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Travel adventures of the Cooks Exploring the UK and Europe, no plans, just each other and our backpacks.

Soaring through Switzerland

SWITZERLAND | Saturday, 22 December 2007 | Views [4874] | Comments [1]

Another train journey, another blog entry. Today’s train takes us from The beautiful Interlaken, Switzerland, to Amsterdam via Frankfurt. At this point we have just boarded after 2 hours in the freezing cold at Frankfurt station, so my fingers will hopefully defrost as I type.

Switzerland has definitely stolen the crown for the most beautiful place in the world from Prague. But maybe that is because of the way we saw it! After a disappointing stay in Vienna we moved onto Bern, expecting it to be a little busier and a little more exciting. We have since discovered that this is the quietest time of year in Austria and Switzerland! Who would have thought countries with such breathtaking scenery and snow covered mountains with the best ski resorts in the world would be busier in summer?

We spent one night in Bern, and a day exploring the Swiss capital. It was a lovely city, but not too many sights to be seen so we were able to cover it within a few hours and then have some time to relax and regroup, and more importantly do some washing. Bern is built on the side of a small mountain (in comparison to the other mountains we have seen, so the trip to the hostel was via cable car, and the view from the top of the cable car was lovely, unfortunately it doesn’t look so amazing in the pictures due to the fog cover, which we are now seeing everywhere we go! We have been told the temperatures are too low for snow through Switzerland and Germany at the moment, but there is very thick fog and ice on all the trees and ground so everything is white, jut isn’t actually snow.

The sights in Bern were limited mainly to a statue which we were unable to find (I think it was buried under construction works, the town clock which was slightly more exciting than the Astronomical clock in Prague, but not nearly as exciting as the cuckoo clock I bought while we were in Bern, and the bear pits, which unfortunately no longer have bears (I suppose that is fortunate for the bears!)

The hostel we stayed in was huge, but there were only about 15 people there, so we hardly saw anyone the whole time, From there it was on to Interlaken, we were meant to catch a train which would take less than an hour, but unfortunately the train station was closed just as our train was due to arrive, so we had to walk through the city (we had already walked a long way from the hostel to catch a bus (Talk about sardines!!)to another station where we stood in the cold for about 45 mins waiting to find out when another train would arrive, it was then two more trains to Interlaken. The hostel was a HUGE walk from the train station (the directions given by the hostel were a huge under exaggeration) But we arrived eventually.

Interlaken was stunning, it was down in the valley a little and all you could see in every direction was snow topped mountains, the view form our hostel was amazing. But nothing on what we were going to see the next day.

Again our hostel was deserted! There were only three people the first night and no more than 10 the other two nights! We had been expecting a huge party scene as that is what this hostel was known for, but again, it’s the quietest time of year! So it was just us and the very friendly bar staff, and one young aussie guy from albany the first night, who’s mum very coincidentally was from a village near Scunthorpe only a few mins from Seans dads home village! The first night the guys at the bar told us about paragliding, which Sean had read about and wanted to do, but the brochures said he was over the size limit. The bar guys assured us that they would find someone who would take him, and rang some of their mates who agreed to come and have a look and see what they thought. They came the next morning and told us the conditions were not looking good for going, but because we were really keen they would take us with them as they were planning on doing solo flights anyway, and then see what happened. They kept telling us it was only a very small chance that we would be able to go as the conditions needed to be perfect to do tandem, and the only site they could try was the highest site they ever use. I was petrified, but had got myself into it and there was no backing out. We went with them up to a Village in the mountains called Murren, definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever experienced, and they left us there so they could go up higher and attempt a test flight to see if it was going to be ok. Walking around Murren we decided even if we didn’t get to fly it wouldn’t matter as it was just so beautiful that we had not wasted a second!

An hour and a half later we saw three paragliders fly past, the three guys we had come with. They had had to wait a long time to get the right conditions, and only had a minute or two to go before the wind changed again. They rang us from the bottom and said it didn’t look good but they were willing to come back up and wait it out and see if there was another opportunity for us to go. So up we went on the chair lift to a slope on the edge of the mountain. The one thing they told us was that if we wanted to fly we were going to have to run, and we had to be confidant that we could run, because if we didn’t we would go rolling down the slope! Anyone that knows me knows I cant run to save myself, but we had come this far so I had to commit myself to it. After about 5 mins the wind changed just for a short time and we were ready to go, so with my little pilot Robbie attached to my back we watched Sean and his pilot Richard take off and then it was our turn.

It was quite a sight watching Sean and Richard take off, as Sean was quite a lot taller than him it meant his feet were off the ground well before Sean’s and poor Sean was left to do all the running while Richard just sat back and waited to take off. It had everyone else on the mountain in stiches laughing! But before I knew it Robbie was counting down for me to run, and somehow my legs managed to follow his directions and off we went running down the slope, he had told me not to stop running, until after I was sure my feet were off the ground, he eventually had to tell me to stop because we were well and truly off the ground but I think I was too scared to stop! But once we were off it was the most amazing feeling, the harness turns into quite a comfortable seat and you just sit back and soar through the sky! We were in the air for about 15 mins but it felt like and hour! Time just seemed to slow right down and the view was incredible! Words cant describe how it feels to fly between two of the most beautiful mountains, over villages with the sun out and snow all around! At one point Robbie told me we were going to fly over Murren and I had to look down between my legs, we went over the edge of a cliff 700m high, wow what a feeling! The flight itself was 2600m from top to bottom, the usual flights they do for tourists is 500m and over Interlaken landing in the main park. How lucky for us to be able to fly so far and land in a snow filled field (or in Sean’s case the car park after flying between two trees). We both got to control the glider for part of the flight which was just an amazing feeling, and the pilots took a pile of photos while we were in the air (stay tuned I will add these as soon as I get access to a scanner).

Paragliding was one of those experiences that I will remember for my whole life. I can see why people become addicted to it, it’s the most amazing feeling!

The next day was set aside for Skiing, so we went off to the Ski Hire shop in the afternoon so we were all prepared for the next day. Unfortunately the guy at the hire place was not at all interested, and subsequently hired us all the wrong equipment, in particular extremely ill fitting boots, so much so that I wasn’t even able to walk form the train station to the baby slope without going into another hire shop to get them checked. The extremely helpful people in he other store took one look at my face and then my boots and sat me down instantly, horrified that I had been given the boots I was and gave me another pair, we headed off to the baby slope, and put on our skis with much difficulty. I didn’t manage to move forwards at all, sliding backwards every time I moved a muscle in my body, and Sean went flying down the slope accidentally twice before his boots also caused his feet to cramp up so badly that we decided to call skiing quits and went straight back to Interlaken. The guy from the shop was very uninterested in the fact that he had completely ruined our day, but eventually agreed to give us half our money back after he realised Sean was not going to leave until he did. Not the best way to spend our last day in Switzerland, and probably the last time either of us attempt skiing. It’s a shame people like that are allowed to work in tourist stores as it has such an impact on people’s experiences.

But thankfully our experience in the skies above Switzerland clearly outweighed the skiing saga, and Switzerland will be sealed with positive memories!

Today we are off to Amsterdam for one night, then onto Rotterdam tomorrow to catch the ferry to Hull to meet Sean’s parents and to have Christmas with all his relatives before we head back to Europe to continue our rail adventure.

Tags: Snow




Hello from Florida!

I am thinking about traveling to interlaken in december and I loved reading abotu your experience paragliding. I was wondering if you remember the two guys that agreed to take you guys? I would love to go that high up and have the views that you two enjoyed. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions on things to do in interlaken!

Looking forward to your responce,

  Michelle Jun 11, 2008 6:05 AM



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