We have now reached the half-way point in our trip, and we've gained another person -- Katie arrived in Zurich on July 3. We didn't see much in Zurich except the hundreds of painted cows everywhere in the city. There were cows every few meters in the streets, cows in the train stations, cows in the stores, and cows hanging from the ceiling in the airport! Strange sight. Anyway, after meeting Katie, we headed for the outdoor activity capital of our trip -- Interlaken.
Switzerland is just a breathtaking country. The snowcapped Alps, the glaciers, all the greenery in the summer, and the turquoise colored lakes and streams make it look like something from a fairy-tale. Interlaken sits smack in the middle of Switzerland between two lakes (hence the name) and at the base of impressive mountains like Eiger and Jung Frau. It's no surprise that the tourism industry booms in this town.
Balmer's, the youth hostel in town, always teems with hundreds of frat-boys and sorority girls looking for a good party and some adventure. As a matter of fact, the whole town looks like a US East-Coast town. Everyone speaks English here. We decided not to fight the crowd at Balmer's and got a hotel instead. We did end up going to Balmer's though. They threw a huge Fourth of July party. They also sponsored all the adventure tours such as ice climbing, canyoning, skydiving, paragliding, and bungee jumping.
This picture is too bright. Had I taken a proper camera along, this picture would show the glacier of Jung Frau between the two roofs and next to the tree. Actually, if you look very carefully, you can see the outline of the glacier.
Hi Katie! Here we are sitting in on the great Fourth of July party. Just about everyone here is an American college student. Debbie! Don't pass out yet. The party's just beginning... From the left and going clockwise, we have Byron, Scott & Robert (in mid-beard stage), Katie, and Debbie.
The party's really kicking into high gear now. The fire twirlers started to do their thing next to the tikki torches. The crowd looks disinterested now, but a few moments after this photo, he lost one of those torches and it flew into the crowd! Had it been in the US, there'd be a lawsuit for sure!
The next day, we went to go ice climbing, one of the packaged adventure tours offered by Balmer's. So we donned our cute pink helmets and ice hammers, and started to climb a glacier near town. There was an ice cave near our climbing site, and here I am in the ice cave with a cave bear. Check out the cool colors of the ice! Um, that's not a beard (not for a lack of trying). It's the strap from my fashion helmet.
Here's me and someone else I can't quite make out in the picture making it to the top of the route on the iceberg. We had our safety ropes so there's really no danger. Although Robert chose apparently the most dangerous sport (canyoning) for amusement the next day. I guess exactly one year after we were there, a bunch of people died in a freak storm while canyoning in Interlaken.
Another really cool picture ruined by my camera. This was supposed to be a picture of the "alpenglow" effect, which is a scene at dusk when the mountains get dark, but the glaciers still glow bright in the setting sun. The ice-capped Jungfrau sits squarely between the two mountains in the background, and at the moment looks glorious with the setting sun. But my stupid camera didn't do it justice. Oh well, that's just another thing I'll have to go back and do. In the picture, we have Scott, Robert, Katie, and me.
The next day we hopped on a ferryboat on Thunersee, the lake to the west of Interlaken. It's really nice having a Eurail pass that gets us onto all these little regional transportation systems. Anyway, here we are sunning ourselves on the deck of the ferry.
Here's a cool picture of a windsurfer on Thunersee, the Alps in the background.
The first stop on the north shore of the lake is Beatushollen, which means Beatus' Caves, named after a magnificent cave nearby. This waterfall originates in the mountains and flows through the cave. It's a pity we weren't allowed to take photos inside the cave. There are so many cool rock formations in there including stalagmites and stalagtites of various shades of red, orange, yellow, and cream. There were long stretches of cave-bacon (flowstones), and of course waterfalls inside where the stream runs. I'll never forget our tour guide either. She gave the entire tour in 4 different languages, and the only reason she didn't use a 5th was because there wasn't anyone in our group who spoke it. Amazing!