Welcome to Interlaken, a city located in between many of the famous Swiss Alps peaks. This city itself is located at around 500 m above sea level, and at the highest point in the surrounding regions, you can get to over 4000 m. It’s also located in between two lakes, so if you’re not into mountain activities, there are plenty of lake activities. We’re currently in May, but skiing is definitely still open if you’re up for it!
Interlaken is pretty much the ‘iconic Swiss city’, as in the picture of what everyone expects of Switzerland. Our host in Geneva was just telling us the other day, most people think that the Swiss all live in these kinds of places, but actually 90% of the Swiss population live in the city! Of course I knew that… I think that’s a pretty naive impression of Switzerland. But I also know what he means, because so many people think that Canadians live in igloos and that it’s winter all year round in Canada.
When we were in Geneva, I had already started checking the weather for Interlaken, and hoping and praying that we would get good weather here. One of the activities I had planned for this place was paragliding, and that’s definitely something you need the sun for! Unfortunately, I saw nothing but 100% chance of precipitation. I won’t lie, I was pretty down yesterday when I arrived here. I was so looking forward to all the outdoor activities – paragliding, canoeing, swimming in the clear lake – and this cold rain meant that none of that was going to happen. In fact, I didn’t even know what we would be able to do in such a rural resort city. There are no museums, no monuments, no churches, no historic places of interest; every single attraction is outdoors.
Then, we got to our hostel, and I already felt a bit better. This is the first hostel so far, and it’s really nice! It reminds me of the winter retreat we had with our church just a few months ago. The building is nice, interior is clean, people are nice, plus you get an amazing view of the lake. (The mountain view rooms are a little bit cheaper, just for the record). Still, I was wondering what we could do with our full day here, especially under this kind of weather.
Of course, we could go up to Jungfraujoch, but that’s pretty high up and it would be quite cold at the top. I barely prepared myself for rainy cold weather, let alone snowy weather! Besides, it’s quite expensive to go all the way up to the top, so we didn’t even consider it. Instead, we went up a much smaller peak, called the Harder Kulm. This one is only 1300 m in elevation, and there was already snow at the top. In fact, it was snowing when we got up there. Snowfall is something I definitely did not expect when planning and preparing for this trip.
The Harderbahn is a train that takes you up to the Harder Kulm. It looks kind of like the tram up to the Peak in Hong Kong (except it’s way less crowded and you don’t have to line up 3 hours), it takes a very steep trail up and you’ll be at the top in 8 minutes. It’s 30 CHF round trip or 36 CHF round trip + lunch at the restaurant up at the Harder Kulm. If you are staying with a hotel or hostel in Interlaken, you will likely get a guest card for Interlaken that gives you free local bus rides and also a bunch of discounts with the mountain excursions, including this Harderbahn trip.
Alternatively, you could also hike up to Harder Kulm from Interlaken. It only takes around two hours, and even from Harder Kulm there are a lot of other hiking trails to higher destinations. If it were a nicer day, I’m sure I would have taken the walk.
We went for the lunch deal, and found ourselves eating a two hour lunch. There’s a specific meal for this lunch deal that changes every day; otherwise, there is a large choice of a la carte menu items you can get. But honestly, with the crazy expensive cost of everything here in Switzerland, this is a pretty good deal. The food was really good too. Today’s menu was pork chops with caramelized onions, vegetables (with a bit of the white asparagus I mentioned before!) and potato wedges. I don’t even like onions, but I really liked these ones.
To be honest, there wasn’t a clear view most of the time; but every now and then it cleared up a bit, and we were able to see the city.
Just for the record, here’s what it looks like on the brochure:
Since there was so much snow, we decided not to waste it! The highlight of our day definitely was making these snowmen. (My cousin loves minions, hence the minion snowman… mine is the conventional one). I totally remember when I was a kid, I would just jump into the snow and do the exact same thing without a care in the world about feeling cold. Now that I’m all these years older, it’s so hard to force myself to even dig into the snow with my bare hands! But it was so worth it – we had a lot of fun!
Finally, we decided to head back down the mountain and take a walk around the city of Interlaken. It’s a small city, but there’s a lot more than I expected! Most of the places sell either souvenirs (postcards, keychains, etc), watches, Swiss army knives, or chocolate. Oh, and lots of hotels. Apparently cows are also a thing here. I suppose I’ve heard of Swiss cheese, and I see it around here (although definitely less prominent than chocolate), but it’s funny that nobody touts their Swiss milk.
One of my favourite stores that we walked into was this mart that sold items produced from around the area. And when they say it, they really mean it! From ice cream made with milk of Swiss cows, to hand creams, to teas, they have a bunch of very nice products that I definitely have never seen elsewhere before, and would serve as great souvenirs.
We tried some of their ice cream. I had my favourite liquor, the Bailey’s Irish Cream flavour. It was really smooth, and actually did taste like Bailey’s.
One other food item I want to introduce is this blond chocolate. I first saw it in a chocolatier in Geneva, and asked about it. The lady told me that it’s actually just white chocolate, scorched so that it’s a little burnt, and then mixed with caramel sauce. That’s why it has that distinctive blond colour, and it tastes even sweeter than white chocolate! I’m not really into such sweet things, but it was interesting to learn about it.
It was too cold to swim, but it was okay for a photo walk around the lake. There were are lot of swans in Switzerland, and they make nice models.
So that’s how I spent my one full rainy day in Interlaken. I am definitely not done with this city! There are trails to be hiked, canyons to be explored, powder to be snowboarded on, mountains to be conquered, and a beautiful sky for me to dive out of… one day, on a nicer day. I’d love to spend an entire week just in this city and enjoy the great outdoors.
I’m glad we made the best of this day. Even under the rain, this city is still amazing. There’s always a bright side, even if it’s a bit cloudy.
The mountains, the lake, the icy fresh air – these are all things to thank God for.