Backpacking Europe is a check off my bucket list in itself, but this morning I crossed another one off. At nine o’ clock Peter came and picked us up at the hostel. We drove to the city center of Interlaken and laced up for our wild ride ahead. We drove up part of a mountain, covered in a fresh blanket of snow from yesterday. When the van stopped, we got out, equipped with the hiking boots they provided and follow Matt & Greg down a snowy path. We were going paragliding! The walk to the jumping off point was beautiful and slippery. The ground was covered in fresh snow and we had an unparalleled view of the mountains in front of us.
I love heights, roller coasters, etc. so I was 95% excited and 5% nervous about going. When we made it to the base our instructors started getting all the gear out while Grace and I snapped tons of pictures, trying to process the enormity of the mountain we were on and surrounded by. We had huge smiles on our faces because we couldn’t believe what we were about to do!
After they were all set and had the parachutes laid out, we put our helmets and harnesses on. Matt was my instructor and gave me a short rundown of how it works. Once he determined the wind was good, we would run at a medium pace, then slow so he could check everything and then as fast as we could. He warned me to not stop running or sit down too soon because then we couldn’t take off. I watched Grace take off seamlessly, just floating off the side of this gigantic, snowy mountain.Before I knew it I was sprinting down the snowy hill and then flying!
I wasn’t the least bit terrified, it was surprisingly peaceful. The view was so incredible and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I was floating in the Swiss Alps, attached to a parachute by a series of strings!
Seeing Interlaken from above was unreal. The color of the water looks like tons of blue dye was dumped into it. The city is nestled between the two massive lakes with rivers flowing through the center of town. We had a perfect, clear morning and I finally got to see Jungfraujoch in all its glory- the glacier considered to be the “Top of Europe” Watching the landscape from above put into perspective how grand the Alps really are. It made me feel so small which I loved. I couldn’t help but laugh because it all seemed like a dream. It just felt like I was in a hammock, floating around some of the worlds most beautiful mountains.
After about twenty minutes we started the descent, Matt asked me if I wanted a “roller coaster” landing and I said yes. We swing side by side and twirled around, headed to the ground. It was so much fun! We landed literally in the middle of town in a field designed for paragliders with Jungfraujoch towering in the background. Seriously so cool, if anyone is headed to Interlaken you have to go paragliding!! When Matt and I were in the field taking our gear off, we were swarmed by Asian tourists who wouldn’t let us leave until they all had a turn taking a picture with both of us. It was hilarious and slightly in uncomfortable. Saying it was an incredible experience is an understatement.
We walked around the quaint little downtown and I drooled over every chocolate shop. We headed to Lake Thun, walking through cute neighborhoods and eventually down a trail in the woods. We walked past these tiny fishing huts and made it to the water. It was beautiful and blue as ever! We took a different path back, walking more in the woods with fields filled with cows and wildflowers to our left. I absolutely love all of the farmland here, the yellow and white flowers blanket the fields and you just want to frolic through them. We opted for taking a pitstop and laying down in the field.
Everyone in Switzerland seems to be so active, the paths were crowded with people of all ages hiking, biking and walking their dogs. Made me appreciate living in Asheville a little more…it’s much easier to be active outside when your surroundings are beautiful.
Since we had part of the afternoon until our train to Zürich left, we took a cable car up to Harder Klum, a popular mountain in Interlaken. Once again, stunning views from the top. The cable car was pretty amazing, the track was so steep. The selfie stick got a lot of action at the lookout platform 🙂
When we were headed back down in the cable car we decided we were going to try and make the train that was leaving in six minutes. Once we made up our minds, nothing was stopping us. We sprinted to the train station, packs and all and made it. (We’re getting pretty good at this) Because hostels in Zürich were crazy expensive we booked our first AirBnB- we were going to stay with two sisters who had an apartment outside of the city. Online it said they were musicians and loved to surf, they had great reviews and the bed looked comfortable so we went for it.
Vera and Janine told us to meet them at a Bazar where they were selling some of their handmade bags for the day. Turns out it was super close to the train but we got extremely lost and ended up walking around the city for a while. However we eventually made it, but then realized we had no idea what they looked like/didn’t know how we would find them. It was a super cool market with people selling artwork, jewelry and handmade clothing. On our second lap through we asked one of the vendors if she knew Vera…turns out her sister, Janine was right next to the booth where we asked. She came up to us both, giving us huge hugs and was so excited to see us! I was so thankful for her enthusiasm and welcome, especially after our long day and trek around Zürich. We talked to them for a little bit, they told us about the bags they sew and print themselves as well as their band, JOSH. After giving us directions on how to get to their place we headed out. Grace and I were pumped! Their English was perfect, they were so kind and SO cool! After some major struggles in figuring out how to get on the right tram, we arrived in what they described as their “village”, a suburb of Zürich called Egg (it really is called Egg). We let ourselves into their apartment which was super cozy and filled with instruments.
As soon as the WiFi worked we immediately looked up their music, and it was awesome. They were an indie folk band and completely legitimate. After some digging on the Internet we figured out they have already put out two CD’s, went on a two month tour in Europe and had headlined a music festival in downtown Zürich the night before! We couldn’t believe it!!! They were awesome and definitely a band we would normally listen to or go see in concert. When the girls came back from the Bazar, Vera left but Janine made us dinner (seriously such a blessing because we hadn’t eaten a hot meal in so long) and hung out with us. Turns out her and Vera lived in California for three months to surf, learn English and play music. We all freaked out when we realized they spent a ton of time in San Diego so they traded stories with Grace about their favorite surf spots and their love for In-N-Out. We spent most of the night hanging out with Janine, asking her about the band, her travels and life in Switzerland. She talked a lot about how her decision to pursue music instead of studying or working a full time job was really against the norm. But she talked about how happy she was and how she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Super relevant to Grace and I since we’re both still pretty unsure of what the future looks like after graduation. She had such a positive outlook on life and I loved how passionate she was about her music and what it meant to her and the people that knew the band.
One of the best parts of traveling really is how it brings people together. Grace and I couldn’t believe how lucky we got staying with them and getting to spend time hearing about their lives. Also staying in a real house was a huge added bonus. It was a great way to wrap up an already incredible day in Switzerland!