Friday, July 6, 2012

Interlaken, Switzerland

Instead of returning the way we had entered the Chamonix valley, we continued northeast on a much smaller road. Winding our way through the mountains across the Swiss-French border, we finally left the scenic route for quicker highway driving in Martigny. The trip would have been three hours had we not made frequent stops for pictures at various scenic vistas, but also could have been much longer had we opted to take the more direct route. The choice to stick to the highway took us north to Berne, then south again, driving along the shore of Lake Thun before finally entering Interlaken.

Named for the location between Lakes Thun and Brienz, the city is at the foot of the Eiger (Ogre), Mönch (Monk) and Jungfrau (virgin) mountains. With the white water rafting, parasailing, hang gliding, mountain climbing, etc. available in the area, Interlaken is a terrific base for adventure traveling, but we were in town more for the mountain vistas. After checking into the hotel we hopped back into the car and drove south, winding our way higher and higher into the Jungfrau region on a small mountain road. The Lauterbrunnen valley is world-famous for the skiing, rock-climbing, hiking, snowboarding and mountain-climbing, but I believe the postcard-perfect views alone would be worthy of the fame.

We stopped in Lauterbrunnen, full of Swiss chalets and home to Staubbach Falls. With sheer cliffs rising on both sides of the valley and mountains behind mountains visible in the distance, I can see why Goethe dedicated Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (Song of the Spirits above the Waters) to the ethereal, 1,000ft waterfall.

Gesang der Geister über den Wassern
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Des Menschen Seele gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es, zum Himmel steigt es,
und wieder nieder zur Erde muß es, ewig wechselnd.

Strömt von der hohen, steilen Felswand der reine Strahl,
dann stäubt er lieblich in Wolkenwellen zum glatten Fels,
und leicht empfangen, wallt er verschleiernd,
leisrauschend zur Tiefe nieder.

Ragen Klippen dem Sturz entgegen,
schäumt er unmutig stufenweise zum Abgrund.

Im flachen Bette schleicht er das Wiesental hin,
und in dem glatten See weiden ihr Antlitz alle Gestirne.

Wind ist der Welle lieblicher Buhler;
Wind mischt vom Grund aus schäumende Wogen.

Seele des Menschen, wie gleichst du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen, wie gleichst du dem Wind!

Song of the Spirits above the Waters
(loose translation using with some fiddling - to give you a general idea)

The human soul is like water:
It comes from heaven, it rises to heaven,
and again to the earth it must return, ever changing.

It flowed from the heights, a pure jet on the steep rock face,
Then it dusted lovely waves of clouds to the smooth rock,
and when hit by the light, it flowed like a veil,
with the slightest rustling to the depths.

Cliffs loom up against the falls,
It angrily froths in stages to the abyss.

In its flat bed it creeps through the meadow,
and in the glassy lake its face grazes all the stars.

 Wind is the sweet wave;
 Wind mixes from the ground in foamy waves.

 Soul of man, how do you like the water!
 Fate of the people, you are like the wind!

After a short stroll we found a comfy restaurant to dine in. The whole experience had the feel of a movie set, complete with quaint chalets with porches facing the valley (don’t forget the blooming red geraniums hanging in baskets from the railings and window baskets), and cowbells clinking in the distance (although we saw only sheep, so sheepbells?).

One more addition to my growing list of places I wish to return to someday. Maybe with a good pair of hiking shoes and a backpack instead of an infant and a toddler. We’ll see.

The next morning we headed back up the valley, this time turning east towards Grindelwald, in the shade of Eiger mountain. Quite an urban little village complete with touristy centre, we opted to keep climbing and eventually found a hotel with ice cream shop and outdoor seating area. The meadows and pastures were in bloom, and the one across from our ice cream stop proved too tempting a photo opportunity.

I believe we spent more than a few hours lazing away in the grass and eating ice cream, in complete awe that some lucky people can call the majestic surroundings “home.”

On the drive down to Interlaken I kept craning my head back to try to find the one perfect spot to take a picture; on our drives in one particular place had caught my attention as having the valley with layer after layer of mountains fading off into the distance. Now I know that the whole drive was picturesque, only it is hard to find spots to pull over for pictures. Note: hike entire valley!

Interlaken served us well as a base for explorations, as well as providing a store full of kitsch to pick out our own cowbells, cuckoo clocks and souvenir magnets. Swiss knives and yodeling horns abound! Souvenirs in hand, we continued on to Freiburg that day. Soon would be the moment I had been anticipating ever since the Kalamazoo grandmother had arrived in France; we would see Kalamazoo grandpa and would be able to introduce him to his newest grandson!


  1. Those pictures are simply perfection. You have such a beautiful family Liene!

  2. I love daisies, such a beautiful photo.

  3. Interlaken is the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen Miss to be there again. For travellers, visit Bali Indonesia. It's awesome tourist attraction. All is cheap there. Prices are one eight of Europe.


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