By Maddie Rosa*
As I mentioned last week, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Interlaken, Switzerland last weekend, and it was truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I don’t know how anything will ever top the views of the mountains, bright blue lakes, and of course views of the town from the top of a mountain!
I actually won my trip to Interlaken for free through a travel company called Bus2Alps, otherwise I’m not sure I would have even made it to Interlaken this summer. So, we left Thursday night and got there Friday morning around 5:30am. We were all so excited to be there and couldn’t believe the sight and size of the mountains, especially against the rising sun. I’m not sure why I was so shocked by the size… they are the Swiss Alps after all! All I know is that initial feeling of seeing the Alps will be something I’ll always remember. It was so humbling to be next to them and to see firsthand that the world is a beautiful, beautiful place full of so many surprises.
Once we got to Interlaken and checked into our hostel, my friends and I decided to wander around the town for a little while to see it at such a peaceful hour. The tallest point in all of Europe is actually in Interlaken, and it was so amazing to see the sunlight on the snowy caps of the Jungfrau. We finally slept for a few hours after wandering around and eating our breakfast and made the decision to go on the free guided hike at 12:00. We didn’t learn until we started going up the mountain that it would take two hours to get up there… and that the entire hike was up the steep, steep mountain.
The pictures and views along the way and at the top were definitely worth the hardest two hours of my life, and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards didn’t hurt either. Being at the top of a mountain and just taking in the surroundings was something I will never forget, especially in Interlaken. Everything about it is so crisp and clean, and literally a breath of fresh air after being in crowded Florence.
After our hike, our guide told us that we had to jump into the lake after and that it completed the whole experience. So naturally we agreed, why not, right? The reason that the water in Interlaken has such a unique color is because it comes straight from the glaciers so it is filled with minerals. It also makes the water very, very cold. Jumping in the lake was literally like getting into an ice bath which turned out to be great for our aching legs, and it truly made me feel like I completed the hiking experience.
After the hike we had a private chocolate show which we paid 15 CHF (Swiss Franks) for, but 8 went towards a voucher to get chocolate afterwards, mmmm. We tasted their most famous chocolates and then had the chance to take some home for ourselves. The best was the milk chocolate shaped like a mountain filled with their homemade caramel, it was unbelievable. For dinner we had traditional Swiss food (for the area). Since Switzerland is influenced by so many cultures and speaks four national languages, it was hard to find something typical of what we expected to find in Swiss cuisine. I had a bratwurst in caramelized onions and hash browns… too good.
Saturday I did something that I was so afraid to do, canyoning. This is such a unique adventure and something that can only be done a few places in the world, so with a little encouragement from my friends I mustered up the confidence and agreed to do it. The professionalism and experience of our guides at Outdoor Interlaken definitely helped calm my nerves, at least until we got to the canyon and had to repel down into it.
The drop was about 30 feet and they were assisting us down with the rope, but it was still scary to look down and only see a slippery rock with water beneath it. Even though I did not have the most graceful entrance to the canyon, I was so proud of myself that I did it and was ready to start the day. We completed our first small jump and slid down a few rocks/small waterfalls, and then came the big jump.
I have no idea how tall it actually was, but it felt like I was jumping 500 feet down (in all reality it was probably about 50), but again was so proud of myself afterwards. I would have never done something like that on my own, and I’m so glad I was pushed out of my comfort zone to experience something so truly unique.
Later Saturday evening, we went on a free walking tour and then pub crawl through Interlaken. It was the absolute best weekend I have had abroad, and I am so grateful I got to see this magical place. I am already even trying to think of ways to get back there next summer because I loved it so much. However, being there did make me think of how much my friends and family at home would love it and made me so excited to go home and see all of them. Traveling really puts things into perspective and has allowed me to see how many blessings and opportunities I have in my life while showing me the true value of family, love, and friendship. Traveling also shows you that while things are beautiful and amazing, they are even more amazing when shared with the people you love the most.
*Madeline Rosa is a UI junior majoring in communications and human relations. She is currently studying abroad on the Lorenzo de Medici program in Florence, Italy.