the author standing in front of a swiss flag at the Jungfraujoch in Interlaken in 2008

I’ve been putting off talking about Switzerland, because, well, it’s hard to describe. We took a night train from Prague on Thursday, and I awoke somewhere between Mannheim in Germany and Basel in Switzerland, and saw beautiful blue skies (Prague had been pretty cloudy, so we were worried about the weather) and nice fall colors (we were farther south than Prague, so it wasn’t as cold). We caught a connecting train from Basel’s Swiss station and after 2 hours of winding up the mountains – and my ears popping – we were in Interlaken. Interlaken has an average population of 5,000 and it’s at the base of the Jungfrau mountains, between two lakes. It’s a charming little village and the adorably Swissness of it brought a smile to my face.

Friday we walked around Interlaken, just taking in the city. Grabbed some groceries and made dinner at the hostel’s kitchen. Did some shopping, and somehow resisted buying a cowbell but caved and bought a Swiss Army Knife and some other stuff like chocolate. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the TV room of our hostel with a couple other cool kids watching movies.

Saturday we got an early start. As in, my alarm went off at 5:30, and I stumbled out of bed and into a hot shower before putting on about 5 layers of clothing. Saturday was, in a word, amazing. We took a train up to the highest train station in Europe – Jungfraujoch. We climbed something like 4,000 meters in elevation. It was funny, because Friday had been cloudy, so Jean and I didn’t notice that there was a visible snow line. But Saturday morning as we headed up (and watched the sun rise) you could see the line. And then, all of a sudden, the frost on the ground turned into a light snow. And got deeper and deeper and deeper. And all of sudden, you’re in the middle of the Alps.

 

And the sun is shinning, and the air is clear, and the sky is so blue. And except for the voices of the people you’re with, it’s so quiet. And it’s breathtaking, and even though the snow glare makes you want to close your eyes, you can’t help but be wide-eyed and take it all in. After we’d explored, sent some postcards, and headed home, we went for dinner. We had Roesti (think hash browns, but not exactly. And with meat and cheese, and better) and chocolate fondue for dinner. And crashed.

Sunday was the day I’d been looking forward to. We got a much later start, but took a couple trains to a small town called Innertkirchen (where the cows roamed in a nice big field next to the train station). From there we hiked a kilometer or so up the hill to a practically non-existent, and barely marked place called “Pfengli” where my great-grandma grew up. And even though we had to hurry – since the sun sets early where you’re between 2 mountains – we did take time to just look around, snap some pictures, and drink from a true alpine spring. By the end of the day, we were beat. We had some cheese fondue, admired the town of Interlaken some more, and then headed to bed.

Monday we said a sad goodbye to Switzerland and spent the day chaotically taking trains back to Prague. Neither of us wanted to leave, and both of us have vowed to go back. Personally, I think that no European adventure could be complete without a trip to Switzerland. It was the most expensive trip I took, but I don’t regret it in the least.

A wood sign with the words 
Ferienwohnung
Pfengli

on it.