Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Interlaken, Switzerland
a.k.a Most beautiful place I've ever seen
On top of the mountain right before I went Paragliding
This weekend was the best weekend of my life! (yes yes, I know I’ve said this before, but this is a serious thing! Switzerland was completely amazing!) Three of my friends from Florence and I took a trip through “Bus2Alps” up to Interlaken, Switzerland for some beautiful snow and mountain time. We left Florence at 7:00 pm Thursday night and arrived at our hostel in Interlaken at 3:00 am. We were pretty exhausted from the long day and bus ride and had no trouble falling asleep. We went right to bed so we would be able to get up early and not waste a day in the alps.
A cozy little mountain side village! 
Friday morning, we woke up at 7 and walked to the ski rental shop to book our activities for the weekend. There was already a long line waiting outside the door, so I’m glad we decided to do this early. My friends signed up for cliff jumping (yes it was just as scary as it sounds) and I signed up for paragliding in the afternoon. We also signed up for night sledding on a mountain followed by a fondue dinner. After this, we went back to the hostel for some breakfast and then relaxed until it was time for our activities!  
Waiting in line at 7:00 am at the ski chalet to book our activities
(we were a little tired, and grumpy, and not wearing much make-up)
A shuttle bus came to pick me up at the hostel at 1:30, and I was off to paraglide! Paragliding is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft, a lot like hang gliding. The difference between the two is how you sit. When you paraglide, you're sitting upright in an actual little seat where as hang gliding is done on your stomach. It was a very comfortable ride and seemed easy to maneuver. It was basically like the second part of skydiving because its just a big parachute.
Me and my pilot Tom, gliding away!
I met a new friend who was also on her own for the afternoon, which made the experience much more fun. We picked up a couple guys at the next hostel, and were off to the mountain! Our four “pilots” had just gotten down from their last “flight” and rode back up to the top of the mountain in the van with us. They were all Swiss and were having a big laugh about something the whole way up the mountain. I think I could listen to Swiss/Germans talk all day! I love that language! We got a little bit of a crash course which included: "We drive up the mountain, we run down the hill, we fly, easy!". Oh boy.....
Our pilots getting the parachutes ready to take flight
Once at the top of the hill, we got out of the van and had to walk up yet another hill (as if we weren't high enough already!). The view was SO beautiful! It was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen! Our pilots began to lay out our parachutes as we snapped endless pictures of the beautiful snowy mountains, enormous sparkling lake, and cute town of Interlaken below us.
One of the guys running down the hill for "take-off"!
Then the pilots started hooking us in our seats. The thing we sat on was actually pretty cool. It looked like a big backpack with a seat in the front for me, and a kind of sling behind it for him.  We stood on the side of the hill and my new friends started taking off one by one. Basically, you just start running when he tells you, (the parachute was dragging behind us) and all of a sudden, the wind from the top of the mountain picked us right up off the ground, and we were gliding away! It was such an incredible feeling!
All the suspension ropes! Pretty cool picture! 
We floated over a little village right in the mountainside, and then down over the lake. We floated way down, and then back up (I’m still not sure how that was even possible!) He swooped so close to a Cliffside that I could touch the trees with my feet! Then we started soaring down towards Interlaken as I got my own private tour of the city, from the sky! We did a couple loops and spirals, and then it was time to land. What an amazing experience that was. SO INCREDIEBLE!
Interlaken and the lake that borders it

Up in the air, doing a few loops before landing. 
In the evening, we rented our gear for night sledding and hopped on the bus to the sledding mountain. It was very cool to see all the different Christmas decorations throughout the town that come alive at night. They really go ALL OUT with Christmas lights, which reminded me of home.  We got to the sled chalet and unloaded the little sleds from an attic area. I have never been so excited to see a sled before! I felt like I was about 10 years old again! We then got on a little gondola that took us straight up the mountain to the very top.
My friends and I all geared up for night sledding! 
Once everyone was at the top, (there were about 30 of us) we got blinker lights to hang on our backs, got a 2 minutes briefing on how to steer, stop, and emergency stop (more important than you think!), and headed down the mountain. It was such a cool experience, speeding on a moonlit pathway down a mountain in my snow pants, laughing until my stomach hurt with my friends. Probably not something I will ever do again! We stopped on the way down a couple of times for the leader to tell us about something or point something out. At one point, we walked into the woods a little ways to see a huge frozen waterfall and unfrozen river flowing underneath us.
Night sledding!
My friend Katie and I 
Once we were down the mountain, we put our sleds away and drove to a little restaurant for a traditional Swiss meal. The restaurant owners were the cutest Swiss couple I have ever seen! We had an amazing warm meal of hash browns, beef in a creamy mushroom sauce, and salad (very different from all the pasta we’re used to). After this, they brought out big pots of fondue for every table. So tasty and filling after being out in the cold all day! 
yummy fondue!
After a long day of many fun and exciting activities, we all took showers, and grabbed some huge mugs of hot chocolate for a little treat before bed.  We were out pretty quick after a very satisfying day in the Swiss alps.  J

Our hostel in Interlaken. So cute! 


  1. I WANT TO GO TO SWITZERLAND!!! RIGHT NOW!!! Wowser. Beautiful shots, Dana!
    Mom & Carly

  2. I agree, i think this was the BEST trip yet! Ohhhhh, that paragliding looked so FUN! I want to do that! Esp since it sounds like there is no skill (of mine) involved:) Do they do that year round, or only when it is snowing? Maybe you WILL be back as an au pair someday?!!!!! Hmmm:)
    that sledding/laughing sounds hilarious...thanks for sharing!