As I had mentioned before, Interlaken was my primary motivation to go to Switzerland.
Well, the first one was Interlaken, and the other one was Rhine Falls. A few years ago, I saw an introduction of Interlaken on a Chinese travel TV show and instantly fell in love with the picturesque and seemingly dreamlike landscapes of the place, and it became the one place I knew I needed to visit at least once in my life. As for Rhine Falls, coincidentally I also learned of it from a TV program. It would have been on my itinerary if I didn’t make a mistake in the timing, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit the largest waterfall in Europe during this Swiss trip. Perhaps next year.
Interlaken was my place during the trip. I gave Basel and Zurich to chef, but I said, we HAVE to go to Interlaken no matter what. Truth is though that I’ve heard that Interlaken is rather a touristy place, and I was anticipating something like Bruges or Amsterdam. (Sorry Bruges and Amsterdam, I keep picking on you two.) However, that was no issue for me and I told my friends, “I know it’s super touristy but I don’t care, I have to go!!”
Chef and I didn’t have much of a plan before going to Interlaken. I know that there is quite a variety of extreme activities that you can do there, like paragliding and canyoning, but with only one day, we discarded the thoughts of any of those. Indeed, it was the spirit of “not knowing what you are going to do until you get there” 😀
We took the earliest train from Basel to Interlaken at 5:59am, not-so-bright yet but certainly early. Thankfully the train station was very close to our hostel, and the journey was two hours, long enough for a nap before arrival. Even though I had wanted to make the most out of the sceneries on the way, I had to give in to drowsiness.
A lone boat drifts cautiously in the middle of Lake Thun. Somehow, even amidst my deepest sleep, I woke up after we passed by Bern and before we arrived in Thun to see the most gorgeous lakes and mountains that I’ve ever seen in my life. This was exactly what I had been anticipating, and it did not disappoint. I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately take out my camera and go mad photo-snapping in an attempt to capture this glowing gem.
As the train soared through the mountains like a roaring dragon, the majestic summits surrounded us, enshrouded by wisps of hovering clouds. I had wanted to see mountains like these in Zhangjiajie in China when I visited two years ago, but while the mountains were splendid and grandiose, they were lacking the dose of smokey clouds that would add a dab of mysticism and exquisiteness to them. So slowly, quietly, gently, we arrived in Interlaken.
Dropping off our bags at our hostel, I asked the lady at the reception to suggest some things to do in one day, excluding anything extreme. She suggested going to Lauterbrunnen, also known as the “Valley of the Waterfalls”, 20 minutes away from Interlaken by train, and that was what chef and I did. We jumped on a bus (free bus pass!) to Wilderswil train station, where we waited for the little train that would take us to Lauterbrunnen.
Almost as soon as we exited the train station at Lauterbrunnen, we saw a long streak of something white against the cliffs. From a distance, we couldn’t really tell what it was. Chef noticed it first and commented that maybe it could be falling rocks and pebbles from the mountains…not very safe now, is it? Upon closer inspection, we realized that the fall was continuous and that it COULDN’T have been falling rocks. It was then that I thought…waterfall?! If yes, how gigantic and natural! Like a little child I literally jumped up and down and pointed to the waterfall and said, “We’re going there!”
Indeed what we saw were the Staubbach Falls, right there in the centre of Lauterbrunnen. Of course it wasn’t as voluminous or powerful or pompous as Niagara Falls, and I’d imagine that it wasn’t as impressive as the Trimmelbach Falls, which we didn’t visit as they were much further down the road. Still, Staubbach excited me and invited me to get closer. We followed a path up a small hill that would supposedly take us behind the falls. Not an easy climb!
And after a good workout, we arrived in a cave-like enclosure behind the Staubbach Falls where we were able to fully experience its might! It was almost like standing under a shelter in the pouring rain, and looking down, I really had the urge to stand UNDER Staubbach and shower myself in it. Too bad it was forbidden, and it would have probably been too dangerous anyway! I ended up staying there with chef, admiring the view from up above and enjoying the drops of water hitting our faces. Lauterbrunnen looked stunning behind the falls!
Back down in town, there was a beautiful cemetery right in front of Staubbach, perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It glows in the sun with such radiance, peacefully shielding the ones that have passed away.
Of course you don’t miss cows and sheep when you visit Interlaken, and we saw a flock of sheep leisurely resting in the grass, so relaxed and carefree. I was immediately reminded of Psalm 23, where it says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul…”
“…He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Such an appropriate Psalm for the scene 😉
A final look at Lauterbrunnen before heading back. I played around with the miniature effect on my camera and the picture turned out rather well. A small village surrounded by hills and forests of green, such peace and serenity…did this come out of a dream?
The highlight of the trip to Interlaken was definitely kayaking in Lake Thun, one of the lakes that surround Interlaken, the other being Lake Brienz. Nice hostel reception lady pointed chef and I to a place where we could rent kayaks, and it became the most enjoyable activity during the entire Swiss adventure. The lake was calm and the weather was perfect (as was my companion ^_^), so who could resist?
We took out a two-person kayak and neither chef nor I was all that proficient with kayaking. The challenge was coordination, and while we didn’t zoom forward as fast as we had wanted to, we had such a great time drifting in the gorgeous lake. I sang my heart out and marvelled at the spectacular wonders of God’s creation, and at that moment, I wanted time to pause and stay there forever. Perhaps I even felt that that was what paradise was supposed to be like, without a single care in the world.
I didn’t risk taking my camera on the kayak, which was a good idea since it probably would have been destroyed. It was inevitable getting water into the kayak as we paddled, especially since we were novices, as you can see from my half-soaked shirt in the picture. But hey, we made it back alive. Cheers!
A little tired from the intense paddling action, chef and I each took a beer and chilled at the outdoor bar by Lake Thun for the remainder of the afternoon. Hidden from the world, isolated from human interaction with anyone I knew (except for the companion), cut off from anything that may cause me to worry…it was a living dream. Simply unbelievable.
The next morning we headed to Zurich and the sun shone brightly on our way to the train station. The early morning air was cool and fresh, and reminded me of yet another passage from the Bible. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there…”
“…If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10. The train left Interlaken at breaking dawn, waving goodbye to my dream.
Villages hidden in the mountains and lakes, a perfect canvas. I was fully awake for the 3-hour train ride to Zurich, gluing my nose to the window where I took the last chance to be absorbed in such gorgeous sceneries. Oh Switzerland, how I love you! ❤