Interlaken (pop. 21,000) lies between the Thunersee and the Brienzersee at the foot of the largest mountains in Switzerland. With easy access to these natural playgrounds, Interlaken has earned its rightful place as one of Switzerland’s prime tourist attractions and its top outdoor adventure spot.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. The Westbahnhof (826 47 50) and Ostbahnhof ( 828 73 19) have trains to: Basel (5:30am-10:30pm, 56SFr); Bern (6:35am-10:30pm, 24SFr); Geneva (5:30am-9:30pm, 63SFr); Lucerne (5:30am-8:35pm, 26SFr); LuganoLocarno (5:30am-4:35pm, 87SFr); and Zurich (5:30am-10:30pm, 62SFr). The Ostbahnhof also sends trains to Grindelwald (June-Sept. every 30min. Sept.-May every hr. 6:35am-10:35pm; 9.80SFr).
The tourist office, Hoheweg 37, in Hotel Metropole, has free maps, ( 826 53 00. Open July-Aug. M-F 8am-6pm, Sa 8am-5pm, Su lOam-noon and 5-7pm; Sept.-June M-F 8am-noon and l:30-6pm, Sa 9am-noon.) Both train stations rent bikes. (30SFr per day. Open daily 6am-7pm.) For snow and weather info, call 828 79 31. In case of emergency, call the polices 117 or the hospital 826 26 26. Postal Code: CH-3800.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof , Alpen-str. 16, diagonally across the Hohenmatte from the tourist office, is friendly and low-key. ( 826 71 71. Mountain bikes 28SFr per day. Breakfast and lockers
included. Laundry lOSFr. Internet lOSFr per hr. Reception 7:30-llam and 4-10pm. Dorms 29-32SFr; doubles 82-88SFr; triples lll-120SFr. 5SFr extra for balcony. AmExMCV.) Balmer’s Herberge , Haupt-str. 23. Switzerland’s oldest private hostel (since 1945) is thoroughly American: It is a place to party, not relax. Services include mountain bike rental (35SFr per day), nightly movies, TV, free sleds, and a bar. (822 19 61. Breakfast included. Internet (20SFr per hr.). Reception summer 6:30am-noon and 4-10pm, winter 6:30-10am and 4:30-10pm. Dorms 20-24SFr; doubles 68SFr; triples 90SFr; quads 120SFr.) Swiss Adventure Hostel , in the tiny town of Boltigen, has made this quiet valley a sporty alternative to the party scene in Interlaken. A free shuttle runs to and from Interlaken each day (40min.). Its adventure company offers the same activities as the Interlaken companies, but with a more personal touch. (& 773 73 73. Dorms 20SFr; double with shower 70SFr; quad with shower lOOSFr. Special deals if combined with adventure sports.) Happy Inn , Rosenstr. 17, lives up to its name with a friendly staff. From Westbahnhof turn left towards the tourist office, then right on Rosenstr. at Centralpl. (“m 822 32 25. Reception 7am-6pm. Call early for rooms. Dorms 22SFr; singles 38SFr; doubles 76SFr.) Most hostels serve cheap food, and there are Migros supermarkets by both train stations. (Open M-Th 8am-7pm, F 8am-9pm, Sa 7:30am-5pm.)
R3K1 OUTDOORS AND HIKING. Interlaken offers a wide range of adrenaline-pumping activities. Alpin Raft ( 823 41 00), the most established company in Interlaken, has qualified, personable guides and offers: Paragliding (150SFr); canyoning (110-195SFr); river rafting (95-109SFr); skydiving (380SFr); bungee jumping (125-165SFr); and hang gliding (180SFr). All prices include transportation to and from any hostel in Interlaken. A number of horse and hiking tours, as well as rock-lessons, are also available upon request. Outdoor Interlaken (826 77 19) offers rock-climbing lessons (89SFr per half-day) and white-water kayaking tours (155SFr per half-day). The owner of Skydiving Xdream, Stefan Heuser, has been on the Swiss skydiving team for 17 years. (Skydiving 380SFr. 079 75 93 48 34. Open Apr.-Oct.)
Interlaken’s most traversed trail climbs to the Harder Kulm (1310m). From the Ostbahnhof, head toward town, take the first road bridge right across the river, and follow the yellow signs that later give way to white-red-white markings on the rocks. From the top, signs lead back down to the Westbahnhof. A funicular runs from the trailhead near the Ostbahnhof to the top from May-Oct.
THE LOCAL STORY
BUTTER AND LONG LIFE
Dani Schlaepfer has been playing the alphorn for the last ten years as a part of the Spitzli Trio. He stopped during a concert in Schwaegalp, below Mt. Saentis, to talk with Let’s Go.
LG: Tell me about your instrument. A: Well, my alphorn is 2.5m long; it’s a G flat. They come in all different keys F, A sharp, A fiat-depending on horn length.
LG: What is your favorite event to play?
A: Definitely weddings. We do a lot of weddings.
LG: Tell me about your clothing.
A: I am wearing the traditional Appenzeller dress. All of the embroidery is done by hand, along with the tanning of the leather for the belts and suspenders. The gold cows on the belt are also hammered out by hand.
LG: And what’s with the earring?
A: All Appenzeller men wear this earring. I got mine when I was five. On the top, there’s a horseshoe, which means good and long life. The thing that dangles down on the bottom is a Rahmkette; it’s what the farmer uses to skim the cream off the top of the milk, which then is made into butter.
LG: Why are they together?
A: It’s a symbol-it means that through butter, milk, the cows, and the ways of farming, you will enjoy a long and healthy life.
LG: Do you always wear this symbolic earring?
A: No; normally it is just a cow.
Interlaken’s adventure sports industry is thrilling, but accidents do happen. On July 27, 1999, 19 tourists were killed by a sudden flash flood while canyoning. Be aware that you participate in all adventure sports at your own risk.
(2Mihr. up, lMshr. down. May to mid-Oct. 14SFr, round-trip 21SFr; 25% Eurail-pass and SwissPass discount.) For flatter trails, turn left from the train station and left before the bridge, then follow the canal over to the nature reserve on the shore of the Thunersee. The trail winds up the Lombach river and through pastures at the base of the Harder Kulm back toward town (3hr.).
INTERLAKEN Photo Gallery
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