You foxy little town.
This place is unreal.
Everywhere you look is a scene meant for a postcard. And my camera doesn’t even do 50% of the justice this scenery deserves. The lens can’t seem to catch the depth of the mountain I was looking up at, or the way the fog comes up through the trees. But I guess some scenes aren’t meant to be captured in a printable image. You have to be there to understand how it feels to be in that space, breathing the fresh, misty, alpine air, and constantly gazing up at the mountains that break through the clouds above. Truly breathtaking. That’s the best way to describe Switzerland.
My first glance of Switzerland’s natural beauty wasn’t until we were on our train to Interlaken Ost. As my heavy eyes were bobbing closed, I caught a glimpse of white through the thick trees. Snow? Seemed unlikely considering the low altitude and the fact that I was sweating in my tank top in the Basel Airport. The trees would thicken again for a few minutes and I’d scrunch my eyes, waiting for a slight thinning to catch another glance. Then suddenly, as if a curtain was pulled back, the trees ended and before me opened a vast lake with several peaks lining the sky. It was the most picturesque scene I had ever laid eyes on and I felt my jaw drop off its hinges. I was star-struck… No, I was nature-struck. I immediately shoved the legs of a very deeply sleeping Alex and pointed to the window like a little kid pointing at Mickey Mouse.
“Woahhhhh” she mumbled in a groggy sleep induced daze. Her sleepy eyes were glued to the window, just as mine were. I immediately grabbed my camera and began to take a couple 4-second videos for the video I was going to try to make. (I’m aspiring to be like Ben Brown, you see).
My second jaw dropping nature moment, was before we had checked into the hostel. While we were waiting for reception to open up, I began walking around the grounds of the hostel. It sat perched up on the mountain, with several levels of plateaued grassy space.
The first level down was the wooded balcony that consisted of tables with benches and a few lounge chairs, where Alex sat journaling. The second level down had a fire pit with a few rusty chairs surrounding it, with an old lime green ping pong table to the right. A set of stone/grassy(/steep as hell) steps took you down the final plateau. This one was the largest and spanned out the farthest. Immediately to the left I saw an old wooden shed with peeling paint. I came closer and saw a small hole cut out of the left hand corner. The hole led out to a rather large green space, fenced off with hexagonal chicken wire. I squatted down to get a better and look and out popped a hen! It bobbed past me with a skeptical glance. It would walk with it tail to my face, occasionally turning its head backwards to cast it’s untrusting glance my way. While it did it’s dance, I got up to continue my exploration. The first thing I saw when I turned away from the skeptical hen was a rickety wooden sled. It had two pots of vibrant red flowers spilling over the sides and looked extremely stereotypically and beautifully Swiss. Taking a bunch of several-second-videos as I walked, I couldn’t help but applaud myself for getting such great footage. If this video doesn’t turn out great, it would be on the fault of my poor movie-maker skills, certainly not the scenes around me. Walking around the side of the chalet, there was another set of steep stone steps with grass peeking though the crevices. At the top of the steps was a wooden trough full of water. At the front of the trough was a metal pipe, resembling a gooseneck, with water gently streaming out. The sound was that of a peaceful Chinese water garden. A few more steps up the gravel trail and I was back at the front of the hostel.
I reentered through the front door and started making my way through the various dark wood-paneled rooms. Most of the rooms towards the left side of the hostel seemed to be dedicated to eating areas, as there were lots of tables with mismatching chairs and benches. One room must have been the buffet room because there were several long empty tables against the wall, a rolling cart of trays, and a sign in a different language with cartoon coffee cups on it.
Which, speaking of language, we’ve yet to figure out what they speak. Both Alex and I thought they spoke French, but it’s most definitely not. Sounds more like Dutch, maybe German, but I can’t be too sure.
Any who, after exploring the hostel we were to check in at the front desk. The young woman at the front desk was very helpful. She asked us how our day was going and wanted to know where we had traveled before. After paying our fees, our room keys were handed over: room 225 in the “new building”, next door. We were given a receipt that contained the wifi password (bless up), which only worked in the lobby (bless less), a handful of maps and brochures, and two lovely little candies. Instead of going over to the room to check it out, our connection deprived minds went straight to a table to get online.
I never realized how dependent on Google I was until I was lost at the train station of Grindelwald, begging for a sign from above (or at least a wifi signal) to pull up a GPS.
I texted the momma and the boyfriend to let them know I had arrived safely to the hostel, and began looking through the map to see what I could understand. Which wasn’t much.
Once Alex and I both got our fill of the wifi, we picked up our bags and trudged our way back out of the front door over to the deep-brown, wooden building next door.
The room, in my opinion, was quite perfect.
As I scanned the electric key card, the door opened to an immediate view of the mountains straight ahead. To the right were a set of four wall to ceiling lockers. Two of the keys were missing from the lockers, so our roommates were definitely here already. To the left was a sink and vanity mirror, as well as four hooks screwed into the wall. A very large sliding gray door separated this area from the next. Walking through, four bunk beds came into view, two on either side, with a stack of neatly folded sea foam green and coral linens resting on the left-side bunk. The right bunk’s sheets were already adorning the mattresses, yet they were very much slept in and shuffled. On the back wall, a bench lined the entire stretch of the wall and right above it, large windows touched wall to wall, ceiling to bench. The view? Unbeatable. Whoever our roommates were, they had left the two middle windows perched opened and the curtains pushed back. I could hear the slight wind rustling through the trees and the birds chirping away, clearly please with their home. It was almost painfully picturesque. I couldn’t quite seem to grasp it all at once. My brain was in nature-shock. The showers and toilets were across the hall, but we chose to view that as a minor detail. It just meant we wouldn’t disturb our roommates as much! Alex kindly gave me the bottom bunk, and we went to work making our beds.
Without hesitation I plopped into bed as soon as I made it, sleep threatening to pull me under. Knowing I’d mess up my sleep later if I crashed now, I got up to attempt to make myself less… “travel-worn” shall I say. By time I was finished with my makeup, it was almost 6, so I woke Alex up and told her we should head into town for dinner.
We stopped in reception to ask about the buses and restaurant recommendation. The recommendations? They sounded lovely. The fact that the bus stopped running at 6? Not so lovely. It seems mildly ridiculous to have a city… Well I guess it’s more of a town, but regardless, to have a town bus, that’s stops running at 6? Before dinner even starts? I guess bus drivers gotta eat too.
“Luckily” there was a “short-cut” down the mountain! Now when the receptionist calls it a short cut, she isn’t lying; it definitely cuts the walking time down quite a bit. The only detail she forgot to mention, was how absurdly steep this “short-cut” happened to be. I’m talking toes-smushed-over-the-edge-of-my-birks steep. Not to mention is was mostly gravel! Even so, it was pretty amusing as we slipped and slid over particularly loose spots. After making it down gravel path which is literally straight down a grassy hill, you hit an equally as steep road, which takes you down to the “Main Street” of Grindelwald. (And to think, I wanted to walk up that thing with our bags *gasp*). Turning left, we headed straight into town and right past the train station where we arrived.
Now that I didn’t have my heavy bags in my hand, there wasn’t any sweat dripping between my boobs, and we weren’t staring aimlessly at a mountain wondering how the hell we were going to get to our hostel, I could actually appreciate the sights around me.
Grindelwald, I had decided, was the perfect town to choose for our short stay. The small-feel town seemed to be nestled down in a valley, with several mountains encroaching on all sides. Shops filled with hiking supplies, cow-related souvenirs, and signs advertising ski rentals and snow mobile tours lined the street on both sides. I can only imagine what this place looks like in the winter…
Snow built up along to road… Maybe some Christmas lights pinned up along the curved roofs of the buildings… And tons of tourists in their big puffy snow jackets, ready to spend their holiday renting a set of skis or a snowboard, carving through the fresh snow on the mountain. I must come back in winter to see if what I fantasize matches the real life scene.
Because it was summer (although certainly still quite chilly thanks to the fading sun), the sidewalks weren’t bustling with people and it was relatively quiet. Small side-chatter filled our ears as we passed the outdoor seating of the restaurants, but after we went by, the birds in the mountains around us could be heard again. Most of the people we saw walking around, I presume, had come for the hiking, as they sported their thick-soled hiking boots, tan cargo shorts, and two hiking sticks grasped tightly in each hand.
We hopped into a few shops, Alex being determined to find a small backpack for the hiking we planned on doing. Alex is an interesting shopper. She won’t buy a thing without a second opinion, which is a pretty good trait to possess. But if you sit back and take a little too long to respond, she’ll begin to pro/con the purchase, and ends up having an argument with herself, which was exactly the case when she was trying to decide if she really needed that €119 Lacoste backpack. She needed a back pack, or she would have ended up carrying her cross-body leather purse around the mountains, but it was whether she bought a practical, water-proof hiking back pack that she might use 2 or 3 times, or splurge and buy a pretty one she’d use a ton. After 5 or so stores, and 70 backpacks later, she still couldn’t decide, so we decided to sit on it over dinner. But halfway down the street, eyes scanning for places to eat, she changed her mind and wanted to head back to where they sold Lacoste. So we made our way back to beginning of the street, determined to settle the backpack dilemma once and for all!
But I think she just became even more conflicted. And to make matters worse, wifi was nearly impossible to find, so she couldn’t text her mom for advice, who always does a good job in helping her decide the best option. I wasn’t so helpful in the situation because I never like to tell people what they should buy (unless I feel confident that what they’ll buy is super necessary) and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for a waste of money. After several more minutes, she decided to forgo the bag altogether, suck it up, and truck her purse around.
So onward we went, on the hunt for a restaurant. It became very apparent, after glancing over several restaurant menus, that these high priced meals weren’t the result of it being a “nice” restaurant. These very high prices were simply the norm of an average dinner.
They wanted 8 euros for a side of fries, 25 for a plate of spaghetti, and 42 for anything related to the sea! Now I was warned that “Switzerland is expensive”, but I never imagined that buying dinner would burn a hole in my bank account. Every purchase was a guilty one, no matter how many times my mother would tell me it was fine. I couldn’t bring myself to spend 30 bucks on a meal I could get for 12 bucks back home. Eventually we settled on an Italian restaurant called Pizza Salida. Italian seemed harmless enough… Even though a personal pizza is 18 euros. But it happened to be the cheapest thing on the menu, so that’s what I ordered. What completely surprised me was the amount of flies in Switzerland. They’re in every restaurant and they just pester, pester, pester. Well, they pester the tourists at least. Everyone else seemed to be used to it, not even swatting at them when they landed on their arm… Or dare I say… Landed on their fork. Ugh.
Overall the quality of food was fine, nothing to complain about there. Maybe not worth the price, but who am I to judge?
In the middle of dinner, it had begun to rain. The forecast for the weekend had said there was a 90 percent chance of rain each day that we were there, and I was severely bummed that it may interfere with our hiking plans. Besides, its really no fun to explore a foreign town in the rain. It became very apparent as we were leaving the restaurant that I needed to buy an umbrella. The first store I ran into was only selling 50 euro tiny umbrellas and at that price, I’d rather get soaked. So I walked right out. Thankfully, the place across the way had 15 euro umbrellas, plus the one I got had the flower of Switzerland on it, which is the Edelweiss. It belongs to the sunflower family, and is one of the most common mountain flowers in Europe! (Thank you www.theflowerexpert.com).
Now even though the rain doesn’t make for great exploring, it sure enhanced the beauty of our surroundings, if that was even possible. The stormy weather brought puffs of fog floating down the mountains, causing the bright green grass to pop against the dull grey sky.
I have so many bones to pick with that hike back up the mountain. I mean, my goodness. I was actually mildly embarrassed at how badly I was panting by time we made it up the mountain. But there was something about laying in that tiny bunk bed, listening to the rain pound down onto the roof of the hostel that made all the downfalls disappear. It was all part of the adventure. With the smell of raw earth drifting in through the cracked window, I fell blissfully asleep.
I was sleeping in Switzerland… how cool was that?