A few months ago before getting this internship, I never would have believed that I would be going on a road trip to Switzerland with four guys I’d never met before.
But yeah, that happened.
It’s not as sketchy as it sounds, I promise. Earlier that week, a guy posted in the DAAD RISE Facebook group asking if anyone near Heidelberg had a place where a few guys could crash on the way to Switzerland for the long weekend. I offered my place since I had an extra bed and floor space for an air mattress, and in return, they offered to drive me to Switzerland with them!
Technically, only Thursday was a holiday, but lots of people take Friday off as well. I didn’t have my work permit yet anyways, so I wasn’t doing too much in the lab. After getting the OK from my supervisor to take an extra long weekend, I agreed to go along with them! (I only found out later that they weren’t really expecting me to take them up on the offer, especially being the only girl tagging along with all guys that I’d never met…)
They arrived late Wednesday night, and left early(ish) Thursday morning. Our first stop was Strasbourg, France, where I met up with a friend from high school! She had done a year of classes at the university there, and I was planning on going to see her that weekend anyways until I was offered a ride to Switzerland! It worked out really well that I could see her.
I realized afterwards that I didn’t get a single picture of us together!! I guess I was too busy taking pictures of the adorable city.
We caught up and wandered around while the guys had breakfast, and then we met up with them later to walk up the cathedral stairs. My friend had already been up many times and had to leave, but it was great to see her!
We didn’t go inside because we figured we should probably choose between going up and going inside, but we did climb the stairs it was a pretty sweet view from the top!
We then drove to Colmar, about an hour south and still in France. It was similar to Strasbourg but a bit smaller. We didn’t have anything specific we wanted to see, so we just wandered around, took lots of pictures, and bought some small souvenirs.
We then headed off to Bern in Switzerland. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains, and we arrived in the evening only to realize that most things were closed because it was a holiday in Switzerland too. We wandered around the city looking for any food we could afford, without much luck! I saw pretty quickly what everyone means when they say that Switzerland is ridiculously expensive.
Nevertheless, the city was really beautiful and we were walking around as the sun was setting.
From the hill in Bern, we caught our first distant view of the alps!
We eventually found a doner place where I bought a falafel for three times the price I would pay in Germany, and then we drove off to find our Airbnb just outside of Bern.
This Airbnb was in the hills and had an even better view of the Alps in the distance than Bern did. I woke up early to watch the sunrise from the hill and it was pretty surreal. Pictures don’t do it justice.
I crawled back into bed and slept a couple more hours before breakfast at the Airbnb. The family made fresh bread that we had with homemade jam, fresh cheese from their neighbours, sausage from their own farm (which I skipped), and homemade muesli with milk from their own cows. It was pretty hard to beat that with the grocery store meals we had for the rest of the trip!
We picked up some food to pack while hiking and then drove to Interlaken, where we went to our hostel to ask for hiking suggestions. They suggested hiking or taking the gondola to Oeschinin See (lake), and then hiking from there. We decided to hike and then see how we felt once we got to the lake!
It didn’t take long to get some pretty spectacular views! I think this one was less than an hour into the hike.
We made it to the lake in a couple of hours, then had a (somewhat) Swiss grocery store lunch – Gruyere cheese and bread, Swiss beer, and an avocado that I peeled and ate like a piece of fruit because we didn’t have any knives (although an avocado really is a fruit so what’s wrong with that?)
It was a little busy by the lake because you could get to it by the gondola, but it was still really nice! From there, we took a short walk to a big slide that you could ride these little carts down – they call it a toboggan slide except there’s no snow…
We might have been the oldest non-parents riding it, but it was fun nonetheless!
On the way back, we found a pretty prime photo rock.
Once we were back at the lake, we decided that we could handle a little more hiking, and hiked up to some little huts that we could see up on the mountain.
We were really booting it up the hill because it was already close to dinnertime, but the view was sure worth it!
^^I convinced the guys to humour me and take a ‘look I traveled to Switzerland with three guys I’d never met before’ picture.
We walked back down and headed to our hostel, a “tent village” in Interlaken. We checked in, dumped our stuff, picked up another couple guys, and then headed off to one of the lakes next to Interlaken (which means “between lakes” – there are two lakes on either side), to watch the sunset. One of the guys was another DAAD RISE intern that had planned to meet up with us in Interlaken (the fourth random guy in the title), and the other was the sixth guy in our six-bed tent that was also Canadian and traveling around on his own.
(Yes, it was also a 5-person car. Sssh.)
That night, we walked into town and went our hostel’s club (yes, our hostel had a club). It was pretty quiet and mostly just awkward backpackers, so it was definitely pretty different than clubbing in Berlin or Montreal!
The next morning, I was up before everyone else so I wandered around and took some more pictures.
We grabbed some more groceries for breakfast and lunch and went for a hike in Grindelwald, another area really famous for hiking and skiing in the area.
It started with a really, really hot walk through some farms on the hills – there was no shade and it was already over 30 degrees. I’m pretty sure I sweat off all my sunscreen in that first hour because I was veeeery red the next day.
We stopped for a group photo once we got to the gondola, since we thought we might end up splitting up before the next viewpoint.
^^Just me and the guys!
Once we got up to the first viewpoint past the gondola we were as high as the the paragliders!
We made it up to some really cute alpine huts, but from there we decided to take the shorter route that’s probably better a little later in the year… it was still pretty snowy!
Once it got too snowy to easily keep going without good hiking gear, we stopped for a late lunch in the alpine meadows.
We originally planned on driving to another city so we tried to make it back early-ish, but then our hostel never confirmed our booking so we decided to just stay another night in Interlaken and get up early to drive to Munich in the morning. (We needed to be in Munich to return the car, where a couple of the guys were taking a language course.)
We went off to another spot by a lake and caught the sunset this time!
I actually went for a swim for the lake, and anyone who knows me knows that that’s pretty unbelievable. You’re talking to someone that really hates water and not having her feet on solid ground.
I have photographic evidence, though. (I promise I am wearing something in both photos even though it doesn’t look like it.)
We walked around the town a little after that and tried to find something we could afford to eat… we didn’t have much luck but by the time we found a grocery store that was open, we were hungry enough to be happy with grocery store sandwiches again.
So, we woke up at 4:30 the next morning to drive to Munich to return the car! I thought I’d include that in this post, but I think it’s long enough already so many I’ll save that for the next one.
(If you’re wondering, the fourth country was Austria! We drove through it on the way to Munich.)