the land of banks, cheese, and chocolate!

Leaving Fussen early, we began our four-hour trek through the Alps to Interlaken, Switzerland, our home for the next three nights.  Winding on switchbacks through the Swiss Alps, waterfalls dotting the roadside, and tunnel after tunnel that barreled us directly through the mountain.  Cameron and I slept for much of the drive and all of us got what I imagine must be infamous Swiss sticker shock when we stopped for the first time to refuel and get a snack a couple hours into the drive – 30 franks later we had 2 bottles of PowerAde and a water!  The Starbucks stop this morning was well over 60 franks for our four drinks and two mugs!  Over the next few days we would grow accustom to the cost of living in Switzerland.  Some average prices we saw on comparable American products?  12.70 for a Big Mac, 6-inch Subway for 7 Franks, grade latté for 8, and top ramen for 2.30!  And the Swiss Frank is worth more than the American dollar! 🙂

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Soon enough we arrived in Interlaken, checked into our apartment, and walked a couple blocks to the local grocery store to get some snacks, breakfast items, soup for Cameron who wasn’t feeling great, and dinner stuff to cook in our apartment kitchen.  We practiced the public transit for the next day and walked back to the apartment – sampling Swiss chocolate at the plentiful shops along the way.  Let me tell you – it is worthy of all the hoopla.  This chocolate is the stuff of legend – even Mom tried some and Cameron loved it (Mom hasn’t had sugar in nearly seven years and Cameron is not a chocolate fan for reference).  While waking it was incredible to watch the swarms of skydivers come from every direction, faster than the jets at Chicago O’Hare Airport in rush hour.  Back at the apartment early, we took the opportunity to relax, catch up on emails and Suits, and get to bed.

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The following morning we set out to enjoy the truly marvelous beauty of the Swiss Alps.  It is hard to believe that you are actually here when you just spin around – it looks like a photo-shopped vista.  The colors are too vivid and varied to be real, the lines too crisp, the textures too intense.  I wish I could say that words cannot describe the beauty we witnessed and you should just look at the pictures – but the pictures also fall short.  If you ever have the chance, hiking and biking through the Swiss Alps is a must. We began by driving up the valley to Lauterbrunnen to park the car and catch the gondola – a vertical 2 km ride up to Grutschalp.  From there we began hiking through the gorgeous mountains, our eyes trying desperately to take it all in.

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We walked to Winteregg and continued onto Murren where we stopped to eat.  I guess the view from our table on the patio was okay:

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We continued hiking on to Grimmelwald where we caught a different gondola back down to Stetchelberg.  The ride was so steep that it was akin to a roller coaster – I actually lost my stomach like you do when you drop down a coaster.  We walked from Stetchelberg a bit farther to catch the bus back into Lauterbrunnen.  All told we hiked over 12 miles and witnessed some of the most incredible beauty I’ve ever seen.  I still think the Scottish countryside is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been but the Swiss Alps are a mighty close 2nd

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From Lauterbrunnen we drove Grindelwald; it was very touristy so we ended up just driving through it and opting for dinner back at Interlaken.  Cameron and I went out to explore a bit more of the city and look for dinner; we tried some more Swiss chocolate and he still wasn’t feeling top-notch so we opted to go back to MIGROS (grocery store) and get some soup, smoothies, peanut butter, and jelly to make back at the apartment.  Blogged a bit, did some laundry at the apartment, and we all crashed early – ready for another busy day tomorrow.

Having wanted to take the bikes that our apartment had around the day before, our receptionist advised us wait because they had some flooding going on so today we were excited to bike through the Alps.  The bikes were great for Dad and Cameron but much too big for Mom and I so the boys took theirs and we rode into town center to rent bikes for the girls.  Soon we all had mountain bikes that fit properly and we were off!

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We began by riding along the shores of Brienz Lake.  I realize I’m just repeating myself but the beauty of the ride cannot be captured in mere words or photographs.  The water is the most brilliant aqua-turquoise color that was exactly the same hue of my shirt.  If the crisp wind coming off the water didn’t remind me of better, I would have sworn it was the warm water of the Caribbean.  The Swiss Alps and the scenery of our bike ride was nature’s finest watercolor, the intense blue of the water juxtaposed perfectly against the true blue of the sky with the mixture of soft greenery and harsh stone in between.  The white of the snow capped mountaintops blended seamlessly into the white of the clouds and the whole thing seemed too vivid to be real.  Needless to say, it was an enchanted ride around the water.  We made it as far as Iseltwald (up some awfully steep and long hills!!) before Cameron’s bike chain broke while he was just riding it!  Bummer.  The guys engineered it back together to ride it as far as the bus station.  We hopped a bus back to Interlaken to switch the bike out and grab some lunch while Mom and Dad rode back around and got a Subway for lunch.

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We met up at the hang glider park where hundreds of hang gliders land every hour, throughout the entire day.  Back on the bikes (with some sore butts by this time!) we rode around the opposing lake, to West Interlaken, and then to Thuner See by route of another ruined castle to explore.

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We were all getting tired so we dropped the rental bikes off and Mom and Dad picked us up with the car to drive up to Brienz.  We admired all the woodcarvings that the town is famous for and were mesmerized by that water.

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We looked for a restaurant for dinner but all decided cooking for ourselves in the apartment sounded much better than eating out again 😉 We stopped by MIGROS collected some ingredients and made a yummy dinner back home.  Some awesome time talking to Justin (NOW THAT HE HAS HIS PHONE BACK!! Woop!) and we went to bed for our last Interlaken night.  The next morning we were on to Berne, Switzerland.

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