Love-locked in Interlaken

Sitting snugly between two alpine lakes, the picturesque town of Interlaken is known for its adventure activities, and for the experience of buying cheese and chocolates

A view of the mountains in Interlaken

You have the choice of doing nothing, or you can pack your five days in whirlwind trips and activities here in Interlaken,” said the mannerly Frau Aebischer at the hotel counter, in her near-perfect English, with only a tinge of German drawl, or being in Switzerland, was it a Swiss-German drawl? She proficiently brought out a couple of maps and brochures and opened a map which took the good part of the counter. “You are here,” she said, as she drew a small circle on the map.

She must have spent some good 15 minutes telling me of all the possibilities in this small Swiss town. And at the end of it, I was more perplexed, and looked lost.

I stepped onto the street. The summer sun had dyed the road and the surrounding like a coat of highlight-marker of golden yellow. Our hotel being near to the Interlaken West Bahnhoff (Railway Station), I could hear a train heave in, but I took the Station Road to the other direction. And lo! In just 15 minutes of lazy strolling across the town, I came to Interlaken Ost (East) Station. Does Interlaken hide its worldwide following behind its spatial littleness? I was soon to discover.

Along the river

Instead of getting into the town, I met the Aare river behind the East Station. This little village river shawls the town like a protective elder. I started walking westward along its bank, shaded by trees, stopping now and then to delight at the flotilla of swans on the river and the charming cottages on the other bank. Past the sluice gates which control the flow, the river bends down south, splits, and then happily re-joins. The bushes sometimes thicken along the river bed and then clear out.

A view of homes across the Aare River
A view of homes across the Aare River 

Barring a few joggers and even fewer cyclists, only the swans in the river and the birds chirruping around gave me company in my solitary walk along the river. The snow-capped mountain to the south kept appearing and hiding behind the cottages and trees. Happily, I forgot to look at my watch till a vast lake was suddenly gleaming at me. It was an “OMG” moment, realising I had been walking for an hour and reached the Thunersee, Lake Thun.

Interlaken snugs between two giant lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Only the Aare river carries the fondness from one lake to the other, of course, through the loving kiss of Interlaken.

Höheweg had a pretty crowd when I reached there late in the morning the next day. The road has fancy hotels, eateries, few shops on one side, while the other side is the meadow of Höhematte with the majestic Schloss Interlaken (Interlaken Castle) at the far end, against the backdrop of the magnificent snow-decked Jungfrau Mountain looming behind. I was engrossed in the picture-postcard setting, clicking photographs, when a child beside me screamed, “Look, look.” I followed her pointed fingers up at the sky, and three paragliders were swooping down on their descent. Where did they appear from? And in my quest, my gaze followed the sky all the way behind me, to the green Beatenberg-Niederhorn Mountain from whose crest paragliders, in scores now, in all the rainbow colours, were emerging, much like soap bubbles out of some invisible bubble machine up there.

Of chocolates & cheese

The old traditional market in Unterseen must have remained that way for centuries. At least the look and feel of it. Only, I presume, more shops now are selling Swiss and Interlaken memorabilia. I bought a few keychains and scarves from a tent-shop set up on the wide footpath. I was completely at my wit’s end at the chocolate shop, whose narrow entrance would deceive anyone sucked into its never-ending belly full of — no prize for guessing — Swiss chocolates. The cheese shop next door, though not so deep as its chocolate counterpart, was, nevertheless, educative for someone not exposed to the plethora of cheese available. “We sell only Swiss cheese here,” said the elderly lady at the counter, who perfectly deciphered my predicament, and kept me sampling, “This is Emmentaler, hard, yeh, now try this one, Tilsiter, how do you like it? Ah, have a bit of this one, Tomme Vaudoise.” I still can’t believe that at the end I came out of the shop with a bagful of lumps of Scharfe Maxx, Tomme Vaudoise and Bleuchâtel, the famous Swiss blue cheese.

Paragliding in Interlaken
Paragliding in Interlaken

For dinner, it took some effort to find a Swiss restaurant among the multitude of pizzerias around. The sky was still holding on to the fading light of the summer night and the air was caressingly smooth. I settled down for an al fresco dinner at a small restaurant just off Hauptstrasse. The menu card was succinct. Zürcher Geschnetzeltes? That certainly sounded difficult enough to pronounce to be Swiss-German. Herr Brust, the congenial owner, decoded it for me, “Meat cut in Zurich style.” “Sounds good,” I said. Herr Brust prodded ever so gently, “And a pot of cheese fondue.” “O, fondue, of course,” I said, “for my bragging rights back home, in case I don’t remember Zürcher Geschnetzeltes.”

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Love-locked in Interlaken

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