SWITZERLAND – Interlaken
white water rafting
We wake up in the top floor of a barn at Funny Farm Hostel. I wasn’t expecting the name of the hostel to be quite so literal. It’s a little drafty (they don’t book the barn in the winter), but not too bad. It is cheaper than the normal rooms, though. The rain seems to have finally moved on, so we decide to go white water rafting.
Interlaken offers every outdoor adventure activity you can think of. There’s paragliding, hanggliding, skydiving, bungee jumping, canyon jumping. There are almost as many people in the sky as birds.
My sister and I have never been rafting before. They say after the rain, the rapids run faster, so we’re a little nervous, but both agree we should go because how many times are you in Interlaken, Switzerland? The nice thing about staying at Funny Farm is that AlpinRaft operates out of the building next to the barn, so we can change into our rented wet suits and get on the bus right there.
The bus driver slams the brakes and everyone lurches forward as we arrive at the launch point. Our guide, Carol, gives us a brief overview and the next second we’re floating down the Lütschine River. It’s a rush, but man is it cold. The water is glacial-fed from the Alps. You know when you’re at a party and you have to stick your hand into the bottom of an icy cooler to get a beer out? Every time we paddle, it feels like that. After a few minutes, your hand starts to burn, and then it literally goes numb, so you actually don’t feel anything anymore. But the view of the mountains is breathtaking.
“Left! Right! Get down. Get down!” shouts Carol, in her New Zealand accent. The six of us race the other rafts and splash them with the freezing water with our paddles. By far the best part is the finale. In a matter of seconds, the river widens into an enormous lake, Lake Brienz, and you suddenly feel so small surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Europe.
After rafting, we walk to Interlaken West to look for Sigg bottles, and then try taking the local bus on the way back, since it’s free. We ask the bus driver, “Does this take you to Funny Farm Hostel?”
“Yes, Munderfarm,” the bus driver responds in a thick accent.
“No Funny Farm,” we correct him.
“Munderfarm, yes,” he replies as he nods his head energetically.
Finally, another person walks on. “Excuse me, do you know if this goes to Funny Farm Hostel?” we try.
It turns out we’re on the wrong bus because, fortunately, the right one pulls up behind us. Good thing, or we might have spent the night at Munderfarm, whatever that is…
racing a train
In the morning, we go on a hike up the mountain behind Funny Farm. You can see the whole town and the chalets through the trees.
I see Amy and Dana off as they head to Rome and wait for my train back to Paris. I try to find car five as it slows down, but I don’t see it, so I ask the attendant as she steps down onto the open-air platform. She points a few cars ahead. The door is closed so I press the green button to open it. Nothing happens. I try again. And then the train starts rolling slowly. I start running alongside the train, hoping somehow I can still get on before it moves too fast. But then it’s gone. I’m panicked. What just happened? It was gone in less than ten seconds!
I run inside and tell the ticket lady, “I was supposed to board that train, but the door didn’t work and now it’s gone…”
She says, “Sorry. Let me see, yes, that was the last train to leave today. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow. And you’ll have to purchase another ticket…”
I beg her for another option, “I have to get back to Paris tonight. I have class tomorrow. I have no place to stay here.”
“Do you have a connection?” she asks.
“Yes! In Bern. In an hour.”
“You might try a taxi. They’re just outside.”
I run outside the small ticket office to find two taxi drivers waiting outside their cars. “Can you get me to Bern?”
“Bern?” the man questions. I can tell by the look on his face that a long trip for him is the 10 minute crosstown ride from Interlaken West to Interlaken East. I reaffirm my request then ask if he can do it in an hour.
“An hour?” he asks exasperated. He does a mental calculation then nods, “Sure.”
He drives 140km/hr on an 80km/hr highway. “Some chewing gum? It calms you,” he offers as he swerves in and out of cars. We hit some traffic in Bern. I’m watching the clock avidly. “What time is your train again?” he asks.
He cuts right into a parking lane and speeds up a little more. I see the station. 5 minutes. The train station in Bern is much bigger than Interlaken. There are multiple trains. I race up an escalator asking a man where the platform is. I find it. No train. Then the message board flips and my train pulls in. I get on the moment the door opens. Of course this train sits in the station for fifteen minutes before pulling out, but it doesn’t matter. I’m on. I breathe my first breath in an hour.