Thursday, 16 September 2010


I don't like Interlaken.

Oh that's right, I totally spoke smack about a Swiss town.

So I've technically been to Interlaken dozens and dozens of times because it's the jumping off point to get into the heart of the Berner Oberland region, where Dan and I do a lot of our hiking. And when I say I've been to Interlaken dozens and dozens of times, I really just mean I've been to the train station: jumping from one train and running to catch our next one.

And this is why I hate Interlaken: that train station is a MESS of people.  It is so busy and totally over run with tourists, and then you get on the trains....ah, forget about it. It's like we're sardines. I only start to breathe a little easier as we drop tourists off at different mountain towns, and we keep climbing higher to our hiking destinations.

For reasons I don't entirely understand, whenever we pull into the Interlaken train station we usually have literally only minutes to spare to make our next train, so time is always of the essence. But because Interlaken is firmly, squarely, absolutely, the tourist hub, it is always extremely difficult to fight the crowds at the station to make it to your next platform. As you can imagine, tempers are short.

I will never forget a day when there was a crowd of us trying to get off our train, but there was this little tour group of silly girls who were plugging our exit because one girl's suitcase was so huge (absolutely stuffed) she couldn't budge it through the door. So she and her friends were on the platform, giggling like fools as they braced their kitten heeled feet and tried gently tugging the bag through the door.

Giggles. Giggles. It's too big. Giggles. Giggles.

A Swiss hiker in front of me looked at his watch in irritation and muttered to his wife. There was one more weak little giggled effort by these girls to get the bag through the door, and then the Swiss hiker (clearly counting how many seconds he had to make his train) raised his booted foot and used all his effort to give a mighty KICK to that bag. All three girls stumbled in shock as the bag shot like a cork out the door and we, the crowd, were free to spill from that train like champagne from its bottle.

And what you need to know is that is what it's always like in the Interlaken train station. It's luggage that's too large, it's giggling little fools who won't get out of the way, it's hyper aggression as people shove you out of their way. It is pure madness and I hate going there.

My worst Interlaken experience happened just outside Interlaken, when Dan and I needed to change from one mountain train to the next.

The train we were on was very crowded, and a few people did have to stand. Dan and I did have seats, and when the train pulled into our station we stood to get up. A large-and-in-charge woman spotted us moving and she narrowed in on us like a heat seeking missile; she lumbered her way up the aisle, shouting a foreign language at her family to follow.

Dan cleared his seat, and in 3.3 seconds I would have cleared mine too, except I was doing a last tug at my backpack strap so it would sit on my back properly. As I gave a little tug, this woman and her litter of children and extended family were crowded around me positively salivating over the empty seats.

3.3 seconds, that's all I needed. But that was too long a wait. I could tell you what happened next, but how about I show you instead.

Figure 1: Excitement of a Hiker

Figure two: Death of a Hiker

After I struggled to my feet, I did the only thing I could do:

I said, in a not very ladylike decibel: FUUUUUUUUUUUCK! I hate Interlaken! Next time why don't you wait one GD second, CRAZY!

Mrs. Large-and-in-Charge did not care about me at all, nor did her aggressive family. They had their seat, and that was all that mattered.

So given my general dislike of Interlaken, Dan and I were both surprised when I decided yesterday that I would go there to only see the town, which I had previously never stepped foot in.

The train station was a mess as usual, but once I made it into the open air it wasn't that bad. I wandered for hours poking around, feeding some birds, figuring out my camera, hanging out by the river. At the end of my day, I stopped into the local Co-op restaurant to grab a bite to eat.

Maybe Interlaken isn't so bad. Sure it is a town only for tourists (as proven by my Swiss neighbour who told me last night, with disapproval stirring in her voice: everything in Interlaken is open on Sundays. Tsk. Tsk.) and lacks a lot of that Swiss charm I like, but I guess it's not too bad.

After I finished my lunch I waited for the elevator to take me back downstairs so I could catch my train. As I waited a tour group came up behind me, chattering away. The elevator still hadn't come, so I pushed the button again and looked over my shoulder to give them all a friendly smile.

Then the elevator doors opened and it was pandemonium to get into this little glass box that was ONLY TAKING US TO THE BASEMENT. I got an elbow in the kidney, someone definitely stepped down on my ankle, and I was aggressively pushed out of the way so they could all be first in the elevator--first to get to the basement.



But I took lots of pictures, so I'll show you those later.


T said...

OUCH! I would have had a hard time not kicking Mrs. Large-and-in-Charge's damn shins!

Habebi said...

Yikes!! Talk about no fun on many levels. Why is Interlaken such a tourist trap btw?

Ais said...

Hahahaha! Good thing I'm a visual learner Cait, your sketches really helped me to better understand your situation! Lol, too funny.

I was shoved around many a time on my escapades around Europe, that was definitely one thing I didnt like about it!

Caitie said...

Interlaken is such a tourist hub, because it is the heart of the transportation network to get people into the Berner Oberland--the alps. This region is what Switzerland is famous for: there are quaint villages dotting the mountains, the scenery is breath taking, and there are viewing stations high, high, high, high, up in the alps. Tourists base camp at Interlaken and do day trips into the mountains from there. So the town itself may not be that special, but where it can take you is, so marketing masterminds put their heads together and *poof* Interlaken is a busy little ant hill of frantic tourists.

Dad said...

Great pic's Cait......quite a trip you had. I'll send over some hockey gear, you know, helmet, shoulder pads, shin guards, etc. for your next trip to Interlaken!

Romy said...

Fully agree - I hate Interlaken too. Whenever our visitors tell us they're going there I groan in dismay and say "whyyyy?". It's overpriced, utterly touristy, and as you said, lacking in the charm that pretty much every other town in Switzerland has in droves. I always try and convince them to go to Thun instead!