could not walk over there while there was someone else.
Finally, they left and I walked over there to snap some photos, but it turned out that my corner was better anyways. It was time to start heading back and at that point it was pretty much always in the downhill direction, so it took me about thirty minutes to reach the restaurant as opposed to about an hour and a half that I spent hiking out (although I did spend about 30 minutes resting and typing up my post about Bern).
It turned out that I just missed the ride down and had to wait another half an hour so I went to the restaurant in hope of getting some overpriced coffee and dessert. After waiting 15 minutes and not having any luck catching anyone's attention, I left and decided to try my luck at the bottom. Once we got down, I had just about ten minutes to grab some food at a grocery store's buffet, which was my first hot meal in days, before I had to catch the bus back to the hostel. I grabbed my things and walked back to the train station just in time to get on the next train to Lucern.
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