I had been traveling around Europe for almost 4 months and I was yet to find that “place.” You know, that place where you never want to leave, somewhere that is unexplainable and unfathomable: a place where you want to be stranded forever.
I hadn’t found this place, until I arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland.
Described as a “picture perfect” destination, Interlaken boasts of beautiful snow-capped mountains, perfectly situated churches, and hints of color in the architecture.
The small town feel ate straight into my heart and immediately sparked a connection between Interlaken and myself.
And another reason I loved this place?
This was easily the most fantastic trip I have taken in Europe BECAUSE I was able to share it with some of my favorite people in the whole world: Jared, Colleen, and Jessica.
Reunited and it feels so good!
After a bus ride in ridiculously tight quarters and a stream of continuous snot rockets from the boy behind me, we arrived in Switzerland. We started with a roam around the city, having fun with the currency, scoping out the bakeries, and drooling over gingerbread.
In addition to our sugar-induced dreams, we decided to beat the rush and rent our ski material before we embarked on any new journeys the first day we arrived. While waiting, we danced.
People watched us.
We really didn’t care.
We posed too.
And once we realized that the line to the store was getting rather hefty, we booked it over and rented some skis.
Because well, we were going skiing.
In the Swiss Alps.
A slight education on the cost structure of Interlaken helped us to take note against the ridiculously high cost of living. We had arranged several meals and ingredients before we arrived so that we could save a bit of money; and instead, spend that money on chocolate.
What we didn’t realize is that these small and simple family meals that we prepared in the hostel kitchen would be ridiculously memorable in terms of flavor AND company. We were able to function as a small family unit: eating together, cooking together, and cleaning together. It was something that no restaurant experience could even begin to mimic.
And because our meals were incredibly delicious, it would only be proper of me to show you how to make them yourself.
Colleen’s dish for the first evening consisted of a thick-cut Tuscan pasta named pici. The sauce began with sauteed garlic and tomatoes that had been cooked in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Next, Taleggio cheese was melted into the pan and fresh basil was then incorporated into the dish. It was finished with salt and pepper.
I decided to bring along the Barilla pizza kit that had been sitting in my food cabinet since the beginning of the semester. Despite the lack of an oven, our failed attempted at cooking the pizza on the stove, and an extremely “browned” (burnt) base, we enjoyed it thoroughly.
We finally gave up and chucked the pizza in the microwave.
We picked up an extremely tasty loaf of pretzel pull-apart bread from a local bakery.
And we were fed and ready for some serious Swiss action.
So, we decided to go sledding.
In the night.
With no actual lights.
So we bundled up, took a long car ride up an extremely icy hill, and put on our glow-sticks to ensure our “safety.”
A “gondola” was necessary to reach the top of the hill where we would begin our trek. After being in Venice several weeks before, this gondola thing really confused me.
Eight by eight we were ushered to the top of the mountain, which was surrounded by a warm glow coming from candle-lit lanterns.
It was magical. By far one of the most romantic places I have ever experienced.
I peaked my head into the small cabin that was situated on top of the hill. I was able to witness local Germans enjoying a beautifully relaxing dinner, rustic decorations, and delicious aromas.
And so we were off, zipping through the forest, almost flying off of a cliff to a terribly painful death.
It is impossible to recount the number of times I simply stared in wonder at what I was passing, who I was experiencing it with, and how immaculate God’s snowy creations were.
“Wow God, wow,” I uttered multiple times as I lost complete focus from the task at hand.
Which, consequently, led to a significant amount of wipe-outs.
After we had completed the trail, we remained in a state of mental shock.This caused each one of us to act in a different manner.
Colleen was so effected that she was unable to look up.
I couldn’t look down.
Jared couldn’t put his sled down.
And Jessica, well, she could put her sled up OR down.
So she just kept moving it.
Being on top of a mountain at night gave us the opportunity to experience a certain stillness and silence that is often missed when participating in winter sports. At night everything slows down and remains calm and peaceful. There is no hustle and bustle, just nature and its simple beauty.
Our guide told us to stop our sleds during one of our rests and he ushered the group through 3 foot deep snow to show us the starts of a frozen waterfall.
And, yes, I saw that frozen waterfall and then kissed my handsome man.
And realized, that may have been the most romantic moment of my life.
It wasn’t the kiss.
It wasn’t the waterfall.
It wasn’t what we were wearing.
It was the magic of the Swiss Alps.
And after this magic, we were served beer and cheese.
Every man’s dream.
This was my first step into the world of beer and I must say, it didn’t make me want to vomit (Which in my book was a good sign). It did, however, make me realize that I would much rather eat my bread than drink it in the form of a fermented yeast product. Plus, putting salt and olive oil on beer just inst the same.
We were fed a touristy group meal which still gave us a nice idea of a traditional Swiss fondue dinner.
Anxiously awaiting to inform my friends of my speculative analysis of the cheese, I uttered, “It tastes alot like Swiss cheese.”
And then….then I felt like a fool.
Which is quite common….so it didn’t really matter.
The moral of the fondue story:
The fondue…tasted alot like Swiss cheese.
Plus you got to dip it in a vat of dairy.
Which dipping anything in dairy is fun.
We traveled back to our hostel in a small bus, tucked ourselves into bed, and reflected on the unbelievable day we had partaken in.
We rose early in the morning on day two and walked 1/2 mile to the train station to catch the 9:10 train.
Which we missed.
Mainly because of my inability to carry large objects.
So, rather than pouting about our unfortunate situation, we went across the street and started our chocolate buying frenzy: Chocolate Chip Cookie Chocolate and White Chocolate Mousse Chocolate.
If I can give you any indication into how good these were or into how serious the Swiss are about their chocolate, let me tell you this.
I spent 120 Euros on chocolate.
In two days.
After I had my precious chocolate, we made the train.
And I thought my eyes had deceived me.
The train, similar to polar express, seemed to be on its way to the next snow-capped village to pick up children to go to the North Pole. Immediately after, we would spent a bit of time underground inside of a tunnel and would then be spit out onto the valley of a mountain side.
And after our immaculate transportation situation, we decided to make use of our ski gear and actually go skiing,
In the Alps.
In the Freaking Alps.
And one of my most memorable parts of the trip was seeing Jared’s expressions change as the weekend progressed. He started as an anxious child awaiting Santa on Christmas morning and ended as though he had lived his entire life and could die a happy man.
His joy brought me joy.
And after celebrating joy with him, I slept.
Colleen and Jared went off to be crazy in the slopes as Jessica and I decided that staying on the beginners slope would be a good idea. Our first run, being completely in denial of the complexity of the “bunny hill” ended in two ridiculously epic falls courtesy of Jessica and I.
One beginner run and I realized that I was weak. I sat out and enjoyed the beautiful snowfall as I waited for the others to get hurt.
I trudged up the side of the ski slope to find myself a place to sit and gaze at the surroundings. Luckily, I saw this precious little restaurant and a sign that read, “Hier 1st Kein Picknickplatz Danke.” Which, being ignorant of the German language, I translated too. “Here is the first place the Calvin Klein had a picnic. Thank you.”
Because of my skeptical thoughts onto the availability of Calvin Klein products in Switzerland, I took a break from exercising my translation skills, and ate lunch instead.
Colleen ordered a fantastic dish that consisted of toasted bread, ham, Swiss cheese, red wine, and a whole lot of Swiss loving.
I ordered a paprika spiced goulash soup, accompanied by a soft whole wheat bread. This goulash, to my ignorance, did not mimic the “PA” version of goulash at all (macaroni and beef in a red sauce).
Although not what I expected, it surely warmed me up and cleared my sinuses.
And although I was sore, had a lack of sleep, had worked in Fedora, and felt like one more run down the mountain may be a sure-fire path to my death…
I did it.
And I’m so thankful that I did. Just at the moment of our second (and my final) run, the Swiss alps appeared clear in the background. The astonishing views caused me to, yet again, crash.
It became a problem.
And so, I decided to take my vision impairing fogged up sunglasses and give up.
But the problem wasn’t that I gave up.
The problem was that I was on the middle of the ski slope.
Only as the mountain below began to slowly creep out of the foggy covering did I garner enough strength to rise to my feet and finish the beginner’s slope of death.
And finishing meant taking my skis off and walking to the top of the next hill.
On the ski slope.
But you know what, I was on the Swiss Alps.
I crashed on the Swiss Alps.
I kissed Jared Smith on the Swiss Alps.
I ate goulash on the Swiss Alps.
We paid 12 Francs for a 3 Franc locker because we kept locking ourselves out (on the Swiss Alps).
I fell on the middle of the slop and stayed there (on the Swiss Alps)
I failed the beginner run (on the Swiss Alps).
And you know what…Jared was able to fulfill his dream.
And it didn’t involve me attempted to fall down black diamonds.
I had enough trouble getting off the ski lift.
Colleen to Jared: “Who are those idiots that caused the entire lift to start moving?”
That was me and Jessica.
Words can’t describe the fresh powder, the extremely epic falls, and the feeling of crisp Swiss air hitting your face as you whisk your skis down the side of an extremely famous mountain.
I guess the word would be….magic.
Or gingerbread. Because we rewarded ourselves with marzipan FILLED gingerbread.
After returning, we enjoyed an evening walk around Interlaken, gazing at beautifully lit trees,
The lanterns hanging in the branches,
And the icicles on street lights that were formed naturally.
We walked by old restaurants,
and attempted to take in the beautiful scenery.
The overwhelmingness of it’s beauty was astounding.
And it was at that moment in which we all felt that we needed chocolate.
And we needed chocolate right then.
Our first stop was a precious chocolatier named Schuh.
We continued to mosey our way through the town when we were met by hundreds of Christmas market stalls, selling cheeses, ornaments, chocolates, and decorations.
There were even an assortment of “interesting” wooden armed, tinsel haired angels.
And Colleen and Jessica enjoyed a light and refreshing fruit snack.
It just happened to be covered in chocolate.
And, one of the highlights of the entire trip was seeing these sheep.
I told Jared that I wanted one.
He said he would ask if we could have one. But, I don’t think he ever did.
There was even an entire stand devoted to Swiss gingerbread.
And after our unfathomably incredible day, we returned to the hostel to prepare another family meal.
I prepared the main dish this evening which consisted of 4 scrambled eggs mixed with 1 can of green beans, 1 can of peas, 1 can of drained chickpeas, and 2 cups of cooked farro. After all of this is combined in a large pot, a drizzle of olive oil, a season of salt and pepper, and several spoons of pesto is added in. It’s an incredibly easy meal which provides an INSANE amount of nutrients and energy!
We also prepared fresh burschetta on garlic rubbed toast with tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mini mozzarella chunks.
Colleen grilled up some delicious Swiss chicken and our meal was complete.
We sipped wine, told funny stories, made fun of each other’s downfalls as if we were related, and giggled as we witnessed Colleen’s failure to involve herself in the conversation.
I mean, he must have been important, she fore-went the possible consumption of bread to talk with him.
After a period of rest for 49 minutes, we all realized that we were bored. So, we did what any other normal human being in a new city would do: we found the playground. We made snow-angels, we went down the slide, we swung on swings, and we teeter tautered until Jared cherry bombed me.
We all felt like children.
And it was amazing.
Our last morning in Interlaken was spent in transit, making sure that our eyes saw all that was possible to see.
This kitty was really cute.
So I took a picture.
We made our way to the East side of Interlaken (which literally means city between lakes) where a large lake was said to have been located.
We trekked through icy snow-covered paths, climbed to the top of the bridge, and…
we were with Micheala on this one, we just weren’t impressed.
We were just…shocked.
I had never imagined something so beautiful and pristine in my life. Even as I was skiing, I thought that the surroundings were a virtual reality, or that I was stuck inside of an extremely intricate snow globe with adequate oxygen supply for survival.
And then the serious shopping began. The typical Swiss chocolate and watches stereotype was really a perfect description of their specialty products. And the Swiss Chocolate Chalet that we bumped into,
well that was a disaster waiting to happen.
I went into the store 3 times.
Each time I bought more.
In fact, we bought so much chocolate there that he offered to take a picture of us with a massive amount of truffles.
I thought about fake sneezing on them in hopes that he would hand them over to me.
He just continued to let us sample every single thing in the store.
And so… we bought…every single thing in the store.
And then went to Co-op grocery store and bought more.
And this picture…sadly… that’s just some of it.
I’ll be fine, I promise.
I will recover. I will get over this addiction.
Or, I’ll just turn to another one of my obsessions: bread.
The highlight of our last family meal was the beautifully crunchy cereal bread that we purchased (along with our chocolate) at a local grocery-store bakery.
We also prepared gnocchi with tomato sauce, pesto, and pecorino.
And Colleen made her famous gnocchi with pesto cream sauce (made by heating pesto sauce, adding a small amount of cream, small mozzarella cubes, basil leaves, salt and pepper).
And as we pondered our entire trip, we all agreed that we had just taken part in one of the most memorable trips of our lives. We were surrounded with incredible people, were able to sit around the table to enjoy phenomenal meals, we had the opportunity to ski in the Swiss Alps, and we were able to act like children (yet still feel accepted).
Interlaken, Switzerland, I will come back for you, I promise.
Leave yourself just as you are.
Thank you God for blessing me with the gift of sight. Without my eyes, I would have not been able to view the incomprehensible beauty that surrounded us in Interlaken. Thank you Lord for the gifts that go un-mentioned, for those that we don’t think about because they are accepted as universally common. Thank you Lord, your blessings are unfathomable and innumerable.
Ciao for now!