The Food, Fun, and Foibles of a First-Time Europe Traveler

Interlaken

Interlaken: On Top of Europe

On top of Europe.

This summer, when we were bragging to everyone about our upcoming trip to Europe, we heard the same thing from several people: “You have to go to Interlaken.” So we headed there expecting a picturesque outdoorsman’s paradise…and that’s exactly what we found.

We arrived at night, so we could only make out the silhouette of the majestic Alps in the dark sky. When we woke up in the morning, we saw what everyone was talking about. Interlaken, besides being situated between two lakes (inter=between, laken=lakes…makes sense), is surrounded by mountains. We’re not talking brown, rolling hills here. I mean legit MOUNTAINS, complete with snow caps and immeasurable peaks.

It had been raining in our time in Switzerland, so it was like a gift of nature when we saw that it was a perfectly clear, relatively warm day. We got our free breakfast (coffee, orange juice, and bread…not toast…bread) and asked the receptionist at our hostel how to get to the tallest mountain there, Jungfraujoch, aka “Top of Europe”. By the way, this was by far the nicest hostel we have seen thus far. Most college kids would beg to have these as dorm rooms. They were incredibly clean, new, and safe, which made us thank the lucky stars that we picked it. It also had a kitchen, which we took advantage of when we tried to get Chinese food later that night and found that it was 20 Swiss francs for Kung Pao Chicken. Instead Hanna made us some delicious spaghetti for 7 euro. That plus the free wireless more than made up from the difference in price of the cheaper hostels (one of which apparently had terrible service, prompting one commenter on hostels.com to exclaim, “Get your act together, Heidi!” I’m not sure if Heidi was the actual name of the receptionist or just a Swiss Miss slur, but it’s hilarious either way).

The receptionist at our hostel explained that we had to take a train to the top of the mountain. This was quite an experience, climbing 11,000 feet on the side of a mountain. The trip was breathtaking, and we took as many pictures as we could before completing the last part of the trip (about 45 minutes) through a tunnel built into the mountain.

When we finally arrived (about 2 ½ hours total), we figured we should get something to eat before exploring. We bypassed the “Self-Restaurant” and the “Bollywood Café” in favor of the more elegant “Crystal Restaurant.” The food was decent, but I think you’re paying for the view. This is what we saw right outside the window.

You pay for the view.

Both Hanna and I got a strange feeling when we were sitting at lunch. We felt sick, out of breath, and had headaches. Suddenly it dawned on us that we were at the top of an 11,000 foot mountain and that we were probably having some trouble breathing in the thin air. It got slightly better when we left, but it was definitely a strange and unpleasant feeling. There were even signs on the stairs reminding people to “walk slowly” as not to lose one’s breath.

It didn't get stuck...

Despite the oxygen problems, the mountain was truly spectacular. We started at the Ice Palace, which was literally a tunnel made of ice and filled with ice sculptures. Not only that, but the ice was incredibly tasty.

After that we headed outside (yikes) and battled the sub-zero wind chill to get to the peak. The views were simply unbelievable. Like, people say that, but this was literally un-believable. We were above the clouds, looking down on valleys and waterfalls and farms. Not to mention the other 6 million mountains surrounding us. Needless to  say we took plenty of pictures that we’ll bore everybody with when we get back…but here’s a glimpse.

Ridiculous.

After taking a quick cow ride, we headed down the mountain. I slept most of the way, presumably because I was about to pass out due to oxygen deprivation (I really don’t belong at high altitudes). We got back and evaded the thousands of Chinese travelers in our kitchen (one of which had a little too much fun that night…we could hear all his fun spilling into the toilet in the room next to us), and Hanna made us a delicious dinner.

Having been thoroughly wowed by the highly-touted Interlaken experience, we left Switzerland happy and made our way to Hanna’s most anticipated stop, Italia.

 

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