Erik here checking in from the great country of the Netherlands.
This past week I had a study break after my first 8 weeks of classes (which I may add are going very well). The Netherlands schooling is much more laid back, until finals come. Your grade here is often times based of a single test which can be quite nerve wrecking…. But I’m getting off track. On my study break I was able to travel to one of the places I have ALWAYS wanted to visit. The Swiss Alps. Which are the most beautiful place on Earth!
I left from my hometown of Wageningen on a Monday night and took a night line train to Zurich, Switzerland. The train was a really interesting experience considering it was like a hotel on wheels. Literally, if you had the money to buy it, you could have rented out an entire room with bunk beds on a train. Unfortunately, I rode economy style and just got a reclining seat. Worked fine. 🙂
After 14 hours I arrived in Zurich which is in the North East part of the Netherlands, and not in the mountains. From there I traveled to Lucerne, an hour south and hopped onto a scenic train which would take me into the mountains.
Here is Zurich:
The train to Interlaken hands down was the most stunning train ride I have ever taken. The train had wide windows on the sides as well as the ceiling which allowed for you to see almost perfectly out the train. It was like riding in a a top down jeep….sort of? Anyway, this train ride brought me between the valleys of tall mountain ranges that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was perfectly sunny making every view seem to shine with a clarity and sharpness rarely seen. The mountains are not like the ones in the states… they are not slowly elevating and heavy forested like the Smokeys, but they sure aren’t as MASSIVE as the Rockies. They are an interesting mix of quickly elevating rock faces and pockets of forested areas hanging on to the sides of the cliffs. They are massive, but seem to just appear from the ground. Very often they seemed to be more like sky scrapers than mountains just because they rose in elevtion so so quickly. It made for an awesome train ride consisiting of my forehead glued to the window like a child. I felt like one, that’s for sure.
Arriving in Interlaken after 2 hours, I transfered to a train that would bring me into Lauterbrunnen. Now I was actually getting into the Jungfrau region which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as of special cultural or physical significance). Lauterbrunnen was on the west side of the region and also in a valley where I could slowly get to my actual destination in Gimmelwald.
I made my way through the picturesque valley of Lauterbrunnen to the gandola that would lift me into the mountains and to the doorstep of my hostel. The gandola ride was, as expected, beautiful and felt good on my ears as they adjusted to the elevation change, but I had finally arrived.
It seemed pretty cliche when I heard it, and I know it was quick to agree with it, but immediately stepping off the gandola into Gimmelwald I understood why they say “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald”. Really, send me back. Quietly resting on the side of the mountain lay the world’s most breathtaking, picturesque, charming, friendly village you can ever step into. The dark hands of tourism have managed to miss transforming this town into something it’s not. It remains a Swiss treat for those looking to see how the old, simple world lived. Each home resembling log cabins with dark wood colored shutters. Piles of wood stacked neatly outside ready to warm the winter. Cattle grazing on the sides of the steeet, not a worry in the world. There are only two places in Gimmelwald to buy food, and you won’t find a cashier in either one of them. The honesty shop (which was honestly closed every day I was there) and a little back room of someone’s house where fresh homemade cheese, milk, and eggs were sold. Both stores, if you would call them that, relied on you putting money into a little basket based on what you purchased. It is a beautiful idea that is doomed to fail in the real world, but thankfully Gimmelwald is not the real world.
I did not do anything spectacular this first day in Gimmelwald. I was more or less paralyzed by the beauty. I could not go 20 steps without stopping and just simply staring, smiling as the clouds rolled through, stepping slowly over the snowy peaks.
The next few days in gimmelwald were more or less the best days of my life. No matter were one walked you were just mesmorized by the natural beauty in every direction. Whether it was hiking through the valleys or taking gandolas to the peaks of the mountains, I was all smiles all the time. It was a dream come true.
Of all the things I was able to do in Gimmelwald, by far the most memorable would have to be climbing to the top of the Spitzhorn mountain. It was 7.5hours of hiking that were worth every minute of it, even with the snow near the peak being UP TO MY KNEES. It is difficult to describe just how beautiful it was on the peak, and pictures don’t do it justice, but they’re better than words. So I will let the pictures below do the talking.
Overall, as you may be able to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Switzerland. It is a country of never ending beauty and friendliness. It only adds to my non-stop happiness that I am experiencing out here while studying abroad. In europe it seems everything moves a bit slower, and bit quiter, and its a nice transition from the hectic USA. We will see how the rest of my studies go, but so far being embraced by the Dutch culture and seeing the Swiss alps has pretty much guarenteed that the trip will be good no matter what happens.