Category Archives: Wilderswil

Lake Brienz

“The more people you travel with, the fewer people you meet.”

That brilliant adage can be accredited to Gavin (or Kevin…) whom we met while white water rafting in Interlaken today. It was a rainy and gloomy day in Switzerland today, and surprisingly perfect weather to go in the river, since we were already wet. With that, the day did not go to waste.

Dad and Molly began their day with a hike, which I had intended to go on. But at 7 am, my body had other plans. I arose later, and walked out onto the patio to see the clouds settled among the mountains, and got ready to go rafting in my IMG_3477swimsuit and sunglasses. By the time we had been picked up in front of Hotel Bären, Reuben the Kiwi made it clear to me that this wouldn’t be like other rafting trips I had been on before. When we arrived at the company, we met the 30 other rafters we would be journeying with: Girl Scouts. Yes, we went white water rafting with Girl Scouts. I couldn’t think of a greater paradox if I tried. They all spoke English, but it was cool that they were all drawn together from Australia, New Zealand, and England to do a tour of Europe. The only other American was a young man from Michigan: Gavin/Kevin.

The extreme sports company was run by Kiwis, and their humor (and delightful accents) made stripping down out of comfort and into wetsuits tolerable. There was nothing not hideous about wearing wetsuits, life jackets, water shoes, and helmets while trying to balance on the side of a raft. But we managed to focus on the fun and fear Grade 4 rapids presented, versus our aesthetic appeal… or lackthereof.

The rapids were amazing, and I took a helmet to the face a couple of times, but it was exhilarating to paddle and swim in the frigid water in the middle of a storm. Our guide, Tim (or Tazzie) was as serious as a heart attack about our diving out of the raft for practice, much to our dismay. We were all shocked at how quickly Rachel was able to get back into the boat. Only later we learned that she had held on to the OS (“outside”, or “oh shit”) ropes the entire time. Meanwhile, I got to know a few of the girl scouts on our raft for a bit too: one from England, two from Australia. It made me wish I had stayed with Girl Scouts years ago… just kidding. Troop moms prove to be awful internationally.

When we were spit out at the end of the river, we got out of the raft and swam in the stunning blue Lake Brienz. The water was noticeable warmer, which is IMG_3456probably why the ducks and swans enjoyed it so much. Afterwards, we took the bus back to the base, stripped out of wetsuits and covered ourselves with what little we had brought to warm ourselves in the storm. That’s when we met Gavin/Kevin, the CPA from Michigan who had only nice things to say about where he came from, and the tour of Europe he was taking alone, using the saved up vacation time he had. A lot would think about traveling alone as a lonely experience. But he looked at it differently: an opportunity to meet new people, travel between hostels cheaply, and do what you’d like at your leisure. The entire time Gavin/Kevin told us about his experiences in Corsica, Germany, etc, I kept thinking to myself “I’m going to do this, and travel as much as I can.” This is where Gavin/Kevin’s one piece of advice came into play.

I thought back to my trip to the South Pacific. At 16, I was so uncomfortable traveling alone. I floated in a pack of about 8 kids who became my life line in Sydney, Auckland, and Waikiki– predominately the bigger cities. This was partly due to my nerves of being “an outsider” and partly due to our rigid instructions to stick to timetables and together. In Germany, my fears waned, and I met a lot of new great people because of it. But there is a lot of truth in what the young American told us today. Traveling alone or in smaller groups allows you room to meet new people, and broaden your horizons. Yes, even if, those horizons are only expanded so far as to include 30 Girl Scouts.

When we came back, we did the typical trek up four flights of stairs, fought the heavy door of our family corridor, walked up more stairs to our rooms, and collapsed. Quickly though, our subconscious minds grew paranoid about the grunginess of the lake and overused wetsuits. We had to cave: the dingy hobbit shower had to be used. Blech, that’s all I’ll say.

After a quick nap, we set out for a “vacation from our vacation.” We went to eat at an Irish pub: the menu was in English, the timing of the meal was American, and our waiter spoke flawless English. SCORE! We ordered burgers, fries, and salads, and it was a pick-me-up sort of meal that topped off a day of English, but also let us relax before we begin our drive to Montreaux tomorrow.

Guten Nacht!

Jungfrau: Top of Europe

DSC_6513Today was quite the adventure, filled with diversity beyond belief. We woke up to a very German breakfast: an assortment of meats and cheeses. Naturally, I went for the least threatening yogurt. We decided to take the train in downtown Wilderswil to wherever it may lead, which was apparently the top of the mountains. We took 3 separate train connections to get to “Jungfrau: The Top of Europe”… as you can see they’ve really capitalized on their cog railways to the point that their slogan hangs around like a head cold that won’t go away.


The trains reminded me of the T in Boston: electrically charged, but with the added bonus of gears that cranked the trains up the mountain. The views were spectacular: on one side, we could see green rolling hills, complete with wooden homes and waterfalls. On the other side, we scrambled to take photos of the snow-capped mountain that awaited our arrival. The scenes were picturesque, and the other families on the train must have thought so too, because we all seemed to be rushing to take the same photos: imitating the actions of those who seemed to catch on to a new angle first.


Our arrival at Jungfrau was a tedious one. They stopped the train every so often to acclimate us to the new altitudes, but all I felt as the train made its steady climb was oxygen deprived, and subsequently, sleepy. When we got off the train at the top, the view was spectacular. But our journey inside the mountain only began there. We walked through extensive tunnels and caverns to new viewpoints, and to get outside onto the mountain. I, in my boat shoes, sweatshirt, and baseball cap, clearly came unprepared in comparison to the hikers who wore their wool. I only braved the freezing temperatures for a minute before I went back inside.

We then travelled back through the tunnels, and the nausea began to sink in. The altitudes made us light-headed, and the tunnel system was so still, it made our heartbeats feel boisterous. I couldn’t walk a straight line, and I felt completely DSC_6521 DSC_6520out of control of my body and mind, which had turned not only against me, but each other. Regardless, we had to press on for the one thing we had journeyed to see: The Ice Palace (Eispalast.) Inside the mountain, ice tunnels had been carved and preserved, which then led to an ice museum of intricate ice sculptures and doorways. It was unreal, and frigid. My claustrophobia only got worse, and as soon as we had seen all there was to see, we exited and set off to find Rachel, who had given up fairly quickly on the ice escapade.

With the claustrophobia and nausea only getting worse, we all set off down the mountain via railway, clamoring for space between the other tourists. It seemed our plans were just in the nick of time, as it started to rain. We hiked up the small village of Wilderswil, and relaxed in our (still quaint) hotel.

Later, we set our sights on the town of Interlaken (pronounced Interlocken), and ate at an Italian restaurant that came highly recommended, mainly because it was in close proximity to the Diskothek. The food was delicious, and as usual, took hours to enjoy. We then made our way to the Disko, which interestingly enough, must be Swiss for “divey bar.” The room was dark, and the walls and ceiling were plastered with years upon years of memorabilia. This includes, but is not limited to: bras, sunglasses, drumsticks, and neon signs. The Disko also doubled as a tattoo parlor. I’d say the only real pluses to a place such as this was the great rock n’ roll music (all classic American hits), and the bartender. He drew a couple of German lines from me, but it was hard for me to say anything more than my name and where I was traveling from, because he just before had remarked how he hates speaking German. Greeeatttt.

When we’d had enough, we gracefully made our exit, disappointed that a Disko wasn’t really a disco. We split our return journey home between a train and Taxi, and the evening came to a close.


I want to take a moment to share something deeply personal for a moment. On the day of my high school graduation, I cried to my boyfriend for hours about feeling like one of the “unimportant” people in the world. I had watched my classmates grow, and I felt like we had naturally divided ourselves into those who are “important” and going places, and those who are merely pawns, here to build up the self-esteem of those who are important. I had chased my dreams for all of high school: made great friends, travelled the world, and established myself in several leadership positions. But where did that leave me, and what did I have to show for it? I felt one chapter of my life closing, and I didn’t see the potential for a new one to be written. Retrospectively, this was a very VERY childish attitude to have. But in that moment on my couch, it felt very real. I’m not afraid of too much, but I was petrified of my amazing journey coming to an altogether halt. Something occurred to me tonight though as I wrote this post:

My experiences thus far have made me happy; I have pushed myself to know more about myself, harder than I know anyone around me to have pushed themselves. I have sought answers to unanswerable questions, and tried unceasingly to quench my thirst. I have travelled to run away, travelled to find myself, yet have found the most satisfying feelings in sitting perfectly still. I have actively made a difference in my own life, but also those around me. More importantly, I have allowed others to make differences in my life. I never stopped loving, or hoping for the best out of people or situations. I think that’s pretty rare. So, I am important. I’m important to some: my community, my family, my friends. But I’m also important to myself. I matter, and I make a difference. I don’t intend to stop traveling, writing or searching for answers. I couldn’t satiate those hungers if I tried. But my worth, validity, and “important-ness” are reflected in my actions. And I reap the benefits of that through my unmeasurable happiness. A fact I have to write down in order to remind myself!

Thank you always for listening to my rants of epic proportions! 😉

Guten Nacht!

The Swiss Alps

Guten Abend!

This morning we woke up in Italy, and discussed our options for the day over coffee cups 1, 2, and 3. We could walk into the city of Como and explore, or lounge by the pool until it was time to leave for Switzerland. Naturally, Rachel and I chose the latter option; we felt the need to tan somewhat for the remainder of our time in Italy. What I can say about our decision is this: The sun from high noon until 4 in the afternoon is much hotter and effective than the evening sun we enjoyed yesterday. After a while, my dad commended Rachel on her tan, yet told me to lay a towel over myself AND move my lounge chair into the shade, for fear I would toast like a marshmallow in a fire pit.

Between the tanning sessions, Rachel and I exhausted our welcome in the massage pool, but we didn’t care. There was an air of security in our pool area that lay nestled between the mountains that surrounded us every way we looked.

Around 5 pm, we set out for Switzerland in what we fondly now refer to as the VD Mobile, because of the license plate…and the VW mini-van isn’t what one might consider a chick magnet. We wound our way through the tall Italian villages IMG_3434around Lake Como, then made the conscious decision to turn around and drive towards our actual destination. 😉 Not too long after, we nodded our way through border patrol at the Swiss-Italian border, and were able to exhale a deep sigh of relief. We feared nothing more than getting lost in Italy, where none of us spoke Italian, so when we could be certain we were headed in the right direction, the previously existing tensions lifted, and the car was filled with high and happy spirits once again.

The drive was scenic, but our real fascination began with the small villages we passed through that placed their churches on the highest hills of the area. It was symbolic to see every home face and look upward to the church. As our winding drive continued, the incline of the road steepened, and it became clear that we were finally in the Swiss Alps. Waterfalls gushed from the tops of the glacial peaks at every turn; gallons upon gallons cascaded from the rocky cliffs constantly. The glaciers made it feel like it truly was wintertime again, and the outside temperature dropped as our altitude increased.

Swiss Alps

It seemed as though the Swiss could make tunnels out of anything along these roads, because too many times the road drove through the middle of the mountains, and the chipped away rock was merely smoothed with concrete. As if these make-shift tunnels weren’t enough, sometimes we would pass under metal and fiberglass structures that were sturdily attached to the side of the mountain, as if to flaunt the Swiss’ architectural ingenuity. Dad fondly referred to the Swiss after that as “The Tunnel Wizards.” The roads were not only steep, but narrow, and too many motorcycles passed us on the left, leaving our hearts to leap out of our chests, should their risky maneuvers be ill-fated. Nausea set in at the tight switchbacks that came with no warning, as we were forced to look downhill. I already hate heights, and this position did me no favors. But our excitement was tangible; there were beautiful scenes to to seen out every window, be they front back or sides. Somehow, the drive up the Alps caused us each so much individual joy: it was new, fresh, and beautiful. And by far, among the fondest moments of the trip…so far.


When we reached the top of the mountain range, before we began our descent, Rachel and I stripped down to our bikinis (per Molly’s suggestion), and stood in the snow for the sake of a few funny pictures, and bragging rights. Sans weather-appropriate clothing, we stood in one of the greatest mountain ranges in the world, in just below 40 degree weather, looking at the snow, glaciers, and thick fog that surrounded us. How many other times in our lives will we get to say we did that?! Afterwards, we sprinted to the car, shaking with goosebumps, and scrambled for our shorts and t-shirts.

Suits in the Swiss Alps

Perhaps it was the mystery of not knowing what laid ahead of us that made the ascent feel so lengthy, but the descent seemed so anti-climatic and short by comparison. We wound our way down the mountain, and past flat villages and fields, hoping that we would eventually wind up at our hotel: Hotel Bären in Wilderswil. I was excited to be in the German-speaking part of the country, and still am. But the first sentence out of my mouth when we pulled into our parking space was: “This reeks of having to entertain ourselves.’” The quaint lodgings confirmed my initial reaction. While a cute space, it’s difficult to have a positive first impression when you can’t find your room after a 4 hour drive, only to later discover that you are on the 5th floor, in a separate “family corridor.” Hm.

We were seeking food desperately, and decided to try the hotel restaurant. You haven’t experienced true joy until a 71-year-old Hungarian man serenades three tables in a dining hall to the tune of “What A Wonderful World”, in the style of Louis Armstrong. And, by style, I mean near-perfect voice imitation. It was too funny to listen to a group of young drunk men try to sing along. That aside, we ate heartily, and I ate one of the best meals of chicken and noodles I think I’ve ever eaten in my life. I love German food!!!

On that note, my Wi-Fi hunt has taken way too long. So Auf Wiedersehen, Bis Später!