Hello! I am officially 2/3 done with this quarter and to celebrate the long weekend we had, I headed to Switzerland. And went skydiving. And saw the most spectacular mountain sunset. And never wanted to leave.
I think… Switzerland might be my favorite place I’ve traveled. I know, I didn’t spend that much time there, and not all of Switzerland is like being in the Alps, but hear me out. The people I met were all super nice. People there did not look down on me for speaking English and happily switched to English or hooked me up with someone who I could communicate with. It’s beautiful. They have killer chocolate. All important things. It also just felt really peaceful, even in the city. I don’t know, but I love it. And now I’m going to shut up with the intro-ing because I’ve got a long post with a lot of pictures for you today. Let’s get to it.
On Thursday morning, I flew from Paris to Zurich, met my Airbnb host, put my stuff in my room for the night, and headed out to explore.
What I learned is that Zurich is a very cool city. It’s the kind of place I’d want to live. It has a cool 12th-century cathedral where the Reformation in Switzerland began. It also has a mountain that you don’t climb if you’re only there for a day because that’s all you do. And a lake, but it was gray and misty when I was there. Really, though, it’s not super touristy.
So, I walked around and took pictures for about six hours before crashing and eating snacks and doing some homework.
I had a 10am train to Interlaken the next day, so I had a lazy morning and then packed up and left.
I would just like to say that trains need to be more like planes. You never doubt whether you’re getting on the correct plane. No matter what country you’re in or what language you speak, someone checks your ticket and confirms your identity and makes sure you’re in the right place. Now, I don’t love getting there a few hours early because of security, so I’m not suggesting that. I am simply saying that there should be personnel to tell you where the train is going so you can be sure you’re going to get to your destination.
On Friday morning, I spent the first hour of my train ride not totally sure (but pretty sure) that I was on the right train. An hour in, there was an announcement that people going to Interlaken should transfer at a later stop, but why could that not have been clear the whole time? (I had a similar moment on my train out of Interlaken on Sunday, but I had a little more faith.)
Anyway, I got to Interlaken around 1pm, left my luggage at my hostel until check-in, and wandered around the little shopping district, which was full of designer stores because Interlaken is basically a ski destination for (often wealthy) tourists.
After I checked into the hostel, I tried to plan out how to get up into the mountains for a bit in the evening and after landing on where I wanted to go, I missed the bus by a minute. It comes once an hour, and it was going to be dark soon, so I first got kind of sad/mad at my planning, and then opted to stay in Interlaken for the evening.
I got to eat Swiss chocolate-covered strawberries while sitting and looking at the mountains, though, so it wasn’t a half bad alternative. And then I got a giant pot of fresh Norwegian mussels for dinner. Not too shabby.
Oh, is this why you’re here? Me, too. Or, it was pretty much why I was in the Alps. See, I wanted to hike, too, but I discovered a lot of easily-accessible hiking trails are closed off in the winter. So I was mostly there to skydive.
I had been afraid I wouldn’t be able to, though, because it was supposed to rain all day on Saturday until about Tuesday of last week. Yes, I’d been watching the weather for a long time. I actually ended up rescheduling my dive last week to make it the earliest option. Originally, I was going around noon, but I snagged a spot on the 8:30 plane.
And I’m so glad I did. When I got in the van, I was met by a super friendly driver and two other girls about my age, one of whom is from Columbus, too, and both of whom go to school in Chicago (Loyola). We picked up three other girls, all about our age (and another one from Columbus), and the driver commented that it’s not often they have an all-women trip. We were all pretty psyched about our Chicago/Columbus connections. It made a big world and our day’s adventure feel a little cozier and safer.
We spent the ride to the Drop Zone debating which photo/video options to go with, jamming out to 2000s pop and alt-rock (the songs of our childhood), and wondering what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into.
When we got out of the van, we were greeted by freezing air, harnesses lying on the ground, and a circle of skydiving pros who do this once-in-a-lifetime thing pretty much every day. After a quick safety briefing, we all suited up in jumpsuits and waited for our tandem partners to get us into harnesses. Mine is named Tom and he’s funny and I don’t know anything about him, but he does the whole skydiving thing a lot so I trusted him.
And then they told us it was pretty foggy and they wanted to wait till it cleared up, so we could wait in this little room if we wanted to be shielded from the cold.
So, we bonded more. We selfied.
We talked about all the places we had already traveled, where we were going next, school, work, who we told we were skydiving, and about how this was so totally going on Instagram. Also, we might have exchanged some Instagram passwords just in case the dive didn’t go so well. Still gotta get those likes, ya know?
We waited for a good 40 minutes and people kept coming into the room to grab a snack or a jacket, and every time, we all shut up and froze because this could be it. But it wasn’t, not for 40 minutes.
I was in the second plane, so I got to watch the first three girls land and love it. And then it was my turn! I am a sucker and I paid way too much money for a camera person to follow me out of the plane and take pics and video, as opposed to just paying a little too much money for my tandem partner to have a GoPro.
I was told you have to pose like this when you skydive.}
So, we rode in a plane with about 10 other people up to roughly 13,000 feet. You’re all kind of jammed together in the plane, in between each other’s legs, all facing the door that you’re going to use to make your escape. Tom spent part of the ride attaching my harness to him and tightening it up so I wouldn’t fall out. I appreciated that. He also told me that during the winter, the highest parts of Switzerland don’t make it out of the fog/clouds and pointed out some famous tall mountains whose names I couldn’t really hear because it’s loud up there. Then, we talked about the fall/flight.
If you ever skydive (you should! I’ll come!), basically bend your body backward into an arch as much as you can. My shoulders and neck wanted to come forward, but this is not ideal and you should try to press your head into your tandem instructor’s shoulder.
Anyway, when we reached altitude, the girl in front of me wiggled (you don’t have much means of motion when you’re hooked to another person) up to the door with her instructor, they sat on the edge of the plane, legs tucked underneath, and then they kind of fell out. And then I had a giant holy shit what am I doing moment, right before I wiggled up to the door with Tom and we tumbled out right after them.
Not going to lie, free fall felt a little long. Not because it was so fast (though it was), but because it wasn’t that comfortable. I could see gorgeous mountains and blue skies spinning around me, but also it was kind of hard to breathe and my mouth got dry and my eyes were a little watery. But after about 45 seconds of that, you get 5-ish minutes of parachute gliding that’s pretty freaking incredible. Plus, you get to sit up instead of bending backward. Tom made me steer for a little bit, but this made me feel a little dizzy (he told me to spin a lot) and I was a lot more comfortable just enjoying the view of the Alps while he took over.
And then it was time to land, so I pulled my feet up into an L-sit and we touched down. I was super wobbly upon getting up, and freezing, and my ears hadn’t popped yet so I could barely hear, but I was still freaking ecstatic. I don’t even know what else to say. It was totally smile-inducing and I still smile whenever I think about it.
Then, the six of us piled back into the van, giggling out of exhilaration rather than nerves this time, and listened to more throwback music while asking for recommendations from the driver as to what to do for the rest of the day. Even she said nothing could compare to our morning.
Totally unsponsored note: After being blindsided with price hikes by a different company, I did some research and landed on Skydive Switzerland as the company I wanted to go with. Skydiving is not cheap, especially in the off-season in a popular location like the Alps. Not only did Skydive Switzerland have some of the more competitive prices, but they also have fabulous Trip Advisor reviews. And after my experience, I cannot say enough good things about how nice everyone on the team was or how safe they made me/us all feel. So, if you are ever in the market for some excellent skydiving, 10/10 would recommend.
Lauterbrünnen & Harder Kulm
I wanted to go to Lauterbrünnen because it’s where there’s supposedly a hike of 72 waterfalls. I say supposedly because I saw one of them and the hike up to it was closed.
So, I ate a bowl of insanely good onion soup and too much bread because I was starving by 2pm after being kinda nauseated at normal lunch time (nerves, tumbling through the air, etc.) and then just walked around the town of Lauterbrünnen. I might have wandered farther but I knew I wanted to try to get up to Harder Kulm before sunset.
I wanted to hike in the Alps, but I also wanted good pictures. Harder Kulm is the “top of Interlaken” and also a place where one of the girls I met skydiving had gotten some killer pictures the night before.
Unless you’re hiking up, which I wasn’t due to time constraints and near-darkness, the way up to Harder Kulm is a moderately terrifying little rail car on a “funicular railway”. I have no idea what that means, but it was way scarier than skydiving if you ask me. You basically ascend backward up a 64° incline and have to look down/out the windows. To be fair, the view is gorgeous… or would be if it hadn’t gotten so foggy in the last half hour.
By the time we got up to Harder Kulm, everything was clouds.
Visibility was zero. And I was kinda sad. I wanted good pictures. I mean, I’d been in the freaking Alps and barely taken any mountain pics.
I figured at the very least I could have an early dinner at the restaurant up there and maybe the clouds would clear. So, I got insanely good tomato soup (I’m so into soup lately) and a salad and more bread and ate while gloomily staring at gloomy clouds. I’m a treat.
By the time I was maybe 80% done with my soup, I noticed a pink tinge coming into the sky, so I sped up my eating and tried not to burn my tongue. When I was 90% done, it was looking clearer and clearer and there were more colors, so I caught the waitress’s eye and asked for a check, paid, ate the last few bites, and ran outside with all the other people who had been in the same situation.
Holy. Crap. It was gorgeous.
I mean, yeah, there were still clouds, but these were the pretty kind of clouds. Also, how cool is it that all of these were taken within like a half an hour of each other? SO MANY COLORS.
After that half hour, though, it was quite dark, so I headed back down the sketchy railroad (it was less scary to head down than to go up) and walked back to my hostel and did some homework and ate Toblerone (how had I never had this magic???) before I headed off to bed and caught a train the next morning back to the Zurich airport.
And now all I have to say is this: Switzerland, I love you.You're probably going to want to go to Switzerland after seeing these #skydiving & #sunset pics. Click To Tweet
Would you ever go skydiving?