A Travellerspoint blog

Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

A hikers dream

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

An hours train ride from Bern and we had reached Interlaken at the foot of the snow covered Alps. The hostel Alplodge http://www.alplodge.com was easy to find and was much better than we had expected. It was part hostel part hotel so we managed to get the best of both!

After checking in and sorting a few bits out it was off to explore what Interlaken had to offer. We sat in a park and had lunch with an incredible view of the Jungfrau in the background. Unfortunately as we had arrived on a Sunday afternoon all of the Tourist Information offices and supermarkets (luckly we had pasta and pesto leftover for the night before) were closed meaning we could not do our usual routine when first arriving somewhere - we were going to have to play it by ear!

We knew that the weather was promising to be perfect on the Monday and had been debating whether we should take the very expensive train ride (CHF197 each) up to the top of Jungfraujoch (the highest train station in Europe). We had been pre-warned that if there is even one cloud in the sky not to bother making the trip. As usual I picked up lots of fliers from the station and hostel of things to do and also as usual read every bit of them. In doing this I managed to discover an "earlybird" ticket. If you get the first train at 06.35 then you can save yourself about CHF50 per person.

So 05:00 Monday we were up ready to judge the sun, it was already shining and there was not a cloud anywhere on the horizon (which always lifts Nick's day) so we went for it! We made the train in plenty of time (very unlike us! well me) and we were off up the mountain. The train ride takes 2.5 hours in total with 2 changes along the way. Even on the slow train ride up the scenery is amazing! Emerging out of dark tunnels and being greeted with snow covered peaks! The final train stopped twice on the way up actually inside the mountain where they had carved "windows" in the side of the mountain so that you could get views out.

We finally reached the station (still inside at this point) and after a quick change into warmer clothing we were off to explore. Nick was feeling a little dizzy from the altitude, but was not about to let that stop him. We followed the marked tour and went through various exhibits before reaching the Sphinx Terraces - a 360 external viewing platform on the outside of the station overlooking the Alps. There are no words that can describe this view!

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We spent a good 2 hours exploring, there was also an hour snow walk you could do on the glacier, however after walking a little of it and stopping because it was quite steep, it was my turn to feel lightheaded and queasy. We then realised it had been 6 hours since we last ate and so decided we had to catch our train back down. Our original plan had been to get a train to Grindelwald where we were hoping to do a walk, but as our train pulled into the first station, Kliene Schinegg ,I spotted a walking sign pointing in the direction of Grindlewald saying 2.5 hour hike. That didn't seem bad, so after getting food (two Bratwurst, two slices of bread and two drinks, CHF 26, good though) we decided to do the decent by foot and were rewarded with beautiful views of snow capped mountains turning into rolling meadows. Upon reaching Grindlewald and after another clothes change, stripping down to the bare minimum, we were really feeling the heat of the sun and decided to cool down by going to a small supermarket and treating our selves to an ice cream.

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Tuesday saw the need for a rest day so we decided to walk to lake Thun, we had seen a sign the day before saying it was 10 mins by bike so thought that was not far to walk. We kept walking and came to a lovely nature reserve with tree covered paths, an hour and a half later we reached the lake, Doh! It was worth it though as we entered the town Neuhaus and were greeted with a beautiful lake that had a public park right on the lakeside and an area for swimming, (Nick was brave and went for a swim even after the people before him squealed with the cold). The day was supposed to be a bit of a write off as it was going to be thunder storm all afternoon till evening. However the weather was on our side and we managed to sit in the baking heat (well I kept finding shade) for most of the day. By the afternoon we decided we would go to the little cafe further round the lake and discovered a deal for strawberries and ice cream so yet again treated ourselves. We were just deciding to make the walk home when the staff at the cafe started to franticly move tables and umbrella inside. We looked up to see storm clouds coming our way, so we gathered our things paid our bills and headed back to the hostel. We managed to get most of the way there before the heavens opened, lucky all the buildings in Switzerland have little overhangs so we hugged the side of the street to keep some of the rain off. We made it back with barely wet clothes just as the rain became torrential and thunder started to roll.

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Wednesday and sadly the thunderstorm from the night before had not cleared the air completely and we awoke to a fairly cloudy day with the prospect of heavy rain in the afternoon. We caught the train to nearby Lauterbrunnen and then walked the 40 mins (in sunshine randomly?!) to the Trummelbach falls; 10 glacial waterfalls that are actually inside the mountain. The sound was deafening but it was fantastic to get so close to them - although it was freezing inside the mountain! We made our way back towards to train, stopping for lunch on the way, when our luck with the weather ran out and the heavens opened once more. We decided to cut our loses and catch a train back to our hostel earlier than we wanted to, but managed to get a few hours of internet searching in.

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Thursday and our final day in Switzerland and the hiking boots were back on! We again caught the train to Lauterbrunnen, and then began the 2.5 hour climb (and I mean climb) up to Murren. The path was steep and both Nick and I were struggling. I really don’t think Nick enjoyed it much - probably more to do with the fact that his view of the mountains was still obscured by low clouds! We eventually made it to the top and after about an hour the cloud began to clear and we were rewarded with some beautiful views over to Jungfrau and Monch. Murren is beautiful, a small pedestrianised town perched right on the edge of the cliff and that Lonely Planet describe as “Heidi Heaven” - the perfect stereotype of a Swiss mountain town! The hike back down was obviously much easier. Half way down we met a fellow walker who was from New Zealand who gave us some great tips on what to do and where to go when we reach NZ early next year, even giving us her email address so we could contact her when we are out there - perfect!

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Our final night was spent getting to know some of our fellow travellers in the hostel (it is typical that you always meet nice people on the final night!). We sat for hours chatting with two guys from Canada and a girl from the US and were very jealous the next morning when they all set off on a group hike and we were not able to join them - we were headed for Strasbourg.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lauterbrunnen hiking switzerland mürren interlaken jüngfraujoch alplodg_hostel thun the_top_of_europe trummelbach_falls Comments (0)

Bern, Switzerland

The home of the bears

semi-overcast 15 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

After managing the stairs and walk to train station we boarded our train to Milan central ready for the connecting train to Bern. Along the way we saw some amazing views of the Italian Alps which slowly turned into the Swiss Alps.

We arrived in Bern to a lot cooler weather and looked very out of place in shorts and T-shirts, lucky the hostel was easy to find especially as this time we had a Google map at the ready (see lesson 5). The glocke backpackers hostel http://www.bernbackpackers.ch was right in the centre just a stones throw away from the zytglogge, the famous clock that just before the hour (4 min to be exact) has characters that chime and move. We were pleasantly surprised with the facilities of the hostel, with a large communal area, good sized kitchen that had everything you needed, clean well kept rooms, showers and toilets plus it had free Wi-Fi (see lesson 6). This was great as we booked this hostel in a rush only a few days before. The first night was to be spent in a private dorm for two and then to save money we moved into a 6 bed shared dorm. Again were presently surprised, as we managed to get a room with a wall dividing two of the beds from the others meaning it felt like a room for two.

Once we were settled in to our room and Changed into more appropriate clothing we spent the rest of the day getting our bearings and taking in some of the sights in the capital, even accidentally coming across Baren-gruben the home of the bears for which the town was named.

The next day we yet again started at the tourist information getting a map and a list of things to do and started to explore. Whilst sight-seeing we came across outdoor gigantic chess we decided to set it up just to take a photo but ended up playing for real and Nick managed to wipe the floor with me, which is a first for him!

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After that we took a stroll down by the River Aare with the hope of visiting the Bernisches Historisches Museum, however could not believe the CHF28 ticket price (that's each!), so we made a swift exit and headed off in search of cheaper (if not free activities!) After some more mooching around the beautiful old town of Bern with it's covered walkways and cellar bars and shops, we reached the Munster - the huge gothic cathedral which towers over the rest of the city - and what do you know it was a bargain to climb up the tower at only CHF5 each! The views from the top were incredible. We even waited up there to hear the bells chime! Bern is a lovely quaint city and does not feel like a capital at all!

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By now we had boring stuff to do and hit the supermarket which is getting harder as we are not 100% sure what everything is! We're spending longer and longer in there trying to understand the labels and see what is the best price - although Nick's German vocabulary is much better than he thinks and we managed to find most of what we wanted. Luckily all of the supermarkets (here and Italy) do a version of "smartprice". In Italy it was "clever" and here it is "budget". The other night I made meatballs out of reduced burgers thinking they we're beef but they ended up being pork, still nice though!

By day 3 we had seen most of the main sights and decided against all the overly priced museums and coffee shops. So made a pack up as we have been doing everyday and headed out for a walk from one of the leaflets. The walk was supposed to be 2.5 hours, however we had to walk for an hour to reach the start (there was a bus but being us we walked), luckly this was along the river lined with trees, so very relaxing.

Walking here is so much easier then the UK, well the hills aren't, but the footpaths (wanderwags) are really well sign posted and even tell you how long a walk it is to your destination as you go. There are also yellow dimonnds marked on trees or posts at areas where the paths look a little confusing. The walk was varied with, fields, woods and hills although upon reaching the top we didn't quiet get the views we were hoping for, as it was a little clouded over. Nick was convinced it was brightening up so we sat ate our lunch and chilled for a bit, hoping for it to clear. An hour later it didn't seem to be happening, so we headed back down to lovely sunshine and less clouds, typical!

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That night the realisation that we had no plans after Switzerland started to dawn on us so we started researching, countries, towns and accommodation. We spent another three evenings of this before finally settling on a route.

The next day we took a day-trip to Freiburg/Fribourg which is a unqiue place where everyone speaks French and German sometimes within the same sentance. Using my GCSE French and Nick's GCSE German (which was already coming in handy as he remembered a lot if it) we muddled by. A stop at the TI to get a town and hiking map as is the usual now at any new stop. We headed on a self guided walk of Fribourg taking in the lovely old town with it's medieval buildings, winding streets, wooden covered bridge and pretty churches. We then started the Gorges du Gottéron hike which at first started off on a road with a random mini railway that had cows as large as the houses and the oddly placed restaurant. It soon went off road and followed a beautiful stream through a huge gorge meandering and climbing along the valley. Sadly we had a train booked for 3pm so had to cut the walk short to head back. Annoyingly the walk back was quicker than we realised and so we had time to have a coffee (after walking around a few cafes we managed to find the cheapest one!) and settled down for a coffee, it wasn't long before we noticed the icecream. We shared a two scoop cup I think we deserved it after all our activities so far. Yet again the language here confused us as we asked for our order in French and got a reply part in English and Italian.

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Our final day in Bern, and the sunshine had deserted us completely so we had to don full wet weather gear for our next day-trip to Lucerne / Luzern which promised a beautiful lakeside mediaeval town with wooden, covered bridges and the old city wall surrounded by snow covered peaks. We arrived to a cold, wet and grey busy bustling city. As the clouds were so low we could not see the mountains, and the lake was not the brilliant blue we had seen in postcards. Our plans of heading for a hike were scuppered so we got a Walking-Tour of the city from TI and set out to see what we could. There was a riverside festival taking place which gave the place a real buzz with all of the pedestrian streets crammed with food stalls and markets as well as random stages with bands playing. We climbed the city wall, sheltering from the rain in one of the towers to stop for our lunch (very British!). Whether it was because of the weather spoiling our plans or not I don't know, but neither of us were impressed with Lucerne and I do not think it would be somewhere I would rush back to which is a shame.

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Our final night in Bern was spent researching, booking trains, hostels and packing our bags ready for the train to Interlaken and the promise of seeing the Alps up close!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 10:09 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lucerne bern fribourg Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 7

Ear Plugs

overcast 19 °C

As most of you know I’m a night owl and go to bed quiet late and will wake up at the very last minute. With traveling and site seeing all day I’ve been getting up early to get the most out of the day so to get a good nights sleep has been important. In Bern the first few nights (weekday nights) I slept really well as the beds were comfortable and we didn’t get one snorer (I can usually tolerate a snore or two)...

...however at the weekend the city apparently comes alive about 23:00. The Hostel had a club underneath it, which during the week we didn’t hear once but this weekend all we could hear and feel was thump thump thump. This was probably due to it competing with Bern’s Number 1 radio station who were currently having a gig of local live acts in the street right outside our window! Even with the double glazed windows closed we could hear the music and all the words. As the night went on the music seemed to get louder slowing turning into a full on rave which ended about 4am. If it wasn’t for the fact that we had a very early train the next morning, we were tempted to go and join in. Instead it was time for the ear plugs to prove there worth and space in the backpacks, Nick has been wearing them the whole trip but I’m not a fan and always wake up to find them in the bed somewhere. I am now a convert, ear plugs work! or at least keep out some of the noise so you can get to sleep. From now on I have a pair by bed every night just in case.

Lesson Learnt!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

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