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22 February 2008

Interlaken: Skydiving, Skiing, Snowboarding, and Bouldering into Town

It was still the first day of my trip to Switzerland, and I had already seen so much, flying at 6am from London to Friedrichshafen then taking a ferry across Lake Constance and riding a train across most of Switzerland for several hours to Bern, which I quickly visited for one hour, and finally catching my final train into Interlaken. I arrived just as the sun was setting, and as I stepped off the train, I saw the final rays of the day splashing onto the snow-covered mountains. As if that weren't enough, there were two skydivers parachuting gently down into Interlaken.

I can't think of any better way to encapsulate Interlaken than that moment.

It was a perfect moment and a perfect welcome to town. I could already tell that this was going to be a fun trip...

Yet it was still only 5pm, and I was still energized to make the most of my time there.

I walked from the train station to my hostel - Hotel Falken. Since it's just over the small river that runs through town, it's technically in Unterseen, not Interlaken. I found the hostel and walked in - and it was a dark, smoky bar/restaurant. I was taken aback for a moment, then asked the woman who looked like she was in charge. Indeed, I was at the right place. I checked in and wasn't given a key or anything - the doors are unlocked all the time. I claimed a bed and met my roommates - a guy and two girls who were studying abroad in Barcelona (the girls were from Ohio, if I remember correctly, and the guy went to UC Santa Cruz). They had brought their snowboards with them and were totally stoked to snowboard the alps. They were chilling and smoking on our room's small balcony. I was getting hungry, so I walked out. As I was browsing the pamphlets and brochures near the staircase, I met three more Americans. They were pointing out all the best ski runs on the large map of the slopes on the wall. Before I knew it, I was joining these American guys on their quest for the night: BBQ ribs. Awesome!

The three guys - Aleks, Matt, and Rivet, were students at a university in southern Switzerland (the Italian part), and were in Interlaken for a ski weekend. I should say, a fucking intense ski trip. They showed me videos of themselves flip-turn ski-jumping over boulders and over a car that was stuck in the snow, and they talked about skiing the back side of the mountain tomorrow (the side with the glaciers).

I was impressed and easily inspired myself. So at that moment I decided to do it. I was going to ski the Alps.

I felt awesome.

Aleks, Matt, and Rivet led me to a hearty American-style heaping of ribs and barbecue. They were actually Couchsurfing at the hostel, staying in the attic/bouldering room. It's a giant room completely padded with mattresses, and the slanted ceiling is covered with rock climbing handles for one to "boulder" - it's amazing! There's also a lounge area and a private patio attached. Basically the perfect place to throw a party/kickback. And all for free?! What an amazing deal. I have got to really try out Couchsurfing. Soon their friends Nick and Kara arrived from Lugano and I ended up hanging out with them at the hostel for the rest of the night.

I rested up, felt tired from a long travel day, but eager to put on some skis and ride the Alps in the morning!

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