Corey Watts

Bern, Interlaken, and Hang-gliding in Switzerland

After San Sebastian, I spent a night in Bordeaux, then a night in Paris. Both were excellent, but I had spent some significant time in France on Europe Semester 2009 and I was more interested in getting to Switzerland. Paris is always fun around dusk, when all the young people come out to eat and drink along the banks of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower has an incredible, sparkling light show. I had a great glass of wine and a nice crêpe dinner, explored the city a bit, then went to bed somewhat early. I had an early-morning train ride the next day to Bern, Switzerland.

Bern was a beautiful city and my first experience with Switzerland. The center of Bern is surrounded by the Aare River. There are several bridges, all of which are beautiful, crossing the river at convenient points. I arrived there just in time to catch the Eidgenössisches Schwing-und Älplerfest on TV – a kind of Swiss Highland Games tournament featuring Swiss wrestling (called Schwingen). I went to a locals' bar for dinner and a beer, and watched the wrestling as the patrons cheered on their favorites. Definitely a cool experience.

The next day in Bern, I explored the city. I visited an ungodly number of watch shops (which I totally loved), got some Swiss chocolate at a local chocolatier, visited the bears in the local bear park (the official animal of Bern is the bear), and watched the sun set over the city while drinking at a brewery on the other side of the Aare. It was a fantastic day.

I headed to Interlaken next. You can see where the name Interlaken comes from: it is a city nestled right in between two large lakes. Again, there is a nice winding river running right through the middle of the city, connecting the two lakes. The city (and the lakes) is bordered by tall mountains with snow-capped peaks off in the distance. Suffice to say, the scenery is breathtaking. I took a tram up to a lookout point way above the city, and got a gorgeous view (and lots of nice photos) of the city, lakes, and surrounding mountains.

photo of Interlaken, Switzerland
That incredible Swiss backdrop you're imaging is just regular life to the people that live here

Interlaken is the nicest city I’ve seen so far on this trip, the beauty is breathtaking. Contributing to the “Best City So Far” nomination, Interlaken also has a TON of luxury watch shops and cuckoo clock shops. Honestly, can a city get any better? I again visited numerous watch shops, fell in love with an $8000 USD Rolex and an $18000 USD IWC, and went cuckoo clock shopping (though I didn’t purchase one…I think I’ll wait till I visit the Black Forest in Germany for that). For dinner that night, I went to a traditional Swiss restaurant and had chicken, veggies, and hash browns grilled in a pan, with butter and herbs over it – a typical Swiss dinner called “Rösti”. It was so delicious it was mind-blowing. As an appetizer they served fresh bread with this cheesy, herby spread. I had a local Swiss beer with it. Like everything in Switzerland, it was an expensive dinner, but it was money well spent – I got a great taste of the country.

The next day I went hang gliding. My hostel in Interlaken connected me with a hang gliding outfit that, while expensive, was a great experience. We took a drive up one of the mountains surrounding the city and launched off a small clearing at the top. A short run downhill, then liftoff! The view was marvelous, up with the peaks of the mountains, soaring over the city and the lakes. There were a number of quaint Swiss houses up near the launch point that had an gorgeous view of the city and lakes down below. I found myself wondering how much those houses cost…might be a nice retirement spot.

photo of two men hang gliding
It really does feel like you're flying{< /imgproc >}} Despite the beauty of Switzerland, I've had trouble meeting people here. In every other country I've been in, I've met other single travelers from all over, including lots of Australians. I've been able to make a significant number of new friends just by running into other people who are traveling alone. In Switzerland, however, it seems like there are almost no single travelers and no Australians -- everyone is Asian and is traveling in a group. It is always more difficult to join in with a group of travelers -- I receive weird looks when I try to approach them. So unfortunately I haven't made many new friends here, though I'm still having a good time. I'm off to Zurich next. I'll spend a few days there, then I'm off to tour Ireland, Scotland, and England with a good friend from home. I'm definitely excited about the Guinness I'll be having in Dublin.

#bern #interlaken #switzerland #traveling #europe2013