Basel & Interlaken

*This is a blog post detailing a past trip. The post refers to my year abroad in Germany that I undertook between the summers of 2016 and 2017 (6 years ago at the time of writing). Therefore, details shall be a little foggy, but I have written the post for completeness. Ensuring my blog captures everywhere I have travelled.

This post consists of two separate trips to Switzerland. The first was in late March 2017 to the city of Basel. Where I met my parents for a long weekend to belatedly celebrate my birthday with them. The second was a solo trip to Interlaken. Which occurred at the end of May 2017 and to date is still one of my favourite destinations. 

Part I – Basel 

Having finished work for the week I caught the train from Worms in Germany and made the two-hour trip to Basel. It was a really easy journey requiring only one connection in Mannheim. However, I was a little worried as halfway through the journey I realised I had forgotten my passport, having left it at my apartment. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would need it seeing as I was just jumping on the train. But obviously, I was travelling to a different country, even if it was via train. Thankfully I didn’t need to show the passport at any point during my journey to or from Switzerland. Meaning my lack of memory didn’t impact the weekend. Having arrived in Basel early evening I reunited with my parents who had flown over from England for the weekend and we headed out for some dinner. 

Sunset on the Rhine in Basel

The following day was spent exploring the compact city. Wandering the various streets, taking in the numerous historic buildings and old town squares. Highlights included the Basel Minster, a 9th-century cathedral, which you can climb and offers great views of the city and the Rhine River below.  As well as the Tinguely Fountain,  a kinetic water feature that merges sculptural machines with water. Having explored the main old town on foot we then crossed the Rhine via boat. The Boat Crossing costs a few quid but is a unique way to cross the river. The small wooden boat is attached to a rope that transports passengers across the river from one bank to the next. Here we walked along the Rhine River stopping at several cafes and bars for a bite to eat or drink. It’s a lovely place to stroll on a sunny day in the city. That evening we headed out for another meal. But be warned prices in the city, and Switzerland in general for that matter really aren’t cheap. We paid about £30 a head for a simple meal of cordon blu and chips. While tasty for that price it did feel a bit of a rip-off. 

On Sunday, my final day in the city we took the tram (all of which are free by the way) and headed to one of the many art galleries,  Foundation Beyeler. The gallery is home to modern/contemporary paintings & sculptures and we spent a few hours examining the exhibits, before making our way back to the city centre. It was here I said my goodbyes to my parents before catching the train back to Worms, ready for work the following day.

Part II – Interlaken 

I actually caught the same train that had taken me to Basel, but this time continued through the city, out into the beautiful Swizz countryside. The journey took around 5 hours but having the beautiful landscape whizz by the window made things a lot easier. And upon arriving in Interlaken I was already in love with the place. As the name suggests the town is situated between two big lakes, Thunersee and Brienzersee. In addition to this, the town is also at the base of the Swizz Alps so snow-covered peaks frame the lakes coming together in the most beautiful view. I stayed in a local hostel called Balmer’s which was a great mix of international travellers, quite a few of which were American travelling Europe for the summer. 

Having arrived early with most of the beautiful sunny day before me, I decided to hike up to the Harder Kulm viewpoint. (For those not as keen on the hike there is a gondola that will also transport you up and down the mountain). To get to the base of the trail I had to walk through the quaint town and cross the river. Walking through the central park numerous paragliders kept landing and filling the sky having taken off from a spot near the Harder Kulm summit. Interlaken is home to numerous adventure activities, one of which I would be participating in tomorrow.  The hike up the 1322m summit took me a good 2 hours. Although I took plenty of stops to admire the views, as well as taking my time to savour the beautiful cow-filled meadows and forests that were along the trail. My efforts were greatly rewarded upon reaching the summit, with the most breathtaking view stretching out before you. Taking in the panoramic scene before you, one can see Interlaken nestled between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, plus admire the striking mountains of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau in the distance. There is also a restaurant situated here, which meant I was able to buy an ice-cold beer, which after my efforts of the past few hours, combined with the stunning views. Meant it is one of the best beers I have ever drunk. With dusk now starting to fall, I elected to take the gondola down to the valley floor, which I believe was free going down. It was then back to my hostel to cook dinner, seeing as the supermarket prices were far more accommodating of a backpacker’s budget than eating out. 

Pint of beer in front of the scenic view from Harder Kulm
Beer from Harder Kulm

The following day I was up and awake early, in preparation to go skydiving. In fact, it’s what brought me to Interlaken in the first place. Having turned 21 a few months ago, I wanted to celebrate with a big experience. I had previously done a skydive when I was 18 back home in England. And while it was amazing, the fields of rural Cambridgeshire weren’t the most exciting thing to look at. I, therefore, vowed to complete another skydive with far better views. And what better views than that of the Swiss Alps? The skydive would also be out of a helicopter which was equally exciting, seeing as the last time had been from a boring old plane haha. I arrived and met the bloke I would be entrusting my life with, some northern English man who now made this his living. We suited up and jumped in the helicopter. It took 10 minutes to reach the 14,000 ft altitude although I wish it took a little longer as the views even during the ride up were incredible. Towering snowcapped mountains stretched as far as the eyes could see scattered amongst which were emerald green valleys intersected by icy cold rivers and lakes. It was stunning. The peace was soon interrupted when the helicopter door was slung open and I was then standing on the prongs of the helicopter legs. This bit was a little odd, unlike a plane jump where you kind of shuffle to the edge dangle out a little then get flung out. For what felt like an eternity, I was kind of standing / wedged into the helicopter not really sure if I should be falling forward or not. Within the blink of an eye though, we were hurtling at 120 mph towards the ground 14,000 ft below. Through the skill of the instructor, we rotated around 360° taking in the unbelievable scene before us. Certainly up there with the best 30 seconds of my life. With the noise of the fast-moving air almost deafening, when the parachute finally opened, the silence is a stark contrast. There is a slight sigh of relief, but the adrenaline and euphoria courses through your body. It was then a gentle glide down to the ground, piloting the parachute for a little while. Before landing back down to earth with a bump. Wishing you could do it all over again! 

Check out the video here

Once the adrenaline finally wore off, I still had most of the day ahead of me to explore. I took a short train ride from Interlaken up the valley to Lauterbrunnen. Which is an equally stunning destination. The valley where Lauterbrunnen is situated is said to be the valley of a thousand waterfalls, with the high-altitude snow melt cascading down tall cliffs into the valley. It was a beautiful sunny day and I spent the majority of it hiking into the valley exploring the many waterfalls that lined it. I then started to gain some altitude by hiking up to the small town of Gimmelwald before heading to Murren. From here you can catch a gondola up to Schilthorn which sits at an altitude of 2970m and is also famed for staring in the James Bond film On Her Majesty Secret Service. Sadly I didn’t have time to make the summit having been hiking for most of the day. So caught the gondola back down to Lauterbrunnen and then the train back to Interlaken after a truly unforgettable day! 

  • Lauterbrunnen Switzerland
  • Waterfall and the sun in Lauterbrunnen
  • Swizz flag and the valley in Lauterbrunnen
  • Cable car and waterfall in Lauterbrunnen

The following day I caught the train again but this time leading down into a second valley out from Interlaken and into the beautiful town of Grindlewald. The town is pretty famous for its wingsuit skydiving, due to the huge cliff faces that drop down into the valley below. Having wandered around the town for a little while, I then headed off to Rodelbahn Pfingstegg which is a downhill summer toboggan ride situated. It was great fun speeding down the run, whilst also admiring the amazing views stretched out before you. From here I hiked a little trail up into the hills above the town which again granted me amazing views of the valley below. Before catching the gondola back into town. The whole area is connected with a vast number of gondolas and cable cars that can take you up to the various summits and for hiking in summer and I imagine are used extensively in winter for all manner of snow sports. It’s a stunning part of the world and I’d love to visit again in wintertime and sample some of the skiing. That night back at the hostel, seeing as it was a Saturday there was a big party with a DJ and bar etc. I spent the evening dancing away with the numerous friends I had made over the past few days.  

  • View of Grindlewald from the mountainside
  • Views of surrounding mountain in Grindlewald

For my final day in Interlaken, I took it easy. Having been late to bed the night prior, due to partying into the early hours. I decided to take myself down to the water’s edge of Lake Thunersee. The weather was a beautiful late spring day. Meaning I spent a good few hours chilling by the lake enjoying the sunshine and reading my book. When I needed to cool off I took the plunge into the cold waters of the lake, which were still relatively cold due to the high-altitude melt water running off and gathering in the lake. But that pretty much concluded an amazing few days in this spectacular part of the world. It was my first experience with the alps, and although I am yet to return. It is certainly a place I hope to explore further on my travels over the coming years. That night I said goodbye to those who I had met and wished them well on their travels. Before catching the train back to Worms the following morning. The prospect of work the following day wasn’t the most appealing. However, I was on such a high after an incredible few days. Days that I still recall with such fond memories even all these years later. That’s the beauty of such experiences, they stay with you long after the event has passed. Bringing a smile to your face when you think back to them. 

Lauterbrunnen valley, river and snow capped mountains

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