February 25, 2014

Winter Paradise

There are a million things I love about Italy. The lack of nature, is not one of them. Italy has been inhabited and structured for nearly its entire history, it's not surprising that every major city is overlaid completely by concrete and the ever infamous cobblestones. Usually I can hang with this city-living style, but I was more ready than I even knew to go to the great outdoors.

I went to the right place: Interlaken, Switzerland is one of the outdoor recreation capitols of the world. Nestled down in a valley this wild utopia is surrounded on four sides by the Swiss Alps. The Alps rise up above you at incomprehensible heights, making you feel like every bit the ant you are in their presence. These grand mountains are covered by various trees and mounds of snow, creating a breathtaking landscape. 

Now given the excess of snow surrounding Interlaken, a bit of frosty weather is to be expected. Fortunately a little chill and rain are nothing this Nor Cal girl can't handle. Armed with my favorite pink umbrella, myself and a whole heard of other travelers headed out in search of Lake Brienz.

The walk to the lake itself is stunning. Somehow, even though the sky was filled with gloomy and ominous gray clouds, the water was still crystal clear and a perfect shade of teal. 

From the path along the river you can see stretching train tracks up the never ending mountain. 

I thought the still cloudy sky might make the lake less impressive. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. The water is, again, so intensely teal. It stretches out before you, inviting a swim, even with the low temperatures. Imagine being the owner of the little lake house here, the water lapping up almost to your doorstep, across the bay, the Alps, covered in snow, framing the scene. 

Allison, Bre, and I made sure we got a picture with this amazing background, and luckily, our umbrellas fit right in with the brightly colored lake. 

(Less fortunately is the way camera lenses and rain get along, heeeello blurs.) 

The rest of our afternoon was spent in blissful wandering, sampling swiss chocolate and being nearly thankful for the rain creating a cozy indoor atmosphere as we tried to recoup from our grueling 10 hour long bus ride the night before. 

I was not calm for long though. How could I be with the promise of night sledding in only a few hours? After renting my gear and dilly dallying an hour away (I was a bit early), I met up with Catherine for our evening adventure. We jumped in a van with our fellow sledders and were soon on our way up the hill. Once the van made it as far as it could up the hill, we were squeezed into a gondola to continue the rest of the way up the mountain. 

Each time the gondola reached its next presimpice and rocked my heart lurched with anticipation and my stomach dropped as I looked down at the rapidly disappearing light below.

I have enjoyed some really fun, amazing, crazy experiences through the years, but I must say, I think night sledding makes the top five. You start at the top of the mountain with your crew of fellow sledders and are given a brief how-to on the proper way to ride the plastic sled. You are then directed to a sloping path of complete darkness. You have a front guide and a back guide as your please-save-me-if-I-fly-off-the-mountian rescuers and each sledder is wearing a glow stick on their back so you know who not to sled into. 

Then you go. You just push off into total darkness, quickly accelerating along the icy path and it. is. amazing! 

Each time I asked someone prior how night sledding was, they would compare it to Mario-Kart, but I had no idea how literal that reference was. You, for all essential purposes, are playing a live version of a video racing game. You weave in and out of your fellow sledders as you pick up speed, barely being able to see the path in front of you, especially as the fog picks up. There are moments of near collision constantly. Other sledders can be heard squealing in glee and terror all at once. When you reach a flat area you essentially "run out of gas" and have to get up and trot forward with your sled before plopping back on and regaining your speed. About half way down the mountain the slopes become steeper and your velocity increases. By this time, however, you've finally mastered the right-foot, left-foot turning skills necessary for not flying off the steep edges. 

The whole journey down the mountain takes nearly an hour, but feels all of ten minutes. All too quickly the ride is over and you're left kicking yourself for having not booked two nights in a row. 

If you ever get the opportunity to night sled, GO. I would go again and again if I could, it was such an incomparable experience (here's a link to a YouTube video of not me night sledding). And if you can get a fondue dinner included in your night sledding package, do that too. There's nothing better than hot gooey cheese after a frigid sled ride. It was so good I forgot to even take a picture, and we all know that's pretty dang abnormal for me. 

After shoving my face with cheese I walked back to my hostel, staring in amazement of what I thought was a projected light of some kind, before realizing it was a lit up star on a mountain. A mountain so tall, it touches the sky. 

I arose the next morning full of excitement as I saw the bright blue sky and quickly dissipating clouds.

As the rest of the gang went to hit the slopes, this uncoordinated muffin (that's me) went out to meet up with her similarly coordination challenged girl, Bre, for a different kind of adventure. 

Bre and I mobbed to the train station, and with perfect timing got tickets to head up to Grindelwald, just a few stops up the Jungfrau (pronounced young-froo) mountain. 

With scenery beyond comparison and delightful macaroons to occupy me, the train ride flew by. 

Soon we arrived in Grindelwald, a snow covered ski town of unreal views. 

I know it looks like it, but I promise I didn't rip these bad boys off postcards.

Now upon seeing this staircase I thought, "Wow, that's so cute, I should take a picture." *takes picture* "Oh that came out great!" *new more questionable thought* "I must get on that staircase!!" *classic Kenna moment*

Being the silly girl I am, I scampered up the stairs real quick like. I think it was a fair decision, considering Swiss trees proved to precarious for climbing, I needed to satisfy the urge somehow. 

Creep I am (and Bre too), there was definite enthrallment over this cemetery, where the tombstones had unique pictures etched on them. 

Bre's favorite was the cow for sure. 

Once we wandered back to the city center of Grindelwald, we decided it was definitely time for lunch. Popping into the creatively named restaurant, Memory, we grabbed seats at the bar. Busyness is always a good sign when it comes to a foreign place to eat. 

After scouring the extensive menu, I finally, decided on the Aelper Makkaroni mit Knoblibrot (that's Mac & Cheese with Bacon, potatoes, and garlic bread to you and I Americans). Now I don't know about you, but I don't associate Mac & Cheese with Switzerland, or Europe in general. From what I'd been hearing it's actually a bit of a challenge to find this cheesy pasta staple; a contributing factor to why I chose it for my lunch. 

Holy moly mother of baby Cheesus am I glad I did! Hands down the best Mac & Cheese I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot). I'm pretty sure that the chef just put melted fondue cheese into a big pot with thick noodles and soft potatoes. Then somehow baked the bowl of it all so that the top layer of cheese had a slight crunch to it. Plus did I mention it had applesauce on the side? I don't know who does that, but I like these Swiss people more and more.

I have no shame in saying I ate every single last bite. I'm going to wake up dreaming about this Macaroni, I swear. If you are ever in Switzerland, I don't even care if you're not anywhere near Grindelwald, you get your butt there and go to Memory and order a big ol' bowl of this. 

After thoroughly stuffing my face and vowing to never eat again (or at least until dessert) Bre and I set off back down the mountain.  

Saying goodbye to our train and perfect "snow day", we set about enjoying a peaceful evening in Interlaken. 

Being the blessed little gals we are, Sunday, our very last day in Switzerland, was dazzling once again. 

Unable to resist the sunshine, we set off to find the lake one more time.

Though an unfortunate fog bank persisted over the water, a rainbow came out to play, making it well worth the second trek. 

For the best view of the city before we had to say goodbye, we ventured to the top of the Hotel Goldley for a clear panoramic view in the midday sunshine. 

By 4 o'clock it was time for departure and we all reluctantly climbed back on the bus home. The drive through Switzerland is remarkable, but I'm pretty sure that just sums up the whole country.

Interlaken is a trip I would take again and again, and one I would especially love to take in the warmer months when the region transforms from a Winter Wonderland to a Summer Paradise. Who knows, I might make it back;) 

Until next time, 

Yours, Kenna

P.S. Do ya'll prefer these long-winded posts or a three day extravaganza of multiple posts? Comment and let me know!


  1. Great post! I love your photography, what camera do you use?
    Beth x


    1. Thanks Beth! I am currently using a Panasonic Lumix G5 which I am in love with. I was a little skeptical at first because I'm usually a Canon girl, but it's great and really user friendly. And if I'm crafty I can even tuck it in my purse ;)

      You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-G5KK-Compact-System-14-42mm/dp/B008MB71IS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393609927&sr=8-1&keywords=panasonic+lumix+g5

  2. Gorgeous photos :) What a beautiful place!

    Jenna || Jennafifi.co.uk


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