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Interlaken: also known as Paradaise July 6, 2012

Posted by Joshua Price in Travel Log.
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Interlaken, Switzerland is far and away the most beautiful city I have ever visited.  I thought the Appalachian Mountains were wondrous, and they are, but the Swiss Alps leave them far behind. Snow covered peaks, bright baby blue glacial streams and lakes in addition to the beautiful green vegetation against the stark contrast of the snow-covered exposed granite peaks. Pictures may capture some of this beautiful city, but they can never do it complete justice.  No matter how great a resolution a two dimensional picture has, it cannot capture the depth present when you see a mountain that is 20 miles away with snow on top.  I’m going to include a few pictures to help my description, but my goal is to put the scene into words better than these pictures can describe.

First, why is this city called Interlaken? Because it is between two lakes.  I finally figured this out when we were about to get on the train to leave Metz.  Anyhow, of these two lakes there is one that is commercialized and one that is not.  One lake has beaches, the other does not.  One lake has roads, the other has paths, and I chose the lake without the beach and took the small path to find a gorgeous view of the Alps.

So, picture me sitting in a computer lab on Friday, using Google Maps to print out a good map of Interlaken so I can at least find my way around once I’m there.  I looked through the area quickly and tried to get as many road names as possible, other than that there was little purpose to my methods other than keeping myself from getting lost in a foreign country.  I settled on a map in 30 seconds, printed it off shoved it in my backpack and walked to the bus stop to take me to the train station.  I was traveling with two other GTL students who were planning to go hang gliding the next morning, meaning that I had at least two hours to explore Interlaken on my own.  Woo Hoo!

At 8am the next morning we split, I had little idea where the lakes were, which way best to get there, but decided to wander around the city and take as many beautiful pictures as I could.  So, wearing sunglasses, a backpack a polo shirt and shorts, I set out on my expedition of Interlaken. I would head one way, decide that wasn’t the way I wanted to go and then head back the other way.  Granted, I wasn’t really trying to find a lake at this point, I just wanted good pictures.  After a few minutes of walking North, I decided I wanted to find that lake that was on my map at the north-east corner of the city, this is the less touristy one that I mentioned earlier.

For the first mile or so there weren’t really any extraordinary views, just paved roads, street signs Swiss flags and mountains on every side.  Overall, a beautiful scene, but one that looked the same no matter which way you looker or where in the city you were.  However, as I kept going I found a river that was marked on my map.  I heard it first and immediately went to see it.  It was the most beautiful bright blue that I have ever seen in a river.  It was flowing swiftly and you could feel the cool air coming off the river like you feel off the rivers in the North Carolina Mountains.

According to my map I still had a ways to go to find that lake, but I was very satisfied with my first find.  I followed the river to the train station and then had to take some roads to weave through the train tracks in order to get where I wanted to go.  Eventually I took a left off the main road and onto an old paved road that crossed the railroad tracks for a final time.  There were small houses on each side, a mountain in the distance and tall grass buzzing with the sounds of insects on both sides of me.  As I continued down the road, it narrowed to what was a gravel road probably eight feet wide at best.  I continued walking with tall grass on both sides and now glimpses of the lake between the trees on my right.  At this point, it was about 9am so there was still some fog in the air and the sun hadn’t fully penetrated all the way to the ground yet.  I took pictures left and right amassing a collection of 20 in just a few minutes.  It was a gorgeous walk, one that many tourists never find.  At the end of this trail there is another gravel road that takes you to the lake.  I walked down this trail and found the lake behind a small line of pine-equivalent trees.  Even with the sun hidden, the water was a bright blue, mountains appeared hidden in the distance and you could see the outline but no distinctive features.  I could hear the insects in the acres of tall grass behind me and feel a slight breeze, it was like I had walked to heaven, that it the best way to describe it.  I knew that I only had a few minutes before I needed to head back to the train station and meet the other that had been hang gliding so I decided against wading in the lake.

I retraced my path and met the other two at the train station before we headed back to the lake.  By now the sun had burned off most of the fog and the lake was brightly lit.  The mountains that were obscured in the distance earlier now revealed green sides and for the ones in the distance snow-capped peaks.  We decided to wade into the water, which was a chilly fifty degrees or so and skip rocks across the surface as two local kids played in an inflatable boat and a man floated on an inflatable mattress across the surface of this serene lake.  From a few feet into the lake, up to about knee-depth, it was possible to see just how hidden this location was.  Even just a few feet off the edge of the lake, the shore appeared to only be a few trees and a bench, nothing more.  After being in big and historic cities, the small town part of me just wanted to go out into the woods and have a chance to chill for a little while.  Switzerland and specifically Interlaken gave me this opportunity to be able to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.  If I ever make a formal bucket list, I will definitely include Interlaken.  Though it is a very touristy city by nature, there are ways to get outside the mold and see the great outdoors with your own two legs, you don’t have to follow a guided canyoning tour, go hang gliding or sky diving.  All you have to do is be willing to walk down a path that isn’t taken so often and see where it takes you.  This is an important life lesson.

If I ever have the chance to visit Interlaken again, I don’t know if I will follow that path I took before or find another; there is a lot of excitement in finding your own trail instead of following what this tourist guide or that tourist guide says is fun.  I hope this written description helps to describe Interlaken better than my camera could.

Before we left, I bought my grandfather a souvenir that I thought he might enjoy, a real Swiss Army knife, the model that they issue to soldiers today.  If there is any wish that I could make, I would take my family to Interlaken, it truly is an incredible place worth seeing.  It makes you realize how wonderful our planet and the creator both are.

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