It had been just two days in Interlaken and we had already been to the top of Europe, had seen a unique waterfall and had walked in the green meadows. Now on our third and final day in Interlaken we were going to observe the beauty of Interlaken from the water and from the sky.
A BOAT TRIP
Interlaken is situated between two beautiful lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and it is from its location that the town derives its name. A visit to Interlaken is thus incomplete without a boat ride on at least one of the lakes. Based on a few reviews, we chose to go boating in Lake Brienz, the smaller of the two lakes, situated to the east of Interlaken.
It was a cool and sunny morning as we made our way to the Interlaken Ost pier. We reached about 10 minutes prior to the departure and were warmly welcomed by the crew as we boarded the steamer. A few people joined us and the steamer soon set off from Interlaken towards the town of Brienz. As the boat moved further we crossed tiny villages lined up on both sides of the lake. The boat halted at some of these villages allowing people to board and alight.
The entire boat journey was simply majestic. There were green meadows that merged with brown and barren mountains on one side of the lake while on the other side there were cliffs and hills covered with trees. White snow clad mountains provided a stunning backdrop the entire time. The clear blue water of the lake sparkled in the sun and took different hues as streams from hills flowed into it.
We reached Brienz in about 75 minutes but didn’t have enough time to explore the town so we took the next train back to Interlaken.
IN THE SKY
Sometimes one gets a gift that one cherishes for a lifetime. Well, we too got one such a gift from Amit Bhau and Shobha Tai who arranged for us to go paragliding in Interlaken. This became our second memorable experience of the trip after the Milan derby.
After coming back to Interlaken from Brienz, we walked to the Paragliding-Interlaken kiosk where we were supposed to meet our pilots. Soon we were joined by Tom and Miki who were going to fly us over Interlaken. A short 20 minute drive to Beatenberg was punctuated with safety instructions and some jokes particularly from Tom who was probably trying to gauge if we were nervous but they shouldn’t have worried as we couldn’t feel any emotion beyond excitement and thrill.
After the driver dropped us, we walked for about 5 minutes and reached the take-off point. While our pilots got the gear ready, we enjoyed the panoramic view of the Interlaken region below us and clicked some photos. Then we put on our jackets and helmets, got harnessed in and were ready to go. A few more quick instructions from the pilots and soon we were running towards the edge of the cliff and suddenly there was nothing beneath our feet.
A slight dip was followed by a steady ascent and yes, we were finally flying. It was then that I understood what the term “bird’s eye view” really meant. While I glided in the cool air I gazed at the town of Interlaken; Lake Thun and Lake Brienz shimmering in the afternoon sun; Rive Aare a picture of tranquillity; green meadows and forested mountains and those omnipresent white peaks. It was simply magnificent. It was something beyond what words can actually describe. The adrenaline was pumping through my body but it was still so peaceful. Our pilots took some photos and videos and did some spins and twists which added to the fun. Finally after 30-40 minutes of paragliding we landed in a huge field in the middle of Interlaken in a state middling between ecstasy and euphoria. Tom and Miki gave us our photos and videos on pen drives and we left thanking them profusely for the awesome experience. Amit Bhau and Shobha Tai if you do end up reading this, then a big thanks to you too. You guys made our trip memorable.
CABLE CAR TO MURREN
We were done with boating and paragliding and had no other plans for the rest of the day but there was still a lot of time left till sunset and we were certainly not going to spend the remaining day sitting in our apartment. So we went to the Interlaken OST station and after a quick consultation with a lady at the ticket counter we decided to visit the mountain village of Murren. A train ride to Lauterbrunnen followed by a short ride in a cable car followed by another short ride in a two coach train got us to Murren. This route is generally used by tourists to visit Schilthorn, popularly known as the James Bond Mountain. Schilthorn is just one cable car ride away from Murren but we had had our fill of snow at Jungfraujoch so we halted at Murren.
We took a walk through the quaint little village and saw people engaged in their daily activities and small kids playing football. Then we spent some time sitting in isolation on a grassy knoll at the edge of the town facing the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. After spending close to 2 hours in Murren we returned to Interlaken via the same route.
The next morning we took a train to Bern and from there an onwards train to Paris thus bringing the second and most beautiful leg of our journey to an end.
A NOTE ON THE SWISS PASSES
A visit to Switzerland is worth every penny spent but one does have to spend a lot of pennies to holiday in this stunning destination. While money can be saved on food and lodging, the sightseeing and transportation leaves a pretty serious dent on the pockets. To offset some of the cost, the Swiss offer a variety of passes. A simple Google search provides a list of sites offering these passes.
The Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card are the two primary passes while all the other passes are just variations of these two. The Swiss Travel Pass is the kind of hassle free pass which allows free and unlimited rides on most train, bus, boat and cable car routes for a specific number of days (currently for 3,4,8 or 15 days). Hence you can board a mode of transport anytime without thinking about the cost. The half fare card on the other hand offers these journeys at half rate and is valid for a period of 1 month.
Now the first catch is pretty obvious – the half fare card is significantly cheaper than the travel pass but the second catch is rather well hidden. On most of the mountain routes, the travel pass offers only a 50% discount just like the half fare card while on some routes like Jungfraujoch it offers only 25% discount. And these are the routes which are the most expensive. Hence a journey to Jungfraujoch will cost more with a Swiss Travel Pass than it will with a Swiss Half Fare Card.
A detailed itinerary is very important to select the most suitable pass. We prepared a comprehensive itinerary of our 3 day stay in Interlaken which covered all the things that we wanted to do. Then we compared the costs of full rate tickets with a 3 day Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card. The calculations were in favour of the half fare card and the surprising revelation was that it would cost us less if we buy the tickets at full rates rather than buy a Swiss Travel Pass. We purchased the half fare card and got it delivered to our home. In the end, we did not do all the things that we had crammed up in our itinerary but still saved around €50 per person by using the half card. Now in the grand scheme of things Rs. 7000 is not a big amount but if you are travelling on a budget then every penny counts.