Monday, November 2, 2009

A Beautiful Day in Interlaken

I'm cold – I'm wet – and I'm ... ... ... content.

Rarely, if ever, has this combination occurred naturally in nature, but nevertheless here it is. I've made my peace with the fact that it will be raining for the four days that I'm here in lovely Interlaken, and probably for the two days that I'm in Lucerne as well. And despite the rain, and the cold, I'm quite happy. My feelings on this town have not been tainted.

The hiking is still good, the landscapes still supreme. The mini-golf... well, the mini-golf is closed in the rain. I don't know what that's all about, but I wandered, I asked, I pleaded. Nothing would have worked. If only I had big luscious eyelashes to flutter. Well, let me tell you – that didn't work either. So long as there is rain, there will be no putting for me. This is, perhaps, the one upsetting thing about the rain. But nothing's ever perfect is it?

On the television in the hostel's common room live streaming video from the top of the mountains plays. I've been told that the view is normally of a swarm of people, and the vistas stretching on and on into the blue sky. Today there is nothing but white. It would almost seem a television tuned to a dead channel, if not for the metal gate only a few feet from the camera (a new assortment of water droplets forming, and rolling off with every passing moment.) The temperature at the top is a delightful minus seven. Perhaps it's snowing up there then, and not raining after all. But here for us mere mortals on the ground below there is nothing but water, water, everywhere.

I started off hiking along the river from Interlaken to Bonigen. This is a city for hikers. The trails are more prominently marked than the roads, with bright yellow sign points always indicating the next possible destination, complete with estimated time until arrival. Why the trails are marked with times, rather than distances is a mystery to me. What does thirty minutes mean? Surely one hiker could close the distance in fifteen minutes, while some might take closer to an hour?

It's possible that the trails are marked this way to allow for elevation to come into play. Three hundred meters on flat ground, after all, is quite different from three hundred meters on thirty percent grading.

The first part of this trail was a simple walk down by the river. The water was the colour of blue zircon, catching the light just so – something I'd not seen since my drive through Alberta Canada at Moraine Lake, and Lake Louise. To see a river stretching out towards infinity, reflecting the autumn leaves changing colour on the mountain side was truly a view to behold. And one of the things that makes Interlaken a stop that would only lead to tragedy were it left out of a European trip.

Yes it was raining, yes the sky was grey and the colours muted. But like Freddie Prince Jr. in the ever-popular movie She's All That, I could see beyond the glasses, the ponytail, and the paint covered overalls that masked the towns true beauty on this day. And while I have given up all hope of seeing the blue skies, and bright sun over head (having checked the weather forecast for my few days here) it is none the less and enjoyable place to be.

Having reached Bonigen, I followed the sings to Wilderswil – following yet another river, past all number of fields full of cattle, and pockets of trees dropping their leaves in inviting, colourful, piles all around. This path would see me walking along the bank, three meters elevated from the water. How long this path will remain is anyones guess. Erosion is doing nothing benificaial here.

To the left covered bridges led paths up into the mountains, stretching all the way to the top. But without a partner, a cellphone, or the weather being on my side, I stuck to the flat lands. There was more than enough to see here for one day. And, what was that off in the distance? Pyramids? A giant golf tee? It must have been mystery park, closing the day I arrived in town. The less said about this, the better, I'd imagine. I wouldn't want to spoil the mystery.

Yes my fingers did wiggle, and my voice did warble as I said, “mystery.” What's it to you?

Passing through these villages I could smell wood burning in various fireplaces, as the people inside remained both cozy and warm on this day when only fools ventured outside. Two hours into my walk, it dawned on me that my rain coat was not, in fact, keeping me dry. Rather my arms were wet, as were the contents of the coats pockets. It was nearly as useless as a windbreaker/fanny pack that one might have worn to a grade four track meet! Was I supposed to treat it, as I would have a tent? Should my M.E.C. rain coat not provide me with dryness and a semblance of warmth through all my aggressively humid needs? Perhaps I will have to have a chat with the fine employees of that store when I return in – well, a good long time.

From Wilderswil I began to follow the signs to Ruine Unspunnen which I could only assume was yet another town. This time I was thrown up onto a hill overlooking the towns, the rivers, and the fields I had past by only hours earlier. My path was covered in yellows, oranges, and reds as each step was padded by the leave of so many trees preparing for the winter season.

To the left stood a log cabin, mostly fallen into disrepair, set against the forest behind. To my right was a pen of sheep. But, unlike most sheep I had seen before, these all had curling horns poking out to the sides.

I would have taken pictures, but each time I wanted a shot, I would need to remove the rain fly from my pack, grab my camera, try to shoot without the rain getting on the lens, failing miserably at this, wiping the lens, taking the shot, and trying to put the camera away before the water destroyed it. Needless to say, this was not the quick and easy process it would have been in the sun. Or even the snow.

But then, in front of me, covered in the autumns discarded colours, was something out of Lord of the Rings. I hate to invoke such a thing, but when one goes from being in the middle of a forest, to staring up at the ruins of what was once a castle, what else is one to think?

Thousand year old steps ascended the castle to the very top. There was the remains of a camp fire from people spending the night within the ruins, some time in the recent past. Having looked around, and marveled at just how fantastic a discovery like this could be, when there is no forewarning, I realized that I would need to descend the steps I had walked up. On the way up they weren't the easiest – small, slippery, and twisting around the walls. For the first time I thought that perhaps I had not made the wisest of decisions. But – brain tuned to auto pilot – by the time I reached the forest floor once more, I thought of nothing but the experience of standing, once more, within walls that had stood – guarding all those within – for so long, so long ago. That such history just exists without pomp... It's foreign to my North American sensibilities.

From there it was simply a forty minute walk through the trees, back to town. Three hours well spent. Throughout much of the trek I thought back to years past, wandering trails with my father, and – perhaps – starting the occasional brush fire that may or may not have got a tad bit out of control.

I had forgotten just how much the cold rain takes from you. Normally I would be ready to start on another trail – but simply getting my finger to respond to my request of reaching into my pocket to fetch my wallet – so as I could pay for food, similar in nature to what I had last night – was an effort. There was just one thing to do – Mini-golf! But as I mentioned, the mini-golf was closed. And for the first time I cursed the rain.

But then, with bag of food in hand, I headed back to the hostel where I would spend the day internetting, finishing up a television series – the name of which I keep trying not to mention, and will no longer have to – as it is done, finished, and over with (until the new season starts up, of course,) and reading.

All in all – a good day.

Of course the rain would stop right as the sun sets. Thanks. Thanks for that. Now lets try to keep it this was for at least another twenty four hours, 'kay?


  1. Hi Mike,
    Great video. Great ruin. Great beard - you look like a renegade vagabond!

  2. Danke! It was ... less rainy... today. But still - another ruin was come across. Man, this town is just fantastic. Top of my "would recommend" list - provided people like walking, and walking, and lots of walking. Though there are a lot of adventure sports here too.


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