The hotel we stayed at in Interlaken was probably our favorite through the whole trip. The accommodations were simple, but it was run more like a hostel or bed and breakfast than a hotel, and we love that type of charm. When we arrived at Hotel Rossli Sunday night, we were treated to hot chocolate, and a plethora of relaxing things to do. When we woke up in the morning, and walked out onto our balcony, we realized what a perfect place we had chosen to stay. All around us were towering mountains, the tips covered in snow. We had officially arrived in the Alps.
Our plan that day was a little vague since the research we had done before leaving, was not as informative as we had hoped. However, our goal was to get up into the mountains and explore around. First we caught bus just a block from our hotel, then a train up into the canyon town of Lauterbrunnen. We didn’t stay there longer than the time to catch a gondola to take us up into the mountain (our view of Lauterbrunnen from the gondola can be seen below). From there we had one final train to take us to the mountain town of Murren. If I haven’t praised it enough, the Swiss Rail Pass covers all of these different modes of transportation, normally a round trip like this would cost up to 100 CHF per person. It was well worth the initial shocking investment but ended up saving us hundreds of CHF.
Upon arrival in Murren, between it still being early as well as being the off season, the town was still quiet. We were just fine with that as our goal was to hike. Armed with water and snacks to last us through the day, we began our search of a trail head. We didn’t have to hunt for a trail for long before we saw the yellow diamond with the word Wanderweg (translates to trail) printed on it. For the next four hours, we wandered trail after trail, guided by the illuminated geometric form. Some were steep and muddy, some covered in snow, but we didn’t mind either because we were in the most incredible looking mountains that we have ever seen. Kyle and I both grew up going to the mountains near our homes, and have always had a love of being on those rocky and forested slopes. This experience took that love to a whole new height, literally and metaphorically.
During our hiking we didn’t see a single person. We had the trails to ourselves. That is, until we were taking a break at the top of a trail, and suddenly we realized that a woman was climbing up the opposite side of the slopes. We greeted her in German, and then asked if she spoke English (like many well educated Swiss, she actually spoke German, French, and English). We then proceeded to have a lovely conversation with her. She and her husband were retired and living in Murren on a little farm. She was simply out getting her morning walk which started in Winteregg (a train stop down the mountain), and ended back at home. Doesn’t that sound like an amazing life? I think I could handle living like that. In the end she had to continue her exercise, but not before we persuaded her to take our picture.
We were both getting hungry, so we decided it was time to hike back down to Murren. Along the way, we happened to walk through the part of the mountain filled with little farms and livestock. While we had been hiking, there always seemed to be cowbells tinkling in the distance, making the hills seem almost mystical. At first we thought they were all the way down in the base of the canyon. As it turns out, the were just a short ways down our hiking trail. Even now, when I think of hiking there, my memory hears that echoing chime of bells in connection with the view.
Our trail popped us out near another gondola lift to go down into the canyon. We didn’t have any set plans, and didn’t have to pay an additional fee to use it, so we hopped on merely to get a different view of the mountains. When we reached the bottom, we found another trail along a river. We didn’t go far before I spotted three dark forms running along the side of the cliffs. I wasn’t able to get a picture, but I believe it was a mama bear and two cubs. We waited for a while to see if we would have another sighting. Unfortunately, that never happened, but we did get to watch base jumpers cascading down the side sheer slope.
We didn’t stay down there long since it wasn’t really more than a transit area between the base of the canyon and the station at the top of the gondola. Upon arrival at the top, we stopped in a restaurant for some lunch. I ordered an amazingly delicious kebab and Kyle had creamy broccoli soup with a mountain meat and cheese sandwich. I wouldn’t mind having another one right now. Though I didn’t take a picture of the view, the restaurant was settled just near the edge of the cliff, allowing us to enjoy the view as well as base jumpers and para-sailors get their adrenaline pumping.
After a quick jaunt through town, and a stop into one store to purchase our one souvenir of the trip, a cowbell, we jumped back on the train. Upon arrival in Lauterbrunnen, we set out to get a better view of Trummelbach Falls. The falls are visible through most of town because of their towering location on the mountain, which allowed us to simply follow a road that led that direction. I would love to be able to go back to Lauterbrunnen during the summer to see what it is like then. Most of the shops were closed up then, but I can imagine they would be fun to explore during the height of the travel season.
We had plans for later that night, so we needed to get back to the train station. Like before, we missed the train going back down the mountain by a minute. Since the next train wasn’t coming for an hour, we decided to take a little detour and take another train to Wengen, which was on the opposite side of the cannon. It was free with our Swiss Pass and we had time to kill, so we jumped on, merely to check out the scenery. I am so grateful we did, as the views we were able to take in were stunning. The sun was starting to set, so the mountains were illuminated in a way that was magical. Not bad for a last minute change of plans.
Because of our detour, by the time we made it back to hotel, there was not time to shower, just to change into fresh clothes. We then walked through town to Schuh, a restaurant and gourmet chocolate shop. Though the food looked amazing, we were there for a chocolate show. During the show, we were walked through the intense process of making the famous Swiss chocolate, given an abundance of samples, and allowed to help make our own set of chocolates. When we left the show, I felt like I was waddling from all the chocolate we had eaten. Sadly, we didn’t feel guilty about our over indulgence at all. How often does one find themselves in the Swiss Alps being urged to sample a variety of indulgent chocolate?
As if we hadn’t indulged enough, there was one more thing we needed to try while in Interlaken. During our research for our trip, we had discovered the place to get the best fondue, Restaurant Chalet (If you plan on going here, please dress up more than we did. We felt very out of place.). Again, the off season served us well as we were treated to a complimentary appetizer, pickled beet wrapped around a soft cheese with balsamic sauce, as we were deciding what to order. At this point, my pregnant stomach was not feeling so well, so I opted not to get fondue, and go for something a bit less aromatic. However, Kyle ordered his helping and thought it was incredibly delicious. What’s not to love about cheese, meat, vegetables, and bread?
The downside of only using a backpack to carry your stuff means that you run out of clothes pretty quickly. We had each packed enough for three days of outfits, and worn the fourth (remember how the first two days we stayed in the same clothes when we arrived in Geneva). We had planned it this way because we knew Hotel Rossli had a washer and dryer available. The rest of the night was spent washing and repacking laundry as we watched The Hobbit (in German – which made it very entertaining). We didn’t mind, though. This day had definitely been the highlight of our trip, as as amazing as it had been, we were exhausted.