Our trip up to this point has been pretty regulated. We had to fly into Stockholm, then we had to get to Copenhagen for our flight to Basel. But from here on out, we basically just go wherever we want. We knew we had to visit the alps, but the weather forecast looked like it would be overcast and rainy in all of Switzerland for the rest of our trip. But when we woke up this morning, low and behold, tomorrow is forecast to have some sun and only a 40% chance of rain! We knew we had to get there.
So we packed our bags, said goodbye to Francis, had lunch at the train station, and hoped on a train for Interlaken in the alps region. One rather bizarre thing happened on the train: the woman checking tickets told us that we had to get our Eurail passes stamped and pay around $75 each! Well none of the other ticket checkers told us that, and by the time we got to Interlaken our connecting train was leaving in 2 minutes, so we didn’t. Then another ticket checker found us on that train and told that us our Eurail passes weren’t valid for that train, so we had to buy tickets. Again, our connection time was 2 minutes so even if we had known that, it would have been impossible to get tickets. Oh well. Apparently Switzerland is just much more strict on that stuff than other countries.
At our trains last stop, we had to get another connection to a bus, which lead to the last connection: a cable car. We floated over the verdant valley below to the impossibly perfect mountain town of Gimmelwald. This town has been saved from mass tourism and commercialization by a rather exaggerated avalanche zoning claim. But thank goodness for that, because it is straight out of a story book. Green hills where goats and cows graze, wooden barns with traditional Swiss architecture, and sheer mountain cliffs that draw the eye heavenward to glistening snowy peaks. There is a saying here that says, “If heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, let me come back to Gimmelwald.” I thought it was a bit cheesy and over exaggerated when I read it, but now I totally get it. Even through the rainy mist and low hanging fog, the charm and magic of this place can’t be overstated. Our lodgings for this stay was the first place we’ve had to pay for, but I’m glad we did. We stayed at the Mountain Hostel, which was apparently built several hundred years ago and continuously renovated but never complelty destroyed. It was well worth the price to be up in the mountains and surrounded by fun, young, like-minded backpackers.
For diner we made a hike (which turned out to be much longer than we were told) through the rain up to the neighboring mountain town of Murren, where we ate sausages and Swiss cheese. We bought some sandwich fixings at a local store and headed back down. That night it was too rainy for any outdoor activities, so everyone in the hostel stayed in and played games, from Scum to Scategories. Meeting and hanging out with so many travelers from so many places was one of the highlights of the trip.