Archive for the ‘Interlaken’ Tag

A Photographer’s Paradise

 

 

I wish I could have this guy's view.

I wish I could have this guy's view.

Random Observation/Comment #176: Fuji-san was such a remarkable experience that I compare every hiking scene to the rollercoaster of hardships and appreciation for nature throughout the entire journey.  From the exhaustion and freezing cold to the final reward of watching that Heaven above all clouds, I had truly stretched my boundaries of emotions.  Every short-breath I took and lactic acid build-up I ignored was for that payoff; however, at the end of the day, it was the full experience that made that one of my most memorable 24 hours.  Schiltorn was a little different.  We walked for 30 minutes and then took a series of gondolas to the top where we proceeded to drink a beer in a revolving 360 restaurant on a clear day.  This was nothing short of mind-numbingly beautiful, but I missed the hardships of the climb.  I undoubtedly loved every moment, but now that I analyze the day, my tiredness was not because of this mix of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and frozen limbs, but rather due to an over-exertion of my eyes as to not blink and possibly shaft myself from an extra millisecond.  This makes me wonder if I rather be lazy to see the reward or truly badass to follow the road with potholes, killer hitch hikers, and all.  For now, let’s remember that I’m on vacation.

 

Schilthorn is not the Top of Europe, but it was recommended over Jungfrau due to its 360 view of over 200 peaks on a clear day, the rotating 360 restaurant, and the chance of having better weather.  The entire week I was in Interlaken, Jungfrau was always cloudy (or at least not as clear as Schilthorn).  I think there is an ice museum of some sort at Jungfrau, but I bet spending an hour in that spinning restaurant is much better than any pictures of ice sculptures.  I have never been to the Top of Europe so I won’t pass too much judgment, but I can’t imagine how it’s better than what I saw at Schilthorn.

The journey to Schilthorn from the bottom of the mountain was as follows: 7CHF train ride to Lauterbrunnen, 14CHF tram ride to Grutschlap, walk to Gimmelwald across the snowed-in village, 36CHF for the tram to Birg and then Schilthorn.  This is expensive, but it’s totally worth it.  I decided to take it to the next level and spend 15EUR at the restaurant – I mean, you just have to.  The prices at the top weren’t even that expensive.  It was basically the normal price of $4 a beer, which is standard pricing from NYC.

Each tram ride to the intermediate stops made me think that this place could not be any more beautiful; every single time, I was proven wrong by the next station.  There are only a few things that follow this trend and they should all be cherished for following that exponential curve (graphed love of life vs time).  I hope everyone has the opportunity to walk around this platform and actually try to choose the direction with the better view.  It took some time after walking in circles a few times, but there was one side that just whispered serenity.  To make sure I covered my bases, I took a million (like, a million) pictures and a 6-part video series of walking around.  The camera does not begin to capture my happiness, but it does its job of reminding my senses to rush me back to that moment.

The 360 restaurant takes about 45 minutes for a full revolution. After being to quite a few fancy places around the world, this was – hands-down – the best view I’ve ever seen from a restaurant.   The beer even tasted better when complimented with this view.  Apparently, a James Bond movie was filmed here, but that’s just one of those details that can be stored as a small nugget of information after looking outside.  It’s difficult to find a seat on the outer edge, but I would suggest waiting for one.  A good technique would be to sit next to a couple that looks like they’ve done this a million times, but happened to land a good spot.  If you can’t spot this type of couple, you should at least avoid sitting next to foreigners with cameras – they’re definitely not leaving anytime soon.  With that said, we stayed for 1.25 hours and had an extremely enjoyable meal.  The cheese platter was not as large as we expected, but the thinly sliced Swiss cheese basically transformed into milk after touching your tongue and lips.  I jizzed in my pants.  This would be one out of many times for this day.  Dare I say, this was deemed a day long jizz extravaganza.  I think you get the point; this place was incredible.

Even without this experience, my week in Interlaken would have been worth every second, but by adding this day of just being immersed in a blanket of peaks, I could not have been happier with my choices and life in general.  It was that moment that I fell in love with mountains.  They remind me of boobies (I know that was completely uncalled for, but whatever).

~See Lemons Happy with Life

 

This was my favorite side of the 360 view

This was my favorite side of the 360 view

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Peddling Through Towns

 

 

Biking on a highway is a great idea!

Biking on a highway is a great idea!

Random Observation/Comment #175: Bike riding used to be much less painful for my ass when I was younger.  I’m not sure if it was the enthusiasm for peddling while standing, the shorter and more comfortable seat, or a more cushion-y blubber-butt, but I don’t remember having trouble walking and sitting down after an afternoon of bike riding.  The effects of the intercity bicycle-adventure in Interlaken felt like… well, I’ll spare the vulgar references, and just simply put it as unpleasant.  The sights were beautiful, but I’m not sure it’s worth the awkward stances and constant need to complain about a sore ass where more awkward silences ensue.  I’m never really going for speed, so I’ll probably sit on a pillow next time.  If you ever see a biker with a pillow duct-taped to his butt, that would be me (engineering innovation FTW).

 

Since it costs about 8EUR for Eurailpass travelers to take a train to the top of the small villages near the intermediate stations on the side of the mountain, I decided to save the money and rent a bike to ride around town with Olly.  The weather was not ideal for mountain-watching, and I was craving that bicycle injection into my life.  I remember my Japan experiences with bicycles and expected something similar.  Given the lakeside view and lack of tiring uphill climbs, I would say that this was better.

The bicycle costs in Interlaken are approximately 4EUR base with 2EUR for additional hours.  The one that I rented happened to be a fifteen-speed with kickass gear shifters.  Quantity of gears is definitely something I liked about the design, but I don’t think I ever used it to the fullest potential.  Professional bike racers can maintain their speed because they know which gears to use that let them peddle at a constant pace.  Based on the terrain and different inclines, the rider could change the gear ratio to adjust properly to prevent early fatigue.

My personal experience with professional cycling is limited (actually zero), so really, I would have preferred the basket in the front, if not to hold my backpack, than to be cool by being completely ridiculed.  It’s just like me to bring on the hipster status by starting new trends that are obviously terrible; but it’s done to prove the point that we’re creative.  The weird part is that the hipster dress code has become a trend amongst artists and architects, so they’ve become the corporate tools that they passionately avoided (nooooo twilight zone). 

Anyway, I don’t need 15 speeds: I only really needed 3 because those are the only ones I used.  It took too much time to change gears and I would rather just exert the little extra energy to feel the burn.  Besides, I was not racing against time or wearing any aerodynamic helmets with spandex tights; this was the equivalent of a leisure stroll, not a marathon.  When I was tired, I stopped.  When I saw picture-opportune moments (which was very often), I took the time to find the right angles.

My particular biking path was a combination of getting lost and following the biggest lake we could find (which, I guess wasn’t difficult to spot).  We accidentally got onto a highway going towards Thun and just went with it.  Most of the roads were just connecting between small towns, but the real treasures are the small pit stops near houses that had a full-lake view.  I know everyone thinks about this, but I really could have retired here purely based on the scenery out of my bathroom window.  I could imagine waking up to a windless morning with crystal clear reflections of the mountains in the water.  These views were absolutely stunning.  This would probably give me an erection.  Did I mention how difficult it is to ride a bike with an erection?  It’s hard (hah).

~See Lemons with a Sore Buttocks

Beautiful view from the lake

Beautiful view from the lake

Useful Swiss Army Knife

 

 

Badass pictures of Jordan

Badass pictures of Jordan

Random Observation/Comment #174:  I never understood the nerdy Cooper kids that carry around Leathermans and Swiss Army knives everywhere they go (cough, JHG).  Do Cooper and the Computer Center reach the levels of intensity that require such a tool?  I guess the knife would be useful for opening a box if you’re in the stockroom, but that’s nothing a pen can’t do.  All engineers should have learned the essence of MacGyver-ing any situation (It was before my time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know who he is).  After purchasing my own genuine Swiss Army knife in Interlaken, I expected I would have been smited (smote?) in some way by that part of my brain that stops me from being more geeky because this step had propelled me, head-first, into the next stage of new-age resourceful nerdom.  Oddly, the smiting hath not begun mostly because I quickly found magical uses for the knife, bottle opener, and scissors.  Yes, I could have hacked at it with my finger nails, ripped it, or used a lighter to open the bottle, but somehow I felt obligated to use this new device.  I think someone (maybe me) is putting me in positions where this tool would be useful – it’s very subconscious.  At least I smile every time I see that this money was well spent.  I would have probably blown it on chocolate anyway.

 

After sledging for the afternoon, the group decided to make a fire and cook dinner on the side of the mountain.  This plan was flawless, except for the whole lack of firewood detail.  There was plenty of kindling pieces and I provided the excessive supply of maps that I kept in my pocket (even I was impressed at how many I had accumulated in the past few days), but even with a lighter, this was a difficult task.  Unfortunately, the cheap plastic and ink did not contribute to making the fire hotter; it only made our nostrils swell and eyes tear from the toxic fumes.  We wound up cutting down a few trees and improvising with some alcoholic beverages.  What actually wound up working was persistency.

It took about 45 minutes, but the fire was eventually roaring and our beer burrowed in the ice was eventually cold.  We borrowed a few pans from the hostel and cooked up a mighty-good meal.  We brought sausages, eggs, and dinner rolls to make a legitimate omelet and some other rather good treats.  The cheese melted beautifully and everything turned out better than expected.  The Swiss Army knife was used excessively to cut meat, cut firewood, and cut open my finger – oops.  Luckily, I still have all of my digits.

On a side note, the box of eggs we brought had 4 out of 6 eggs with double yolks.  I’m not sure if this is good luck or bad, but I was almost convinced the entire box was double-yolked because the first three we cracked were doubles.  I understand scientifically how this happens, but that was the first time in my life I saw 3 in a plate, let alone cracked in a row, and from a package that was made for normal yolks.  I tried a rough estimation of the probability and then decided to think about more useful stuff.  Anyway, I’m sure these magical eggs contributed to making an amazing omelet.

Even during the summer, I would never prefer sleeping outside over any type of bed or surface inside.  The idea of accidentally eating insects or having them burrow under my skin while I sleep just makes my skin crawl.  I don’t mind hanging out with insects when I’m awake and I can react more naturally, but sleeping next to these creatures makes me feel dead.  Jordan and James used hammocks (which is pretty sweet in the summer), but the wind blowing under the hammock completely draws the heat out of your body.  For the best of both worlds, I stayed out for the fireside chat and then returned to the warm bed at night.  The hardcore outdoors-ies were more prepared than I could ever imagine, and they still said that it was rough.  Minimal hours of sleep really aren’t on my game plan when Interlaken has so many beautiful sights to offer. 

~See Lemons Go Camping (sort of)

 

Starting the fire with pine needles

Starting the fire with pine needles

Sledding or Sledging once or twice

 

 

Behind the scenes :P

Behind the scenes 😛

Random Observation/Comment #173: I’ve always thought sledding (or “sledging,” as they call it with “proper English”) was a childish thing similar to tubing, or represented by those inflatable boxing gloves you fit around your arms in the swimming pool.  What I forgot was the level of creativity us more mature people apply to make these normal childhood pastimes much more exciting and hardcore.  Add a splash (or 8 splashes) of alcohol and a dash of forbidden ski trails and you get this delicious blend of danger and exhilaration.  The jagermeister keeps you warm, while the vertical drop into those powder sections gives fun a completely new meaning (probably much more fun when trashed).

 

If you’re traveling in Interlaken on a tight budget (like me and everyone else) and you still want to have a fun time on the side of the mountain, I would suggest hitting the slopes with sleds.  The full day rental of the sleds and lift tickets is only 37CHF (with 10CHF for the tram tickets to that section of the mountain).  As a photograph-enthusiast, I feel that sledging allows for many more stops and some more opportune moments to just enjoy the scenery.  While skiing, there was so many times where I just sped down and ignored beautiful sections.  The adrenaline overtook my desires to capture the scenery because to me, skiing was more about the technique and the freedom.  In the same way pictures try to capture a still life moment of a video, the videos would fall short in completing the extra dimensions of representing skiing.  However, sledging brings a different type of thrill.  Yes, there are definitely times where I thought I was going to die because I had no control of my steering or my speed, but there are purposeful walking-sections where the scenery is just begging for a photographer.  It’s obviously no comparison to the level of adrenaline involved in skiing, but there is a different connection with the overall experience of “being one with the mountain.”

I never thought that I would enjoy sledging so much because I had always experienced it on small driveways or down little hills where I would need to walk for 30 minutes just to get those few minutes of joy.  Sledging on the Swiss Alps, on the other hand, is extreme.  The gondola ride up to the top took 30 minutes and coming down as quickly as possible from the top of the mountain took 2 hours.  The scenic pauses were replaced with pictures, while the sharp turns made me feel like a rockstar drifter. 

If you ever sled, you’ll develop your own techniques of steering, but for the most part, you can just hang on to the bottom and keep your feet up.  The desire to turn will make you naturally shift your weight and all should be fine.  Besides, crashing into the side was the easiest way of stopping and it was completely painless.  The tracks were packed and groomed, but I could never tell where the track ended and the powdered snow began.  Everyone has that experience of thinking that a path existed and then, a few seconds later, finding themselves waist deep in snow with the sled halfway down the mountain.  Some of the best laughs I’ve had were a result from the ridiculous falls off the trail.  It is impossible to take shortcuts, but always fun to try.  I wore jeans both times, and by the end, the denim was completely frozen and I had snow up and down my calves from trying to stop with my heels. 

Later, I learned that stopping is a peaceful eventuality, and the moments should be lived with the thoughts of “holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, Where are the brakes?”  Even though these same thoughts pass through your mind while you’re on this run, the reaction of slowing down or staying in more control is a fleeting thought when the falls are sometimes more fun than the high velocity on the way down.  The thought of possible freak-decapitation from a crazy sled accident still enters your mind as an instinct and pure fear of this pain, but almost directly after every fall, I immediately thought, “That was Awesome! Did you see those flips I did?” 

It would be impossible for me to suggest that someone who has the opportunity to ski or snowboard to go sledging instead, but if a traveler wanted to save a lot of money, take pictures, and still have a great time with a group of friends; sledging is your answer.  I went twice with completely different conditions and it was worth it both times.  The first day, the low visibility with the constant snowfall made me think of the ideal winter wonderland.  The second day, the clear skies that just opened the entire side of the mountain made me think everything was a painting. The view was so beautiful that it was unreal.  It’s funny that real life reminded me of a picture.

Sledging is definitely a group activity.  Skiing could be enjoyed with your own little world of training and peacefulness, but the fun with sledging is this mix of falling, and then seeing someone fall when you’re waiting for them.  It’s almost like seeing a mime get kicked in the groin.  They tumble and you automatically laugh because you know that they are most probably fine (mimes aren’t real people).  Skiing falls, on the other hand, are a little more dangerous and could bring some worried emotions a split second before they get up again.  In this case, everything is funny because you can unknowingly veer off track for a small segment and then collapse into the snow.

~See Lemons Sledging

 

This is the most epic picture I've ever taken.

This is the most epic picture I've ever taken.

When in Rome…

 

 

Sticking my arm out the window to take pictures is my favorite pastime

Sticking my arm out the window to take pictures is my favorite pastime

Random Observation/Comment #172: No matter how much I love trying to find those hidden treasures in an unfamiliar city, I can’t help but feel the need to conform to those guidebooks and millions of suggestions online.  After all, these people are paid to travel and write these reviews – I think they should have done the job that I’m trying to do.  Why do I continuously reinvent the wheel with these things?  Fortunately, the reinvention of this wheel is enjoyable and not laborious or tedious.  I am seeing new things and pulling new opinions from thin air. The threads that connect everything in this collection of thoughts just get pinched for a closer look.  If it’s worth the extra analysis, another web builds around the idea.  It’s my own little, methodical clustering system for my scattered thoughts.  Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that the tourist attractions are famous for good reason – they’re awesome.

 

I’ve never been to Rome, but when I go, I will probably say countless times: “When in Rome.”  To me, it’s an excuse to do anything I want because I’m on vacation.  It’s this mentality that brings me happiness – lightly closed eyes and a grin as if I’m hearing a captivating melody.  It’s a similar feeling, but non-specific, yet in much more detail with all my senses.  It’s actually so abstract that it makes me feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about.  This is probably true. 

“When in Rome” sounded a little restricting for my personal taste at first glance.  It sounded as if I had to love what they loved – then I asked, “Why would I have similar tastes to Romans?”  I do not wear togas and walk around in sandals (in public or on weekdays).  It’s not like I have a council where I discuss some important philosophies while waiting for the next fight scene in Gladiator.  I did not see myself as stereotypically Roman, but did that mean that I shouldn’t at least try it?

In my world of logic, loopholes are plentiful because contradiction, debate, and an open-mind are praised.  For example, even though I doubted the idea of following what normal people do, I might just follow what normal people do to develop my experiences and finely chisel the details in my opinions.  But then, if my choice is the same from a state-action perspective, what have I done, but wasted a lot of extra brain power confusing myself?  I guess I just like confusing myself.  It keeps my brainstem on its tippy toes.

How does this apply to Interlaken in any way? I decided to contradict everything I thought about and just follow what I instinctively thought would be a good idea.  Over-planning and thinking over distributions and probabilities didn’t really help me make the decision.  I wanted to live on the edge and just do it because it worked for me at that moment.  It was an odd feeling, letting go of all of these plans.  My brain became the second stop where I looked for answers – I asked my gut first.  The gut is always right.  I know this because I asked my gut, and it told me exactly what I needed to hear. 

Hmm… I guess this was how the Romans would have wanted me to do it.

~See Lemons Just Go with the Flow

Thanks for posing, Jordan.  There are no words.

Thanks for posing, Jordan. There are no words.

Swiss Choco-gasm

 

 

Truffles.  Drool.

Truffles. Drool.

Random Observation/Comment #171: Chocolate has always been a forbidden desire in my life.  It constantly tested my self-control, and I almost shunned its very existence to avoid obesity.  This philosophy existed before I began following the “everything in moderation” rule and decided to step away from the edge of extremities.  Since then, chocolate is simply seen as a special treat that should be indulged at special occasions.  These “occasions” can be justified by any excuse, such as, being in Switzerland with awesome chocolate, graduating Cooper, finishing a paper, or waking up in the morning in a chipper mood.  My willpower automatically boosts when I think about going to Max Brenner’s and buying chocolate, but when I finally cave (which I often do), I decide to splurge.  When I splurge on chocolate, it’s a good idea to accompany me because I love trying everything and I love sharing to reduce my chocolate intake.  This Chocolate Heaven would have added an extra love handle and made my dentist very rich if I didn’t at least stop myself from walking there every day.  $20 worth of chocolate isn’t so bad… well, as long as it was the whole week, and not one out of three days.  Take me away, Oompa-loompas.

 

I don’t remember the exact address of this chocolate shop near the Interlaken West train station because it was snowing and I was really just following the crowd in a hungry, zombie mess to find food (and I know how it feels to be a zombie; I attend Zombiecon on the regular).  The deep growl for food and crooked walk at a snail’s pace really added some effect to the following scene, where I sexually molest the window of the chocolate shop.  My palms were pressed tightly against the window, and my hat fell off from my eyes trying to get closer than the brim allowed.  My nose squished and my eyes shuffled around the room to scan for the best quality and calculate how much money I would eventually spend.  The odd thing was that the ladies working in the shop did not “shoo” me away or even give a dirty look – they just smiled and pointed to their watch.  Apparently, they weren’t open yet and they probably see people like me all the time.  I imagine that window looks like a trucker’s windshield during a hot summer – poor buggers.

Chocolate was on my mind when I ate a doner kebab at the restaurant a few blocks away.  I was craving it so much that I could taste the sweetness.  I imagined the texture and the colorful fireworks of tastes with each chew.  The mind really bends reality when you want it to.  My taste buds were under my control even if every other part of my body wasn’t.  I had a one-track mind on a train to my chocolate fantasy. If I were horny, I’m sure I would have pictured some model dripping in chocolate, but I was just hungry, so the dream was closer to the Simpson’s candy land episode where Homer runs around taking a bite out of everything.

Keegan shared my obsession with chocolate, but I’m not sure if he hallucinated as much as I did.  I was having difficulty deciding how much money I should spend and what I should buy from all of these choices.  I think the right choice would have been to buy the bags of chocolate they made directly there, but I found many of the chocolate bars on the shelf to be irresistible.  I couldn’t believe how some of this chocolate was half-off of the normal price I bought in St. Mark’s Market.  After searching through my memories of the times I browsed the chocolate sections in New York City, I picked brands and types that I have never seen.  Honestly, I think I could have picked anything and I would have been happy with the result. 

It took a level of willpower to stop myself from buying this chocolate, but an additional dimension of difficulty after buying the chocolate and holding it in my bag without devouring it in a second.  I made so many excuses about how I didn’t want it to melt on the train ride back or overnight.  This was the reason for returning 3 times.  There was some chocolate that didn’t even need chewing – I think I was having an orgasm the full amount of time, no matter how long, the chocolate required to melt in my mouth.  I love Interlaken chocolate.  Let’s hope Belgium doesn’t disappoint.

~See Lemons in Chocolate Heaven

I just jizzed in my pants.

I just jizzed in my pants.

White-out in Interlaken

 

 

This took 1 hour.  Amazing.

This took 1 hour. Amazing.

Random Observation/Comment #170: The snow accumulation in Interlaken is quite scary. The snowflakes are the size of quarters (or 1 EUR for the non-American readers) and they stick to make perfect snowballs.  Throwing a small rock down the hill will literally snowball and grow because of Switzerland’s magic.  It was most probably the cold weather and perfect humidity that made everything so beautiful, but in my mind, this is how I pictured a winter wonderland in Switzerland.  I treaded through the freshly-fallen powder and, by the end of the walk back to the hostel; a little snowman was built on the brim of my hat.  It took an hour to transform this gravel side-path into a place I thought only my imagination could invent.  I was waiting to see a mythical half-man-half-bear-pig frolic through the woods – all I saw was a half-bear-half-man-pig.

 

On this second day, the grey clouds swallowed the mountains and brought forth an interesting precipitation similar to a shower of dip-n-dots.  When I first saw these little ice balls, I thought it was just the way it snowed in Switzerland, but as the day progressed, this windy hail transformed into gi-normous steroid snowflakes that were three times larger than normal.  It was as if each snowflake found multiple partners and they were having an orgy while floating downwards. 

The morning hike in the Goldswil Mountain towards the North was very beautiful.  The clouds blocked some of the view and our will to proceed was interrupted by the hail, but I was finally hiking with company.  Jordan, Danny, and Keegan told interesting stories and just walked to the next photographic opportunity.  I was the most obsessed out of the group to stop and photograph an already cloudy scene, but eventually we followed the same wavelength.

Needless to say, the snow was incredible and I’m glad it happened at least once when I was staying in Switzerland, but I’m not sure if it is ideal for the hiker and photographer who are looking for those clear conditions to go to the top of the mountain.  I’m sure the skiers and snowboarders do not have preference over the visibility factor, and in fact, would rather see snow today so the conditions would be better the next, but a normal hiker would feel a little gloomy.  I tried to be reasonable with my spending money, so I didn’t rent skis (and all of my other required gear that I didn’t bring with me), but now that I recalculate the price for a week ticket, I’m positive I spent less money.  Although one day of full rentals (including ski jacket, boots, gloves, goggles, skis, and lift ticket) is around $160, the following days’ prices decrease by an N/2 sequence until $20 per day.  Therefore, a week of skiing would only cost around $400.  Because I record everything I do on this trip, I see that I spent $240 on activities, so I think I made the right decision.  Eating at the top of the mountain with $15 minimum for meals would have probably been the killer of my spending limit.  In fact, even with my reduced spending, it wasn’t until 3 weeks after the trip (where I cooked meals and greatly reduced my spending), did I return to my normal budget.

Anyway, back to the snow.  It was fluffy, it was white, and I was happy.  The weather eventually cleared for a chance to see the top of the mountain, so I’m glad I waited the extra days, but the sight of a town completely blanketed in an hour was incredible.  I wish I had built a snowman, a snow fortress, and some snow caterpillars, but I had to settle with some sick slides and large snowballs.  To avoid soaking the only shoes I brought, I wound up sitting inside and sorting my pictures in front of the fire.  This reminded me of winter – a relaxing vacation and not a care in the world.  I was a kid again, and I’m glad it all worked out the way it did.

~See Lemons Love Snow

Slide!

Slide!

The Balmer’s Experience

 

 

It looks like I'm holding a head...

It looks like I'm holding a head...

Random Observation/Comment #169: I was filling out the Balmer’s customer satisfaction survey and found many of their questions surprisingly annoying to answer.  I thought it was going to be a simple comment box where I can write something like, “The staff is always helpful with suggestions and the accommodations have been exceptional (except for the shared toilet between 30 people).”  Instead, it was a ranking system that convinced me someone would get fired if I put under a three.  I almost pulled my hair out and stabbed my thigh with the pen after circling satisfactory so I could just write a quick thank you.  Unfortunately, by the time I reached the comment area, my frustration had exhausted my creativity.  “Good job.  Thanks.”  I think one of my only complaints about the hostel was this optional survey.  Why do I torture myself so?

 

The Balmer’s Herberge hostel, although slightly expensive ($30 a night), is a wonderful place to stay.  Everything in Interlaken is expensive (i.e., $15 for lunch), so you will find this is quite reasonable.  The hostel makes a triangle with the Interlaken East (OST) and West stations.  I got lost finding this place in the middle of the night when I arrived, so for reference, when you see the large park area, you walk south about 3 blocks and make a left.  It’s about a 10 minute walk from both stations, so you’re not lost – you just didn’t walk long enough.  I considered living on the mountain itself, but I found that those hotels were much more expensive and the Balmer’s hostel offers you a free bus pass to get to the train.  The train ride up is another 8 EUR with the discount from the Eurailpass, but I figured I wouldn’t spend all my time on the slopes.  There were plenty of activities and hikes near the bottom of the mountain anyway.

The hostel itself has a maze of rooms that look surprisingly homely.  It feels like you’re staying in a cabin from a grandfather that chose to move up to a cold state and live like a burly lumberjack.  There are separate rooms for watching movies, reading, playing billiards and ping pong, doing laundry, using the internet, an open kitchen, a fireplace area, and a dining area.  The stay comes with free breakfast vouchers, which really isn’t tasty, but settles the stomach temporarily.  Taking into account how expensive food is around the area, I would say that it was worth spreading extra jam and cheese.

The staff speaks English very well, but does not necessarily know everything about where to go.  They won’t give you bad directions or even inaccurate information, but they sometimes only answer your question without fully considering your situation.  For example, I asked the reception where the closest Coop store was at 9PM.  She told me it was around the corner, but forgot to mention that the store closes at 6PM.  I’m not complaining about a night stroll, but it would have been nice if she would have mentioned it so I’m not showing up to a closed store even hungrier and more frustrated than before.  In many cases, the staff was very helpful and enthusiastic, but there will always be those days that repeating the same “major attractions” talk gets a little mundane.  I feel for them, especially since they are just day-dreaming about going to skiing/snowboarding for free on the Swiss Alps.

In terms of the bed arrangements, this place has a very interesting system.  It does not have keys for the customers to hold and does not require checkout.  The rooms are locked from 10AM to 4PM everyday and you can only open the door for the room if you flirt with the receptionists.  The idea of closing the room in this fixed time is nice because it forces people to wake up early and start a nice day on the slopes, but this sucks because you have to wake up early from the previous night of drinking.  Just as a side note, be sure to buy your beer in advance because you can buy 55-cent beers from the Coop store instead of $5 ones at reception.  The beer may be shit, but after you see the prices for this place, you’ll want to save money.

So, after the first five minutes of talking with reception, I realized a major flaw in their system.  There is no way for them to know whether or not you are living in the hostel if you walk in like you belong there.  I see a lot of people just walk in and out of this area, and they are only asked questions if they look lost and have a lot of luggage.  In theory, one person could check in and the other could just stay in the same room during a weekday.  During weekends, this may cause trouble because your bed may be taken, but I have no idea why I was paying so much during the week when I was the only one sleeping in the room.  Of course, I do not condone doing this, and it is merely an extended observation.

Overall, this place was very festive on weekends and a ghost town on weekdays.  Everything closes in Interlaken around 6PM so the night just revolves around cooking something and possibly watching a movie.  It gave me a lot of time to reflect and relax, but I guess it would make sense if this city was mainly used for extreme sport-goers.  If you’ve been skiing for a full day, I wouldn’t want to do anything past 8PM either.  I’ve actually found there is a designated showering and napping time that coincides with most skiers and snowboarders.  If you’re following the system, you’ll be too tired to be bored and ripping it down the Swiss Alps the majority of the day to find little things to complain about.  I’d definitely suggest for those who visit Interlaken.

~See Lemons Chill at Balmers

 

It also has the most popular club in the city in its basement

It also has the most popular club in the city in its basement

Doesn't it look like a cabin house?  It was sweet.

Doesn't it look like a cabin house? It was sweet.

Interlaken’s Lakeside Sigh

 

 

Thank you for posing, random strangers.

Thank you for posing, random strangers.

Random Observation/Comment #168: I was once asked by a friend, “What has happened in the past week that made you love life?” The question was difficult to answer not because I followed some cult cynicism (which I don’t), but rather because the week in question was a week where my senses were almost paralyzed by the overflow of natural beauty.  The view of mountains in every direction definitely added to the feeling, but I’m pretty sure it was the loose shoulders and open arms embracing this life that made me forget about reality.  My lungs hoarded the clean air and I finally let my brain breathe for that oxygen head-high.  The last time I saw an empty Terminator-on-screen-display of tasks was in Japan.  Once more, I enjoyed these moments in peace.  I was not alone – it was me and Mother Nature.  We had endless conversations with each other even though the understanding of each other’s languages was minimal.  At some point, She probably told me to stop being anti-social.

 

Writing is my form of time traveling.  As I sit down and refresh my memories with the 400 pictures I took this day, it really feels like that scene from The Butterfly Effect when Ashton Kusher jumps back to change events.  All these terrible Hollywood camera effects references is sadly the best I can do to express this imaginative shift.  I often type with my eyes closed and with minimal distractions as to more deeply remember every sense in my body and every thought in my mind from that time.  I try my hardest to grasp those floating memories and paste them onto my laptop screen.  The random rants are a direct result of my silent conversations (although it sometimes involves different ties from more current events).

I give this reiterative reasoning for my entries because I think I have officially marked the memory of blissful peace on the side of that lake that will stay with me forever.  Yes, everything about Fuji-san sunrise was a rejuvenating jolt from that picture-perfect defibrillator, but there was something different about this walk that made me smile.  I guess what I’m trying to put into words is embodied in the featured photograph of this entry.

Not only was the walk in the Neuhaus wildlife preservation area an incredible, real-life painting before my eyes, but it offered a contrast of life phases.  The path following the lake was designated for dog walks, baby strollers, joggers, and regular nature enthusiasts, thus providing me with a very diverse sample.  I saw small groups of teenagers, young backpacking travelers, locals jogging with dogs, lovey-dovey couples, mothers with baby strollers, families with toddlers, and old couples holding hands on a bench watching the mountain’s reflections in the lake.  These people made my heart melt.

I couldn’t help but smile with envy.  I remembered those carefree teenage years and skipped a few stones, distorting that long forgotten reflection.  I remembered the romantics of being in love and finding comfort in being her shoulder to lean on.  I empathized with the young adults trying to maintain their grasp on youth and finding hobbies that fit their lifestyles.  I imagined the baby’s soft breath and happy dreams while following her mother in a joyful routine.  I longed for the short exchanged glance between parents that say in that extra-long second, “We did it.  I love you.”  And I look forward to that moment on the park bench where words cannot begin to describe the rollercoaster, called “Life.”  But for now, I will be the young backpacker with a heart for adventure and an open mind.  If you were there, I’m sure you would have seen the same.

~See Lemons Immersed in the Essence of Beauty

 

A perfectly placed open field in front of mountains

A perfectly placed open field in front of mountains

Interlaken Overview

 

 

joyful: jumping from the complete overflow of joy.

joyful: jumping from the complete overflow of joy.

Random Observation/Comment #166: Just thinking about Interlaken makes my mouth dry and my heart flutter like a school-girl with a crush on a dreamy teacher (this, of course, includes the soft colors and blurred corners in the camera filter).  Interlaken and I have an awkward relationship filled with the essentials for a beautiful life of holding hands during long walks along the beach or finishing the daily crossword puzzles on the back porch overlooking a well-maintained backyard.  We have so much potential, yet we realize that it’s really a fantasy that only exists in bad Hollywood films.  The scenery, although quite breathtaking in itself, does not capture the full experience of Interlaken.  This new paradise has exceeded my expectations and set new maximums for my fun gauge.  I love nature and especially mountains, so you should understand that this is one of the reasons why cold weather is slowly tipping the scale as my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong, the beach still rocks my socks, but the things I saw across the distance left me exhausted with excitement, yet yearning for so much more.  Interlaken is a must-see.

 

Interlaken has captured my heart, left a single teardrop inside, and returned it to keep me alive.  The week was gauged perfectly to include the optimal balance of nature, relaxation, alcohol, and sporting.  I don’t even regret one second for not going skiing on those beautiful days because everything went so well (okay, maybe a few minutes while riding the gondola).  Although the clear skies went gray for the giant snowflakes of doom, the absence of blue was blissfully replaced by white.   The toxic slush, I’ve grown accustom to in Manhattan, were nonexistent in Interlaken.  Entire streets were left unplowed and blanketed with freshly fallen snow.  The crunching sounds from my slow pace in the inches were a symphony to my ears.  My camera, as well as my memory, ate up every moment and always asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths.  It was an all-you-can-eat-buffet extravaganza, and I was a national champion food competitor (metaphorically speaking).

As with my previous entries about London, I will give an initial overview of my itinerary and then dive into detail with subsequent entries for each topic.

Sat, Mar 7 – 11 hour train ride to Interlaken with unnecessarily long and poorly planned transfers, checked into Balmer’s hostel*, met Jordan and went to Interlaken’s Hooters, met his group of 40 friends taking a weekend vacation from study abroad

Sun, Mar 8 – walk around Ringweg*, walk from Neushaus down the nature reserve area along the Eastern lake, walk through a frozen farm with mountains on all sides, met Danny

Mon, Mar 9 – walk north to Goldswil and hiked up with Danny and Jordan, met Keegan, started snowing, chocolate shop, watched MTV weirdness, cooked dinner, played beer pong, met Jordan (#2) James and Andy

Tues, Mar 10 – went sledging with Keegan and Andy, drank a bottle of jager on the mountain*, snowed the entire time like a winter wonderland, met Olly

Wed, Mar 11 – went sledging again with Olly, Jordan, and James, weather cleared up and snow was packed beautifully, went camping at night on the side of the mountain

Thur, Mar 12 – rented bikes and rode along the East lake through a few cities with Olly, stopped to take pictures everywhere, cooked dinner, watched a movie

Fr, Mar 13 – went up to Schilthorn – a photographer’s paradise – with Olly, unbelievable 360 degree restaurant, nice hike around, met Sydney from South Africa, met Kim

Sat, Mar 14 – train ride back to Hamburg, met Diddy’s mom, random Chinese connection, had dinner and went karaoke-ing

That week has been my favorite since this entire trip, but I have high expectations from this beautiful continent, country, city, and c-c-cozy dorm (?).  I hope everyone gets a chance to see Switzerland.  I will definitely visit again to tackle the Swiss Alps with my skis.

 

~See Lemons Love Interlaken

soooooo cool

soooooo cool