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22 February 2008

Skiing Near Death in the Alps

My trip to Switzerland began with an amazing first day. I was high on travel adrenaline, and the momentum of my trip pushed me onto the slopes on my second day.

I awoke on the top bunk in my 8-bed hostel room. Beyond the warm red duvet, the air was chilly and crisp. I had the usual hostel breakfast - slightly stale bread with communal marmalade. I bundled up and went to the Interlaken West train station to buy my ticket to the slopes. There was a 2-day pass for unlimited train, cable car, and ski lift use that cost about CHF100 (about $95). Expensive, but seeing how many cable cars, ski lifts, and trains there were, an unlimited pass seemed to be worth it. I would be skiing everywhere all day!

Soon my excitement about hitting the slopes would come crashing head-on with reality. And I would be involved in some actual physical crashing myself.

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...

Planes and Trains and an Hour in Bern

My trip began with yet another early morning RyanAir flight from Stansted. By now I knew the routine: Wake up at 3:30 AM, make sure my backpack is packed and ready, walk to the bus stop by 4:15 AM, hopefully get to Stratford by 4:45. Get on the National Express coach bus, buy a return ticket for £15, put on my ipod, and maybe start falling back asleep as the bus arrives at the airport. Then, depending on whether I'm running late for my flight, I dash through the terminal toward the RyanAir counters.

This time, there was a long queue of people waiting to start their winter holiday (can I say "snowcation"?). Plenty of people had skis and snowboards to check in, especially on my flight. I quickly passed through security, bought my bottle of water and a snack for myself at the Boot's next to the exit from the security screening, and trekked to my departure gate. Yes, it has become a routine, but an exciting routine, because each time I'm headed to a new destination. And it's hard to remain calm when you're a few hours away from being in the Alps!

Soon I was in the air and headed to Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Planning My Next Getaway

My "reading week" fell in the middle of February. This means that for one week, there are no classes at the university. It's meant to give students a chance to "catch up" with their studying. Of course, I took it as an opportunity for a one-week trip.

My destination?

Switzerland! I had been wanting to travel to this land of cheese, clocks, chocolate, and banks for a while. Since it would be mid-February, I was expecting a snow-covered visit. The Alps were beckoning!