Friday, November 21, 2014

sleepless in the attic

Despite aimlessly wandering down the streets of Interlaken, I somehow came across a sign that spelled out the name of my hotel/hostel. It pointed to Hotel de la Paix, and I magically found it. I am calling it a hotel/hostel, because it was advertised as a bit of both. I opted for the cheapest room since funds were dwindling, and fast. I had booked, last minute of course, a single room in the "backpackers" section with a shared bathroom and shower. It wasn't so bad in Zermatt, so I was hoping for the same kind of luck here in Interlaken. 

Hoping this gnome I passed by in Interlaken would be good luck!
Upon first approach, the building was an older looking but very cute Victorian style house, with a bed and breakfast feel. The check in area was charming enough, the check in lady a little less so. I could see her dwindling patience as I peppered her with questions about Interlaken and things to do in the surrounding area. This was my least researched stop on the trip, as I didn't know I'd even be able to make it here. She showed me to my "room".. a term I use loosely. 

Let's back up a tiny bit. We took a small elevator with Bertha to the third floor where we exited. Check in lady pointed to the left, "there's your shower" she said. 
Oh, then my room must be right over--
"Let's go up one more floor to your room."
We climbed the set of stairs to the fourth floor, since the elevator didn't go all the way up to the annex corner where us filthy "backpackers" are sequestered. 

We entered the backpacker's section through a rickety door marked with a fancy computer print out that said, "backpacker's corner." Quaint. We were in the attic.

There were four doors. The suspense was killing me as I wondered what was behind each one. She unlocked my "room" and the open door revealed what you might expect from a tiny attic room built in 1774. It was pretty cold in Interlaken, but lucky for me I'd be sleeping in a sauna. Check in lady left me to it, happy to escape my questions..for now.

I cracked the window, and sat on the bed, almost immediately rolling off of it due to the intense slant. Well this should be comfy. 

I figured I'd at least look up a place to eat, and start planning my adventures in Interlaken for the next three days. The wifi however had other ideas. Apparently the wifi signal was not strong enough to reach the "backpacker's corner," despite the advertising. So I trudged downstairs to the sitting room and set up shop.

I found an Irish pub that boasted grand reviews and looked like walking distance as far as I could tell. It also seemed reasonably priced, for Switzerland anyways. I was browsing some extreme sports and getting ideas of what I might want to try when my stomach growled audibly. So as to not disturb other lodgers, it seemed best to venture out for some food. I'd figure out extreme sports later.

Since I didn't have a warm coat, I was super excited when I saw that it was raining. I accepted that I would be freezing and wet and thus ventured forth to the pub. On the plus side, at least I had a trusty mini umbrella fit for a child. 

The pub was not as close as it had appeared on google maps, but alas I made it to the 3 Tells Irish Pub, and I was famished. Mama needs some chicken fingers and beer!

I ordered some food and noticed an entire library of extreme sports pamphlets next to my table. Perfect! I started browsing them, to see if any spoke to me, and they were jam packed with adventure. They actually all looked terrifying. 

What I really wanted to do was Zorbing. In fact I had been determined to do it. Zorbing is an odd venture where you enter a giant inflatable ball of sorts and roll down a humongous hill. It's the closest thing you can do to actually becoming a hamster. 

But, I. Couldn't. Find. It. Anywhere. I frantically searched the adventure literature looking for a place that offered giant ball rolling and came up with nothing. It couldn't be!

Just then a guy approached my table. A Swiss hippie guy. He had hair that challenged mine in length, sported a beanie hat, and introduced himself as Matty. He had seen me perusing the pamphlets and wondered what I was interested in doing. Oh, and he worked for one of the companies. But I was only interested in finding out why Zorbing didn't seem to exist anymore. So I asked.

"Because it's boring" was Matty's easy reply. But I didn't buy it. There had to be more to the story! He pointed to the brochures. 

"What are you thinking of getting into?" Matty asked.

"Well since there's no Zorbing...I was thinking maybe paragliding or something, except the small issue that I'm afraid of heights."

"You know what you should do?" Swiss hippie re-directed my attention to a photo. "Canyoning."

"And what, pre tell is canyoning?" (Okay so I didn't use pre tell but I've always wanted to in a conversation, so let's pretend.)

"Well you start by rappelling 150 meters down into the canyon-" my Swiss hippie friend started.

My narrowed eyes gave me away. 

I opened my mouth to object to his reckless idea of me rappelling anywhere, but he kept on, "There's different canyons based on levels of difficulty. You do jumps, slides, and zip lines to get through the canyon. But don't worry, we give you a wetsuit."

Well now I feel better. 

I pictured myself as a penguin, harnessed in, scaling a rock cliff. It didn't help.

Matty continued to explain the logistics of canyoning and how there was a group going on Saturday morning, since tomorrow it was supposed to rain. He said he wasn't scheduled to work, but that if I was looking for a fun, challenging adventure while I was here, I should go for the intermediate level canyon. Right. I said I'd consider it, and thanked Swiss Hippie. Who it turns out, isn't Swiss at all. He hailed from Canada, which explained his perfect English. But he was Swiss hippie to me regardless at this point. 

I had a lot to mull over and plenty of time to think about it since the forecast called for rain the following day. 

Paragliding or Canyoning? That was the question. Either way I'd be shitting my pants.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

advice from Santa

I was feeling the aftermath of my shots with the band from the previous night, but it was time to pack up my box-sized room that had suffered a slight clothes explosion during my 3 day stay in Zermatt. I might have strewn articles of clothing all over the room in a speedy attempt to find a particular sweater the day before. But first, breakfast.

It was my last included breakfast at the Hotel Alfa and I was determined to pack it in again since I had the journey to Interlaken via several trains to endure shortly. For the third morning in a row, I took a seat at a table next to the old lady’s table. She was there every morning, like clockwork, alone like me, and at the same time that I was. I took comfort in sitting nearby.  Just two ladies eating separately and alone, nothing to see here.

View from breakfast
As I watched her sip her coffee I wondered about her backstory. I didn’t know what it was, but I was sad for her because she was alone. Were people also sad for me because I was there alone? Or was it because she was old? I feared that that would be me when I got older. Old and alone. She must’ve known I was thinking about her because she turned and looked at me on her way out..and in return I gave her the biggest salami and cheese filled mouth smile I could muster up.

It was time to check out of my hotel and leave Zermatt. Although the common shower and bathroom situation wasn’t my favorite, I had come to love Hotel Alfa, my giant borrowed sweatshirt, the old lady at breakfast, the cheery Santa like reception guy, and Zermatt in general. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye..but I was excited to see what adventuring I could get myself into in of the extreme sport mecca’s of the world. I had challenged myself to participate in one of these adventures, I just had to pick one.

I approached the reception desk and returned the giant borrowed sweatshirt that had been a blessing to the cheery dude who was a cross between a gnome and Santa himself. He had rosy cherub cheeks, stark white hair, and a jolly grin. As I checked out, he took the liberty to play 20 questions about my life.

“You have a husband?” he asked cheerily.
“No…” was my reply.
“Don’t worry, you are a great sportive lady. You will have no problem. Just don’t choose the first one that comes along.” Was reception Santa’s solid advice.

"I won't." I agreed.
Well, I did have to say, I had never been called “sportive” before. With those parting words sinking in, and a twinkle in his eye, I parted ways from Santa, and Zermatt.
Hotel Alfa
Scenes from Zermatt

Scenes from Zermatt
I boarded the train with trusty Bertha in tow. Trusty in that she was still grossly overweight. The train ride out was just as impressive as the way in.

A few trains and hours later, I arrived in Interlaken. I had no clue (again) where my last minute booked hostel was, nor which direction to walk in to find it. Luckily there was a map of Interlaken Hotels right at the station. Unluckily, mine was not on said map. 

A fellow solo traveler in plaid was looking just as lost. I pointed to the map, and guessing that he spoke English, told him it was a map of area hotels. He thanked me (in English!) and easily found his hostel. Walking away he asked if I'd be okay finding mine. 
"Oh, yeah, no problem I think it's probably just down this way.." as I picked a street to head down. As I wandered hopefully towards my hotel in the brisk late afternoon, paragliders rained down from the sky. 

Hmmm, should paragliding be my extreme sport adventure of choice here in Interlaken? Maybe it was a sign...