I’m so late with my posts! Anyhow, here’s Switzerland.
Let’s see. Where do I begin? Okay. When my boyfriend and I were trying to figure out where to go for our final weeks in Europe—the whole month of June when I would have been finished with work—we made a list and realized that we had more places to visit than we had time. Originally, (besides all of Spain) we had planned to go to Paris, Morocco, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Dublin, Italy, and I wanted to go to London, Germany and Greece. Heck, if it was up to me I would have gone all the way to Russia! But time—and money—would play a role in the final decision.
We narrowed it down and there was only room for only four more destinations outside of Spain, or we could do two more Spanish cities and two European countries. Italy was one of the first places we visited, so that was out of the way. But we still had a bunch to pick from. Well, it was tough, but we decided to leave Portugal and Morocco out in order to fit the Canary Islands and Oviedo/Santander/Bilbao, Spain (next post) in our agenda. Most recently we went to Switzerland — and tomorrow we’ll be on our way to Paris, France (excited!) — and that completes our list for now.
I bring all this up because what I really wanted to leave out was Switzerland instead of Morocco or Lisbon. For some odd reason, I wasn’t interested in visiting the tiny country of Suiza in the least bit. As the day for when we booked it got closer, I still didn’t feel any excitement for it, but my boyfriend and I compromised and plane tickets were already purchased. I didn’t want it to go to waste.
By the way, Switzerland almost didn’t happen. As the good last-minute veterans that we are, we didn’t book a hotel or anything until literally the very last minute. We just kept pushing it back— maybe we thought that since we had previously done this with Spanish hostels, that we would run the same luck and score a cheap hostel/hotel in the heart of the city. Well, not the case with Switzerland; the prices were insane! And I mean that as in RIDICULOUSLY, UNREASONABLY INSANE! Madre mía… I have been booking us accommodations for as long as we’ve been traveling here (quite a lot) and so far Switzerland has been the most incredibly expensive place we’ve visited. It puts New York City to shame.
So, yeah, imagine our surprise when we saw the last-minute prices. Interestingly (despite my lack of interest), I kept the hopes up for this one trip. But that was not all. Every “affordable” hostel and hotel was booked in Geneva, where we had planned to stay. I searched in Lausanne, Lucerne, Bern and every possible surrounding area. I even looked for accommodation outside of Switzerland, in France, but when added up, the kilometers seemed too long for such a short stay.
That’s when I came across Interlaken. I Googled it and I found really good reviews about the place and its accommodations. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter what reservations website I used because everything we could afford was booked in Interlaken, as well. And it was really difficult for only two people because most hostels there are dorm-style and I’m not cool with that. I momentarily gave up and our trip to Switzerland was uncertain.
Then, when I went back to my computer in the middle of the night, a cancellation must’ve been placed at one of the hostels in Interlaken because a room was suddenly available. On the other hand, I quickly realized that I had overlooked some important details, such as our time of arrival. Our flight would be arriving late night in Geneva, and Interlaken was almost three hours away…by train.
Long story short, I found a private room at a dorm-like hostel in Geneva for one night and a much better one for the next two nights and one day in Interlaken. We booked it. Price? Let’s just say it was “doable” considering it was an almost same-day booking. Everything just sounded like the plot of a nightmare. Yes, my stubbornness is my worst and best trait. I don’t give up that easily.
We boarded an EasyJet plane and to Switzerland we went.
What would my mother say? She would have told me that everything happens for a reason and that all the obstacles were just the result of a “sign” that maybe I should leave it alone and that it will happen when the time is right. Well, I’m not superstitious like my mom, but what happened next kind of had me wishing I was.
It had been storming somewhere over the Pyrenees and they warned us that it was going to be a bumpy ride. Major understatement. Chris and I both despise turbulence. I wish I was knocked out. You know the rest. Then, at Geneva airport, while going up and down stairs trying to figure out which train went to center city, I somehow managed to lose my iPad. Or it might have been stolen? I will never know. I took it out of my bag because I needed the hostel’s address. I wish I had written it down on a piece of paper instead…
We had just hopped on the train when I realized it was missing, so I got off and ran after it, with no direction. I didn’t find it, despite it being maybe a little less than 20 minutes from the time I last saw it in my hands. A guard told us Lost & Found was closed. It was bittersweet. The devise is replaceable, but notes and writings I had done are not. Luckily, it was password-protected. Not that it means much to hackers nowadays, but at least it gave me some time to get to a computer and change all of my passwords.
Now on to the fun
My memory of my first impression of Switzerland: “Wow, I like this!” It was getting dark when we arrived in Geneva, but thankfully it was a very short train ride from Geneva airport to the city. We took the tram to our hostel, which got there in about three minutes (obviously walking distance, but we had luggage). I didn’t get to see much that night, mainly because it was dark, but as far as I could see, it was a pretty place with mostly well-dressed people walking in the streets.
Later that night, we wanted to grab something to eat, a quick inexpensive dinner. We passed an Asian restaurant that had Pho soup on their menu and we thought that would’ve been perfect because it was slightly cold and raining. However, the prices were inflated…for a bowl of soup. In Philadelphia’s Chinatown, we’d get a giant bowl of soup for as cheap as 4.00 USD. In Geneva (and even in Interlaken), the same soup in a relatively smaller bowl cost 16-20CHF (Swiss Francs). That’s about four or five Pho soups right there!
You may think I’m exaggerating with all these price-breakdowns, but not the case at all! I just hope for their own sake that people there get paid accordingly in order to afford all that luxury!
Anyway, I came to an understanding that it was not a rip-off, but in fact it was how pricey everything in Switzerland is. We ended up at an Italian restaurant—that wasn’t any cheaper either— and had some really good pizza. They were closing, so it was the quickest thing. Don’t even ask about the price…
The following morning, we headed for Interlaken. The ride was long (2 hours, 50 minutes) but easy, mostly straight roads and quick stops. I was in awe when I saw the scenic train views. Amazing. Just beautiful landscapes. The mountains and the grass looked so incredibly green and beautiful. The closest I’ve been to seeing something similar in the past was probably, maybe, Wyoming. Maybe I’m insulting Switzerland with this thought? I don’t know. But it is beautiful.
At first, Chris and I were a little skeptical about Interlaken. I, for example, kept thinking that we were going to arrive at this farmhouse-looking hostel in a tiny town with nothing to do but climb mountains and stare at cows. So wrong! When we came out of that train and we caught a glimpse of the cute little city of Interlaken, I guess we both looked at each other in relief. Interlaken is freaking gorgeous!
We took the local bus to our hostel and the bus stop was right across from it. Superb. The hostel—Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof—turned out to be great, especially for the location. During our stay, we explored the town. We walked around. We checked out the shops, bars and restaurants. We took a little railway carriage (I don’t know how to call that) that goes up the Swiss Alps and we walked the uphill trails. Chris went all the way to the top, I didn’t. I was so inadequately dressed for the mountains, and there were so many slugs…they grossed me out.
Something that I couldn’t help noticing was that the hostel, and the whole Interlaken, seemed as if it had been conquered by Asians. Oopsie. No surprise there as they work so hard to be able to afford all those travels! Also unsurprisingly, there were lots of tourists at the Swiss watches and chocolate shops. We walked in a couple of those stores to check out the prices for a good laugh and—sigh—boy did we laugh. Absurd! The chocolates were affordable though, and we made sure we indulged.
Another thing that stroke me about Switzerland was their wine measurement method. The country is rich as hell, yet they pour your wine like the country has just ran out of it or something and then charge you a fortune for a decent glass of wine. They measure it by deciliters… whatever. I never measure what I eat or drink, so I was confused the whole time. ha ha. It made me miss Spain.
I’m not normally a “mountain” girl; I like the beach and the city. Hanggliding, Ice climbing or Paragliding don’t really excite me and I don’t like cold temperatures. But, despite wondering if that was all we could do in Interlaken (which was obviously not), we had an awesome time. It was also just a little bit cheaper than Geneva. At the Villa we had a full-catering kitchen, too, which Chris surely used to make dinner for us. Very cool.
Our final destination in Switzerland was an even smaller town called Kiental. Chris’ mother had worked at a hotel there during her college years. It was pretty special for him to revisit the place where his mom once lived many years before he was even born. We took a train to get to the area, then a bus to go up to Kiental. The bus ride up was quite scary—I mean, to think that a bus can actually climb those hills the way they do AND go at a Speedy Gonzalez speed? That’s something. But we made it in one piece. It was fun. The town is cute and the views were lovely, of course. The experience will be unforgettable for everybody.
It was the first time I “vacationed” in the mountains and I think, if all of them look like Switzerland, it won’t be the last.