Coming from a relatively small town or at least a rural area, I felt like I might identify a bit more with Interlaken, and in some ways that was true.
There were cow pastures, gardens, and farms. There were bikers riding around the neighborhood. There was abnormally warm weather. All of these aspects I would say I was quite accustomed to. However, there was much more different than similar about the Swiss Alps.
To start, their food was different from anything I had ever tasted. I’m not necessarily a major cheese fan, but I’m not against it at all either. Let me tell you though–the Swiss are huge cheese fans. We went to eat at a traditional cheese fondue restaurant the first night of our stay in Interlaken. Apparently, we got a milder version than in years past, but it sure was strong. I think it’s an acquired taste, but I still enjoyed it–especially with potatoes (but even more so with the Swiss chocolate fondue).
The environment itself was different as well. In South Georgia, cows aren’t an oddity, but they don’t go out to pasture in the middle of neighborhoods. Tell me I’m crazy, but several in the group noted that something about the cow pastures around town didn’t have a “knock your socks off” disgusting smell to them like usual, but rather they sat at a solid 4 out of 10 on the rankings.
Another strange sight to me was the shops around town. Across the city park, the entire strip was packed with high end watches, luggage, and jewelry. When I say “high end,” I mean high. These watches were maxing out around 9,000 Swiss franks (which is practically equivalent to a U.S. dollar). In this quaint mountain village, extreme luxury goods are rolling into the pockets of high spending tourists.
One thing I found unique to Interlaken was the park itself. I’ve spent a decent amount of time with a weed eater and in landscaping, so I noticed that the grass in the park is quite unkempt. I didn’t realize this until I experienced it for myself, but the tall grass is there almost as a cushion for all of the paragliders and hang gliders.
I could go on for pages and pages listing the cultural differences between life at home and life in Interlaken. Despite it being so different from what I am typically used to, I would return in a heartbeat. As I write this while riding the train to Milan, I keep thinking about how hard it would be to leave that place if I didn’t know the next might be even better. Interlaken, you’ve been amazing. You’ve stunned me with your beauty, fascinated me with your culture, and challenged me with…well, your insanity. Much thanks.