After a draining, overcrowded, eleven hour flight I was whisked away from the mayhem of Zurich and set on Höheweg Strasse in the charming town of Interlaken. Sleeping for what felt like an eternity, I awoke to the vast panorama of the Swiss Alps and the exhilarating echo of the mountains. Those ghostly, white, jagged peaks evoke magical dreams and powerful emotions within. Finally alert and adjusting well to the six hour time change, I went on a search for the perfect cup of steaming, frothy cappuccino. I wandered outside into the brisk air to see what treasures I could unearth. Interlaken, nestled between lakes Thun and Brienz, (named accordingly “Inter” between and “Laken” lakes) is notorious for being somewhat touristy. But what I discovered was so much more.
Narrow side streets, secret courtyards, clandestine gardens, local pubs, mystifying churches, whispers around corners and hidden passageways were just some of the secrets of this city. Meandering lazily through the town I happened upon a lovely tea room, finally deciding on a warm cup of green tea with a tasty gingerbread cookie on the side. Completely forgetting about my cappuccino, I took my first, real deep breath in almost a year, sipped on my green tea concoction and sunk down so completely in my overstuffed, cushioned chair. Flipping through a few travel pamphlets, which you should never do, I tossed them aside and set off on my own again. I wanted the local feel of Interlaken and I got it.
Interlaken is set in a lower valley surrounded by the Jungfrau (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Eiger and Mönch mountains which includes Grindelwald, Schilthorn – Piz Gloria and Kleine Scheidegg, all part of the Bernese Oberland. It started pouring down raining while I was searching for my next adventure, which forced me to take cover in a traditional bistro called Restaurant National. I was greeted by an adorable Swiss waitress, who was also one of the chefs. She recommended a few deserts and wine, as well as her own homemade cinnamon parfait. After much debate, I finally decided on a German Riesling, pistachio ice cream and, of course, the parfait, I was quite pleased with my choices. The Riesling was crisp, tart but delicate with a sweet aftertaste; the ice cream was hand-whipped, had a buttery, nutty, creamy taste and the cinnamon parfait was, well just that. This being rather odd selections for lunch, I decided that dinner would be my staple.
The Mountain Patrouille
The misty, gray sky cleared just enough for me to spend a few francs in some local shops. The boutiques around Bahnhofstrasse, Centralstrasse and Marketgasse, directly off of Höheweg Strasse, specialized in expensive, beautifully crafted Italian fashion. This being completely out of my budget, I headed to some of the smaller boutiques which happen to have sales or “dizkount” as they say. Even with a language barrier a woman can always find a way to shop. Nile Trading, Boutique Häsler, Transit Boutique and Avantgarde Mode Exklusiv happened to be some of my favorites. During my many travels I have come to collect Laufstock Plakete which translates from German to mean “walking stick plaques.” This is a very old tradition, when people used to walk everywhere for days, collecting these small, metal plaques to flaunt on their walking sticks. This took the place of postcards and stamps at the time. After draining all of my money on much needed clothing, hand-beaded jewelry, pashmina scarves, wooden trinkets and schnapps, I needed a good drink and somewhere to unwind and admire my purchases.