The Swiss Alps look dreamy in the pictures. So for my 28th birthday, I decided to see them for real. I went to Interlaken which is a major town in the center of Switzerland and the gateway to the mountains. Interlaken literally means
between lakes. It’s a beautiful, calm place and situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The lakes are pristine and the town is full of nature. You can just go out, take a walk and the snow-clad mountains will provide a serene backdrop.
As I arrived in the town in the morning, I was greeted by the sight of clouds hanging over the mountains with a lake nestled beneath them. The atmosphere was tranquil, everything appeared immaculately clean. The locals were fairly hospitable. Despite hearing and seeing a lot of German, most of them were comfortable in conversing in English.
When staying in Interlaken, your accommodation provider can provide you with a guest card. This card allows you to enjoy free transportation within most parts of the city and provides discounts for several activities. I stayed for some time in Interlaken West, it offers convenient access to markets, major bus station, train station, and many dining options. I was surprised to find that every place I visited accepted card payments. I withdrew some cash but ended up using only 18 CHF in total throughout my trip. I was excited to find tons of cheese options in the supermarket. It was no surprise to find Swiss chocolates, watches, and knives everywhere I went.
I went to Harder Kulm for an amazing bird's eye view of the town. It's actually the highest point in Interlaken, with an altitude of around 1300m. To reach the top, I took the HarderBahn, which is a Funicular. If you're feeling adventurous, there are also a few hikes you can do from there. At the travel centre, I could find maps marked with various interesting locations and how to get there.
Here is a map of all the places that I talk about in this blog.
And since we are talking about Switzerland, no one would be surprised to find a secret decommissioned military bunker where a substantial sum of Bitcoin is stored. I did not find it though ;).
During my trip planning, the weather forecast predicted a high chance of rain, but fortunately, the actual weather was sunny when I arrived. So, I immediately made my way to The Jungfraujoch, which is the highest accessible point in the region at a height of 3454m. To get there, I travelled to Grindelwald, took gondola to the Eiger Glacier, and then took a ride on Europe's highest railway station on the JungfrauBahn.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent connectivity of different transportation routes. While one could choose to walk, it was not necessary as there was a bus, train, cable car, or funicular available to take you to nearly any point in the region.
Travelling from Interlaken to Grindelwald, the scenery quickly transforms as you navigate through the valley. Before this, I had only heard of Grindelwald in Harry Potter. On reaching there, you can clearly see Mount Eiger overlooking the town. From the town, you can take the cable car up to Grindelwald-First for various sports. But I wanted to walk around the town and take a little hike. The views are so crazy - you can see everything from the houses in the village to the snowy tops of the mountains. And when it's a clear day, you could just keep walking forever.
From Interlaken Terminal, I took the Gondola to Eiger for a scenic 15-minute ride. The ride was full of amazing views and as I went up, the scenery changed from wide green fields to the icy glaciers in no time. Then the ride changed to the train.
JungfrauBahn is an engineering marvel as it goes all the way through the tunnel to the top. At the top, on the viewing deck, it was very windy and snowy. The top also has an ice palace, a multimedia tour, some restaurants and stores. Despite a snowstorm outside at Jungfraujoch, I remained warm. I observed that one could travel from Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch even without a jacket if they didn't plan to visit the viewing deck. This is quite remarkable given the high altitude.
Throughout Switzerland, it was common to see a lot of flags representing the respective cantons and the national flag.
On the next day, I took the other route in the map starting from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren and Gimmelwald. Lauterbrunnen is a charming village with breathtaking views of waterfalls and cliffs. No wonder it is said to have inspired the landscape in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". To get there, I took a cable car to Grütschalp and then hopped on a train to Mürren. The train ride was one of the most beautiful I have ever experienced.
Mürren is a serene little village at a bit more height, so naturally you get better views of the mountains. It felt like you are in a deserted but pretty village. There were traditional Swiss houses made of wood. It had a folksy feeling but somehow it also had the qualities of a well-developed town. That felt like a very Swiss thing for me. You can take a stroll around the village and then hop on a cable car to reach the summit of Schilthorn, which was famously featured in the James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". It's also a popular destination for skiing.
I decided to take a peaceful hike to the nearby village of Gimmelwald. The route had stunning views of the Alps, and the village itself was impressive despite its small size. It is one of the few traffic-free villages because it doesn't have a road connection. It was a tranquil place with only a few people around. You could buy local products like cheese, handmade goods and local beer Schwarz Mönch at some spots. You could just pick the stuff you want and drop the money in the box or the jar. There was even a whole store without any staff. After that, I took a cable car back to Stechelberg, where one could catch a bus to go back to Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken.
Even after spending a lot of time in the valley, there was still more to experience in the town I first began. In the foothills of these mountains, you can find some charming villages on either side of Interlaken like Ringgenberg and Goldswil on the shore of Lake Brienz. Strolling along the lake, there is a better probability of finding a cow grazing in the field than encountering another human. The tranquil atmosphere created by the clear blue waters, gentle breeze, and chirping birds made it an ideal spot for a peaceful evening. It felt like the time has slowed down and I really felt at ease.
The Swiss Alps offer breathtaking views and an array of experiences for anyone seeking adventure or simply some time in nature. Interlaken serves as the perfect gateway to the mountains, with its serene surroundings and access to various activities. From the stunning lakes and charming villages to the magnificent peaks, there's so much to explore and enjoy. Whether you're a hiker, skier, or a nature lover, a trip to the Swiss Alps is definitely worth it.