Peaceful. Staggeringly beautiful. Expensive. As the train pulled to a halt in the town of Spiez, we jumped out of the coach and rushed to the adjacent platform determined to catch our connecting trip to Interlaken. That move proved to be unnecessary. It turns out we had 15 more minutes to spare before our scheduled train’s departure! That was our unprecedented Switzerland welcome: a 4-person marathon – with luggage in tow!
Switzerland accorded us with literally a cold introduction, far from the mild temperature in Milan where we just were merely four hours ago. But that was one of the things we already expected and prepared well for. After all, we were there for a specific purpose: to attempt to scale the Alps. Everything else, we reckoned, would be a bonus. With this in mind, we eagerly donned our full battle gear: layered clothing, bubble jackets, gloves, and snow-proof boots. Bring in the ice, ice baby!
In this whole trip, getting lost became sort of a routine. We actually anticipated this kind of adventure everyday! True to our habit, we spent almost half an hour trying to locate our hotel (which was supposed to be a 10-minute walk from the train station). It lies parallel to a river with the most turquoise-colored waters I’ve ever seen in my life! It was the most expensive hotel we’ve booked in our entire Europe trip. But its location and the vista the hotel’s balcony offers more than make up for the cost of our 2-nights’ stay. In this leg of our trip, we were surprised to find one item which was affordable in our third-world standards: Swiss chocolates!
The hotel’s topmost floor has a fully-functional kitchen that easily converts into a social hall come nighttime. And what do you think happens when you leave Asians in the kitchen? Well, dinner becomes an event! Masterchefs Asia, anyone?
From Interlaken, you can traverse the glaciated terrain by a series of train rides skirting the Swiss Alps to reach Jungfraujoch. Sitting at 11,371 feet above sea level, Jungfraujoch has the rightful claim to the title of Europe’s highest point! The trip to this peak comes with a steep price tag, too. Depending on your location, a return trip will cost somewhere around CHF 204.40 per person (~ PhP 9,600/ US$ 214). It’s best to check the weather forecast before you schedule your trip. If you happen to visit on a cloudy day, that’s US$ 214 down the drain!
Alpine curiosities aren’t the only thing Interlaken offers. This town also packs with thrilling activities enough to keep both adrenaline junkies and curious travelers occupied. A few days before our arrival, Filipina actress Ellen Adarna went paragliding in Zermatt. I swore to replicate this achievement but my siblings were somewhat apprehensive. Mga duwag! Haha! So much for a YOLO moment (and what could have been an awesome selfie profile photo).
During peak travel seasons, visitors can enjoy a romantic cruise or a jet boat excursion in Lake Thun or Lake Brienz, the two lakes marking Interlaken’s geographical location. For those who prefer land-based activities, biking around town would be a good option. You will surely realize that every nook and cranny of this sleepy little town is worthy of being photographed. Don’t know how to ride a bike? Some hostels also offer free guided walking tours! If budget is not an issue, hop on a helicopter for an unobstructed view of the Alps. You can try tandem skydiving, too!
If you asked me a couple of years ago what my favorite European city was, I would’ve answered Prague in a heartbeat. But that has quickly changed the day I set foot on this incredible piece of paradise. Interlaken’s immaculate grandeur – the Swiss Alps, postcard-perfect panoramas, chocolates, – and its genial aura are more than enough reasons to make you ignore the next train out of the city. Japan may be my favorite country, but this would have to be my favorite city/ municipality.