The drive through the mountains from France into Switzerland was one of the more amazing things I have seen on this entire European adventure, made more so by the fact that they are naturally made. We did our best to stop as much as we could, but there was no way we could stop to see every picturesque location we passed or we would still be making our way through the country now.
The drive out of Chamonix and into France was uphill, but not enough for us to notice how high we were really going as we were in awe at the magnitude and beauty of the mountains surrounding us. Then, without warning, we turned a bend into the Rhône Valley and I nearly cried out in a strange mix of wonder and terror as we found out that as we climbed imperceptibly higher up one side of the mountain, the valley floor on the other side got steadily lower and the next thing I knew, I was literally less than 3 feet away from the edge of the mountain and the only thing keeping us from a terrifying tumble off its side and into the valley below was a little wooden guardrail.
We took the winding road down the side of the valley into the small city of Martingy, taking a quick break on the way down to take a few pictures and stretch our legs before heading on our way, eventually stopping again at the city of Thun. There, we picked up some more sandwich meat and a few snacks at a local Aldi and took a walk up the castle hill in the center of the city toward the 12th century Thun Castle.
Eventually, we made it to Interlaken which as the name clearly states, sits in between two lakes, the Brienz to the east and Lake Thun to the west. Interlaken is a really popular tourist destination for Switzerland due to its proximity and ease of access to the lakes, valleys, and mountains of the region. As a base camp for outdoor sports which we don’t really participate in, there’s really not a lot to do in the city itself so we shamelessly ate at another Hooter’s. Though I wouldn’t touch the stuff in the states, it is the only place for this entire nine months we have been able to get our American style wing fix in so there was no way we were going to miss it.
After having easily the worst hostel experience I have ever had, which ended with me spending the night in the car to escape the sauna that was our hostel room, we left early in the morning to head to a couple of famous places near Interlaken, the first being Grindelwald from which J.K. Rowling got the name for the other famous dark wizard in Harry Potter from.
We took a cable car up the side of the snow-capped mountain, on top of which is a massive glacier. We had planned on taking a toboggan ride down the mountain like we did in Austria on our anniversary but after seeing how small it was we decided not to and instead took a brief (and a little scary) hike alongside the mountain. Though definitely scary for me, there were some beautiful views of the valley and the glacier that were well-worth braving the dangers to see. The short hike was really pleasant and even though we would have really liked to do an exciting toboggan run, we knew we had a lot to see that day and instead took the cable car back down the mountain and headed toward another nearby town called Lauterbrunnen.
Lauterbrunnen is a quiet little village nestled in the Lauterbrunnen valley that is surrounded by sheer cliff-faces on two sides and an enormous mountain on another. The effect is simply gorgeous. The name of the village literally means “many fountains” which is definitely a well-deserved name as there are 72 enormous waterfalls – some of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe – that fall from the surrounding cliffs and into the valley below. The biggest waterfall in Lauterbrunnen is the Staubbach Falls which plunges almost 1000 feet from an overhanging rock face.
There is a brief but surprisingly strenuous hike to a place you can view the waterfall from behind. Lauren stayed behind to watch as I made the climb up to the waterfall, making the smart bet that since they provided you with complimentary walking sticks it was probably not going to be her type of activity. I’m glad I did this little workout, though as the views thankfully ended up being worth the hike and I got a really different and wonderful perspective of the valley below and the mountains above before making my way slowly back down to where Lauren awaited my return.
Our third and final stop for the day before our stay in Bern was the Harder Kulm, an observatory on top of a mountain nearby Interlaken. Reached by a wooden funicular, Harder Kulm has some truly unforgettable panoramic views of the two lakes that surround Interlaken and the city below. I am tempted to say make some stupid dad joke using the similarities to the name Harder Kulm with the supermodel Heidi Klum and both being comparable in beauty but for Lauren’s sake I won’t. I will just say the views were truly spectacular and unmissable if you are in the area, even if you are as scared of heights as I am.
After our long day of mountain climbing, our logical next step was to visit a bar and we were able to find a brewery housed in an old repurposed train station on the outskirts of Bern where we were to be staying the next night. The timing of our trip to the brewery gave us a gorgeous view of the city as the sun fell, the bright yellow light hitting Bern in all of the right places and making the city glow beautifully.
We had only a short stop in Bern the next day as we had to hit the road again. We spent this time exploring Bern’s historic old town which is filled with mayching sage green buildings which are characteristic of the city. The old town also contains the Zytglogge clock tower, a 13th-century clock tower in Bern’s old town, whose name is Bernese German for “Time Bell,” along with the Bundeshaus, the federal palace of Switzerland.
The road from Bern took us on the scenic route toward the wonderful city of Lucerne in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, stopping in a random town to stretch our legs and take a few pictures. Later, after arriving in Lucerne, we took a brief walk through the center of the beautiful city before it started raining and we were forced to take shelter in a brewery along the main canal in the city (oh darn).
After the rain finished, we made sure to take a walk across the Lucerne’s famous Chapel Bridge. The Chapel Bridge was built in 1333 and connects one side of the city’s main canal to the other. Along the way, the bridge displays 158 interior paintings, many of which were unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1993 which destroyed 2/3 of the entire bridge. Some of the bridge luckily survived and the rest was later reconstructed and the entire thing remains the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe and the symbol of Lucerne.
We visited one more city while in Switzerland and though I did not originally plan to make two posts about the country, it was getting too long and we did so much in Switzerland and took so many wonderful pictures that I would hate to leave anything out. There was just one more amazing city we visited in Switzerland before leaving the country for Italy and Lake Como so stay tuned for Part II in the next couple of days!