Friday, August 30, 2013

Bern and Interlaken Areas

After leaving our mountain getaway in Grindelwald we headed down the mountain to stay a couple nights in Interlaken. Since we had spent the last few days hiking and climbing in the mountains we thought it would be nice to go see a city, so we decided to check out Bern. It might have been because we had just come from some of the most amazing scenery or maybe we just didn't go to the right places but we were a little disappointed in Bern. We didn't feel like the city had that charming appeal to it like other European cities.

There are some nice sights to see like this view over the river.

Inside the city there is a big city park next to the River Aare. I had heard that floating down the river was a must-do in Bern. So while Natali rested in the park, I hiked up the river and took a plunge into the clear blue water. I had seen many of the little rivers that run off the mountains from the snow-pack that is still melting so I knew it would be chilly. The river was about six to seven feet deep all the way across and was running faster than I expected.

I enjoyed it so much that when I came back and saw that Natali was asleep, I decided to go up river even further and do it again. If you are ever in Bern in the summer, this is one thing that you definitely must do. The water may seem chilly at first but it is a great experience (Natali was taking a nap when I was in the river so all we have is a picture of other people floating in the river).
We saw a few other things in Bern like the Bear Park, the Munster Cathedral, and the Federal Palace. Here is a photo of the cathedral:

We also had a yummy typical swiss lunch with rosti (similar to hash brown potatoes) covered in cheese and meat and other seasonings. In this case we had pork and it was also covered in apples. We didn't love the apples but everything else was great!

We also really wanted to see the Bern Temple so we headed over there. We should have planned our day better so we could have done a session there but we didn't even know if we would make it out to Bern until that day so we were sad that we couldn't go inside. The temple was very small and there was no fence around it. The neighborhood kids would just walk right through the temple ground to go to their friend's house.
 We headed to Interlaken to see check it out before we went to our hotel in Wilderswil. We found a casino that had some great grounds so we took some pictures.

We walked around for a while and then decided to head to the hotel and grab dinner somewhere in Wilderswil. We were excited to see an orchestra setting up right beside our hotel, so we grabbed a table (it was really lucky that we got one) so that we could have dinner and a show. It was awesome. They played all kinds of music and the food was great too. Natali had to hold herself down so that she didn't jump up and start dancing. It was a great end to the day.
The next day we wanted to go back to the natural beauty of Switzerland. We headed to the Aareschlucht Gorge about 30 minutes outside of Interlaken. On our way there we saw an old, British car (driver on the wrong side) in front of us and a couple behind us. We thought it was pretty cool. Then we arrived and realized we were right in the middle of about 25 of these cars that were all heading to the gorge... Our little Fiesta stuck out like a sore thumb.
Through the gorge they had built walkways that were hanging from the side of the cliffs. As we walked from one side of the gorge to the other Natali was pretty scared and asked more than once, "If this pathway fell right now, do you think we would die?" It was pretty amazing to see that much water running through a tight canyon like that.

From the gorge, it was just a train back to where we started and then a mile or so to the base of the Reichenbach Falls. A train took us up to the base of the main water fall. These are the famous falls from the Sherlock Holmes' books where he and Dr. Moriarty have their final duel. The falls were pretty amazing and Natali got some great pictures.

Then we hiked up the trail and saw even more waterfalls further up. It is pretty amazing.

 Lauterbrunnen is known as the valley of the waterfalls but we actually saw more waterfalls around Interlaken (maybe it depends what time of year you go). So we headed to another waterfall that is by Brienz Lake. We had a little bit of trouble getting there so if you are ever in that area and want to see the Giessbach Falls, make sure you park at the Giessbach Hotel. It is much easier. Anyways, this is a beautiful waterfall to see and it even has a pathway that goes behind it that is really neat.

It then started raining on us so we headed back to the hotel to wait it out. It was pouring and didn't really stop. Fortunately we had gotten an early start that day and got to do (almost) everything we wanted to do that day. Dinner that night was great. Natali ordered garlic soup. It was very interesting alone, but we started dipping our french fries in it and it was delicious. It was funny because Natali was embarrassed that we were dipping our fries in the soup so she was super paranoid about the waiters seeing us. I made her take this picture just to prove that she did it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hike from First to Lake Bachalpsee, Switzerland

Due to very shoddy internet service over the past week, we have unfortunately fallen very behind in our blogging. So these next blogs will appear in rapid fire. On our third day in Switzerland (last day staying in Grindelwald) we decided to take the gondola up to First and do a hike to Lake Bachalpsee and then down to Bort where we caught the gondola again down to Grindelwald.

Overall the hike was about 7 miles. This may not seem like much but let me assure you, it was. Less than a mile of the hike was uphill so I thought, “No big deal, I could walk downhill all day.” WRONG. Downhill hiking is actually way more difficult than I realized! You may not be huffing and puffing like you are when you go uphill but your leg muscles have to be tight the whole time to keep you from letting gravity take over and falling down the mountain. While I really enjoyed this hike (and the others we did) from a visual perspective, I definitely would recommend being in better shape than I am if you ever want to visit Switzerland haha.

*Just a note about this hike from First… It is quite expensive to take the gondola up to First. We got 50% off for liking them on Facebook at it was still about $65. I think it was worth it for that but if we had paid the full amount, I think we might have been disappointed because while it was beautiful, it wasn’t necessarily much MORE beautiful than hikes you can do for a good deal cheaper.

Back to our story…The first (and much shorter) leg of our hike was to Lake Bachalpsee. Here are some photos from that hike...

 On the gondola up to First:

This cliff was pretty awesome but I'm not sure you can really see the details because it's so shaded. Basically it was formed of hundreds of thin slabs just stacked on top of each other.
Reed bought me Pringles to help make the hiking more bearable but they were gone within the first 5 minutes...
Reed said his one goal for Switzerland was to see "wild" cows and goats..."the kind with bells around their necks." I have tried repeatedly to explain to him that if a cow has a bell around its neck, it can't possibly be "wild" but he's not buying it. So anyways, here are Reed's "wild cows and goats" and he was EXTREMELY excited to see them.

Upon reaching the lake we set up a lovely little picnic and I took a little nap while Reed tried to see how far he could handle going into the freezing water. To be fair to him I should say that I think he got a little farther than this picture shows haha.

After our little rest we headed down the mountain to Bort where we would catch the gondola again. The hike down took us about 3 hours (possibly the longest 3 hours of my life). Here are some photos from that hike:

(Sorry more pics of me than Reed this time...Reed was manning the camera and I was too sick of hiking to think about taking photos haha)
This cow was just randomly standing in the way of the bridge blocking our way across it. Reed tried all sorts of things to get it to move but it refused haha. We think he is sick of tourists coming through his pasture.

This was me extremely excited to have reached the bottom of one long stretch of our hike...little did I know I would be hiking downhill again 1/4 of a mile later. I should note that this should have been a heel click but obviously the cameraman was not fast enough haha.
I reached a point on our hike down where my legs seriously felt like jelly (remember we had hiked all day the previous day AND I have been sitting at a desk for 3 years doing basically nothing athletic haha). At that point I stopped caring about what my arms were doing and just kinda let them do what they wanted while I focused on not collapsing. Reed thought it was pretty funny how they would flail about as I hiked. This picture is the least embarrassing of the arm flailing ones.
Also to help my jelly legs Reed started pulling back on my shoulders as we walked haha (he’s a great hiking partner). It looked VERY bizarre but it actually helped so much! It made it feel like I was just walking on totally flat ground haha. We thought it was so funny though that we had to set up the gorilla pod and take a picture.
Reed, on the other hand was about as happy as can be throughout the entire hike:
However, towards the end of our hike, even Reed was pretty exhausted. I’m obviously so tired I don’t even know how to make a “tired face.”

Though I was too tired to really enjoy any views at the time, I’m sure glad Reed still took pictures and forced me to take some because I have been able to enjoy this hike much more looking back on it from the comfort of my bed :-).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Murren, Gimmelwald, Lauterbrunnen (Trummelbach Falls)

It seems like everywhere we go here in Switzerland has amazing views. The mountains are so steep yet so green and beautiful. As I am typing right now I am sitting on the front porch of the little chalet we are staying in with the huge Eiger mountain staring at me. Here is the picture of the Eiger mountain directly in front of the chalet where we are staying.

Warning: The pictures you will be seeing are extraordinarily beautiful and awesome. You might have urges to quit work and fly to Switzerland. Don't do anything drastic and remember that you can always come back to our blog to see all the amazing experiences we are having ;)
So I went into town to get some essentials in the morning, which of course included baguettes, cheese, milk, and some other random food items. We ate the baguettes with Nutella on them for breakfast with some hot chocolate. That is my kind of breakfast ;)
We decided we wanted to head up to Gimmelwald so we packed some sandwiches, the rest of the baguette, cheese, snacks, water, our rain jackets, and our cameras and headed out. Just so that everyone is not confused, we are staying in Grindlewald and we went to Gimmelwald, two different places.

*Tip: One way to get to Gimmelwald is to head to the town of Lauterbrunnen, take a cable car up to Grüschalp (located directly across from the Lauterbrunnen train station), hop on the train to Murren, and walk about 45 min to an hour down to Gimmelwald. The round trip from Lauterbrunnen to Murren cost about 24 CHF each.

When we arrived in Lauterbrunnen we were pleasantly surprised to be able to see the Staubbach Falls up on the side of a huge cliff right from the main road of the town. The waterfall was amazing to see as it fell so far down the cliff that the water was more of a mist than anything else. The mists collected on the rocks of the cliff and continued down.
We left the car in Lauterbrunnen and bought our tickets up to Murren. The cable car up to Grüschalp was pretty crazy. It was super steep and and super packed. We were smashed up against the side but luckily we had a window so we could at least see some of the great views. We hopped on the train to head over to Murren. Murren was just supposed to be a placed that we passed through on the way to Gimmelwald but it had some of the best views and the town itself was quite charming.
We found a great little spot that we stopped at just out of Murren both on the way down and the way back up from Gimmelwald. Thanks to our Gorrillapod we got some really good shots of both of us.

We hiked for about an hour down to Gimmelwald. It was a little bit odd that Gimmelwald is lower than Murren but was more well-known. We might have enjoyed the views from Murren a bit more just because it was a little bit higher. But we would still recommend the hike from Murren down to Gimmelwald because the views were so spectacular.
In Gimmelwald there is a famous Mountain Hostel that everyone that stays at raves about. We almost stayed here but thought it would be best to stay in a more central location (plus hostels tend to be less romantic). There is also a shop called "The Honesty Shop." It is a store ran on honesty. There is no cashier and nobody there at all. The prices are marked on the items (well most of them) and there is a box where you put the money. We have found Switzerland to have very nice, trusting people.
We decided to eat a snack in Gimmelwald so we busted out the cheese. It was the best snack ever. The cheese was perfect and it hit the spot. Natali was in heaven; just enjoying life as she snacked on great cheese while being surrounded by beautiful sights. You will probably find that we always post a lot of food pictures. The truth is that I believe Natali loves vacations for two things: To get amazing pictures and to eat great food. If she can do them both at the same time then that is perfect.
While we were eating the cheese a guy stopped by and nvited us to his "secret spot" where you could take a dip in the waterfall. We decided to check out his spot but we had to pick our way through a pretty steep mountain with trees and bushes everywhere without a trail. When we got within view it I looked up and saw two white butt cheeks staring back down at us. I stopped, told  We didn't want to just sneak up on the guy while he was enjoying the freedom of his secret spot. He waved for us to come on up a minute or so later. His spot was actually really neat with a waterfall and he was an interesting guy to talk to. We ate our sandwiches and snapped some pictures of the waterfall.
After lunch we were pretty exhausted so we decided to travel back to Murren by cable car instead of walking. While we were waiting for the cable car we set up our travel blanket and the Gorillapod and snapped a few more pictures.

*Tip: We think that this travel blanket I bought before the trip is a must-have for traveling in Europe. It is slick (and waterproof) on one side so you can put it on wet ground and the water will not seep through. It is soft on the other side so you feel comfortable using it as a blanket. We got it at Target for $12 and it has been worth every penny so far.
We were tired but we were close to the Trummelbach falls. I really wanted to see them so Natali pushed through the pain and tiredness so that I could enjoy some more waterfalls. These waterfalls were very unique and amazing. They cut through the mountain so the only way that they are accessed is through a series of tunnels that were carved out of the mountain. The falls are amazing and the pictures just don't do them justice. The sound of the water falling, echoing through the tunnels and the mists that cover your face from the shear power of the falls hitting the water are just a few of the things that cannot be caught in a picture. We took a sort of elevator up to fall 6, walked up to fall 10, and then walked all the way back down again. I believe there are over 2500 steps altogether. We were a little nervous that our feet would get wet, but they were fine.

*Tip: If you do go to the falls I would suggest to bring a rain jacket because it gets quite chilly in the tunnels and the mist would get quite cold without one.
Ursala, the person we are staying with, told us about a street party that the town was having that night. We rested a little bit, and then decided to go eat dinner and check out the street party. They closed off the main road for about 6 blocks, had a live band playing, and had booths with food, games, and all sorts of entertainment. On the way to the party we came across some great Switzerland music playing in front of a restaurant. It was an older couple playing these huge horns. It was great.
We luckily grabbed one of the tables on the street and ordered some food. Natali got the Raclette and I got the Swiss Hot Dog and we shared a strawberry dessert. It was all really good. I don't think you can go wrong with Raclette.

As we were eating, an older couple sat at the same table with us. The lady was overjoyed when she found out we spoke English and we started to talk about our trip and about who we were and everything else. Then, another couple sat in between us who were from Dublin so they joined in the conversation. It turns out that the older couple's daughter was a lawyer who worked at a big firm, worked in Paris for a year, then went on to work at the Department of Justice, and is now a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids (Natali was super jealous of all the things she was able to do). The guy from Dublin was also a lawyer so we talked about the for a long time. We ended up talking with all of them until about 10:30 that night. The couple from Dublin had just gone hiking through Austria so they told us a funny story about how the hostels they stayed in would just pile all the guests together on huge 10 foot mattresses! Sounds romantic doesn't it? Haha. It's always fun to meet new people and hear about their different crazy adventures.

We really enjoyed the street party and talking to our new friends. Sadly we didn't get any pictures with them and didn't even get pictures of the street party. We headed back to our little chalet after a great day exploring new things and meeting new people.

One last little tidbit about Switzerland. Everything is like a postcard here. The houses are all covered in flowers and have cute little shutters and things like that. It is crazy. They even cut their woodpiles and stack them perfectly and put flowers on those!