Between Two Lakes: Interlaken, Switzerland

(Note on study abroad: This is the first post I’ve managed to write and actually take the time to sit down about my time abroad. So thank you for reading this entirety if you did. If not, understandable since I attempted to cram in an entire three-day weekend into one piece. Not ideal, but I knew I had to sit and write it. I will also try to write late posts from my time in Copenhagen soon.)

After only getting around two hours of sleep from going out and knowing that you have a flight early in the morning, you’d think that you wouldn’t be able to make it through the day of travel. You pay $30 USD for an oversized luggage and you have to listen to the woman at the check-in desk complaining about how your luggage (shoutout to SAS) can’t be brought onto the plane, even though you know it was big to begin with but you still had faith. Arriving at your destination, you then have to pay some more money for a train to get from one of the main cities, Zurich, to a smaller, even more touristy area, Interlaken. This includes more travel, not to mention you’re traveling with two other people which can make the situation even more tiresome and tense, but you all work together to get to your next point of destination.

Yet, after all of this, you step off of the hour train ride, lug your two luggages that probably amount to a hundred pounds, go up and down hills for 15 minutes before coming to your hostel. Finally, there’s time to look around at this small town and you’re surrounded by picturesque mountains full of greenery and mineral lakes that are so blue that you’re tempted to dive into. You’re at peace and you realize that this is a moment in your life you can’t forget.

That moment, was my moment. It took me awhile to get from Copenhagen, Denmark to Interlaken, Switzerland, but after some positive motivation I made it to my final destination. I had just finished my six week block program in Copenhagen and was preparing to go to the next two blocks which would involve me living in Berlin for the next twelve weeks. Along the way though, I and two other girls from my program decided to use our intermission weekend to travel, and that included going to Interlaken. For my part, I rarely knew anything about the small town that was located in the center of Switzerland except for the fact that it was a major tourist hub and you could do some thrill seeking adventures such as skydiving or more relaxing adventures such as paragliding. My main motive was to just go through and relax, especially in preparation for orientation week once I arrived in Berlin.

The first day we arrived it was more about settling in and getting everything organized as well as going on the search for food. It couldn’t have been more basic, but my meal consisted of a wrap and some chicken nuggets, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t taste good. A lot of the first day consisted of walking around the small town and getting to know the place, even if we’d only be there for three days. It was hard not to stop and stare at the mountains that surrounded us all around. That, and the fact that there were people floating in the sky with paragliding chutes every few seconds. The area was crowded and full of tourists, questioning how many people were actually from the town of Interlaken. Not to mention, that it was surprisingly warm out the whole day, and I was certainly not prepared with my jacket, scarf, and Doc Martens which I thought was what the weather would entail in such a small part of Switzerland.

Our hostel was a small building that was located close to one of the lakes that flows throughout the town with a mountain going up behind it and mountains to the front of it. Across the lake, which you had to get to from the bridge we used previously to carry our luggage, was the main road in the town that had restaurants and other shops for your liking. It was like our own little haven away from everything else where our hostel was located. We decided to lay out there in the chairs and hammocks that encompassed the little green area provided for the guest while looking out at the scenery. Most of our time for the rest of that evening was relaxing but it was a good way to start off our mini trip.

The next day was filled with more exploration but also included jumping out of a plane and flowing through the sky with a chute. It began a little early in the morning where the morning air was a little crisp and breezy. One of the girls in the group was starting off her day by skydiving. We were picked up at our hostel and then taken to the skydiving building. As she went through training, myself and the other member of our group walked around there. It was cooler than what the previous day encompassed but it was said that later on in the day it would begin to warm up. Everywhere in Interlaken was surrounded by mountains, so it didn’t come as a surprised that when looking up there was mountains surrounding us every which way and trees reaching all the way to the top, obscured by the low fog that casted a mysterious scene around us. In a sense, that moment reminded me of fall, one of the greatest (yes, I said it) and calming seasons that exists.

Once we headed back to the main building, our future skydiver was heading into the car to take a helicopter thousands of feet into the air. While we waited, I sort of had this sense of FOMO. I visited Switzerland with the intention of just relaxing and keeping it at that, but seeing one of us in the group skydive and the other preparing later on that day to go paragliding, I realized that I couldn’t just come to Switzerland and not do anything for myself. When would be the next time I would actually come back to this area of Switzerland? Probably never, so I had to make sure I remembered it in some sort of fashion.

As soon as I got some more details from some other people who were visiting Interlaken, I made the decision that I would paraglide. I asked multiple questions about how safe it was, how fun it was, would I be okay, etc. until I figured why not and I pressed the confirmation button that took more money than my bank account was probably expecting that weekend. Not to mention that Interlaken was definitely expensive, but who is surprised sense it garnered a lot of tourist to that area.

The rest of that day went by fairly quickly. We watched as our other member of our weekend trio swooped down from the sky into one one of the parks, ate as we waited, and also saw a herd of cows being paraded through the streets with bells and flowers attached to them. Not sure if that was a daily thing or why such an event was hosted, but if I do my research maybe I’ll figure that out eventually. We closed the evening with getting food from a neighboring hostel and sitting down among the small nightlife that existed in the area and people watched.

The third and last day involved my moment of truth. I was paragliding and super nervous to do so even though I knew it was far less thrilling than skydiving. We were also prepping to check out but luckily I was able to bring my bags with me to the paragliding company where they let me keep it there until check out. As I was picked up and taken with other people who were paragliding I tried to calm my nerves as we made our way into the mountains through winding roads and views of the town below. We were quite a long ways up. The person I would be attached to going down the mountain side reassured me that everything would be fine, but if you know me as a person then you know that you could tell me that every so often and I’d still internally freak out. My instructor suited me up as I stared out at the green hill that I’d run down towards the view of the mountains that awaited me.

“Are you ready Sydnee?” My instructor ask me after finally checking the straps and then attaching me to them. I responded with a no, even though that’s the least positive mindset I could have and they only responded well we are going anyway. I bit back my retort and decided to give my faith into this complete stranger as they told me to start running, and I did. The next thing I knew I was jogging until I was told to stop and then I was high in the air. Inside I was freaking out, but on the outside I couldn’t stop smiling.

Everything was so vivid and colorful I was thinking the whole time it couldn’t be real. From a birds eye view I saw the bright blue lakes winding throughout the town going out towards the bigger part of the lake, the small houses from above and even the highest, snow-covered mountain in the background. The best way I could describe it is the ride call Soarin’ at Disneyworld where you’re flying over various picturesque landscapes, but this was real and I was doing it. I was flying close and above trees and looking down at the picturesque view below.

My instructor recorded and took pictures throughout the trip in the air on a GoPro, asking if I was ok, and answered questions I had that I’m sure were to distract my own mind from the fact that I was flying in the air. We were able to do turns and tricks, which I was apprehensive about at first but realized I was already up there so I might as well. And as soon as it began, we were prepping ourselves to land, which was a lot smoother than I expected. I stood in awe, looking above at where I had just been. It took me a minute, as with all thrilling adventures that I try to do, but I did it and faced my fears. My instructor gave me a high-five, sent my photos and videos over to my phone, and I was off.

Looking back on it now, I still can’t believe I did it. Of course, I had to call my mom right away to reassure her that I made it safely and telling her the day prior what I was doing. Pretty sure her and my dad didn’t get as much rest that night in my twenty-one years in that moment, but at the end of it, they were proud of me.

The day continued on with me still reeling over the fact that I quite literally just flew like a bird. Our group stopped once more with me at the Swatch store which I did end up buying a Swatch to commemorate my time in Interlaken and then for the rest of the evening we went to Lake Thun, another scenic spot surrounded by homes, boats, and a giant swan that was intent on trying to bother everyone it came across.

As we grabbed our luggage and headed to our train that would then take us to our bus for Berlin, our weekend trip was starting to come to a close and another adventure was getting ready to begin. That weekend was full of relaxation, beautiful views, and trying something new yet again. A weekend to remember as my study abroad adventures continue.