I’d probably have opted for France over Switzerland, purely because of its cost of living, were it not for my friend Charissa who’s been working in a hotel in the mountains this summer and, on a whim, invited me to drop by. Naturally I took her up on that offer (hence me telling this ‘background’ story) and I spent a very non-backpacker two days with her.
Expecting her to be staying in inner-Interlaken, I was surprised to be spending twenty minutes on a bus winding up the mountain. The village Beatenberg, apparently the longest in Europe, is situated at an elevation of 1200m and has a view like you can’t believe. High above the cool blue waters of Lake Thun, you can see the snow-topped peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau; a perfect panorama, truly breathtaking.
Charissa’s been staying in a family friends’ basement annex; I have a comfy sofa bed for two nights. On the evening I arrive, we climb up to a public BBQ point and cook meat, eat crisps and drink beer with her work colleagues from the hotel. I wear a jumper for the first time since Sweden! The next morning, I climbed another couple of hundred meters into the mountains with my friend’s host mum; a geocache and a guest book at the top, plus a spectacular view. Later on, I wander off on my own and pick up snacks from the local village store. That night, Charissa’s last with the family, we were treated to a delicious BBQ – it was great to spend time with genuine locals and have an insight into their way of life, though I’m completely baffled by Swiss German.
Before I left the next day, myself and the host mum went to the lake to SUP (stand-up paddleboard), just as I had on Lake Garda with Livi. The water was so calm, clear, clean, a blue you couldn’t paint, and an impossibly breathtaking backdrop. The perfect way to start a morning in the Alps, if you ask me.
Saying my goodbyes, I get the bus and train into Bern, having secured a bed at the Youth Hostel there. I’ve been to Bern before, I realise, one day three years ago. Vague memories of the bear pit and old-y shopping arcades. Thanks to super-efficient Swiss tourist information, a comprehensive map and guide book help me get my bearings.
Bern is beautiful, with miles of cute, covered shopping arcades, several attractive squares, and the fast-flowing River Aare, which wraps around the city. It’s compact, but I filled two days here, trying to save as much money as possible in the final stages of my trip. Mostly, this was accomplished by spending long afternoons sitting in small parks along the south side of the main peninsula, reading a wicked book. The city is super expensive, my bed in a 20-bed dorm cost €33 a night (!), but buying food (and alcohol) in supermarkets saved me a lot.
On the last night, I met up with Ola, a Polish au pair living in Bern over the summer. I met her on Couchsurfing and she showed me a few things I hadn’t seen yet. We stumbled across some kind of street party and had a great evening dancing to an apparently famous Swiss rap band with classy cans of beer.
I left Bern on my final journey of the trip in a way that had already got me so far around Europe; carpool. A young French guy and girl drove us north towards Karlsruhe, very kindly dropping me off at Baden-Baden airport on the way. Given that my flight was the next morning, and there was no other public transport to the airport that evening or before my flight tomorrow, this carpool lift was a bit of a lifesaver.
Guiltily checking into a hotel B&B, I opened the door to my room, double bed, en-suite, TV, and just laughed. Probably because the chaotic month had driven me slightly mad, and also that realisation that I don’t remember the last time I slept in a room on my own. Genuine silence for the first time in over four weeks. Mum said ‘I bet you loved that’, but truthfully, I found that alone-ness slightly creepy. One month around Europe on my own (ish), and it’s not until that final night in a motel that I actually felt alone.