The Switzerland Papers #1: High Times at the Funny Farm

Interlaken, Switzerland

I rode into Interlaken at sundown and spent my first and only night there at the Funny Farm.  That’s the youth hostel where I booked my stay, because with a name like that, it was hard to resist.  

Interlaken’s a resort town made for the outdoors and for the outdoor enthusiast—not exactly known for its nightlife.  The kind of place where people wake up and go to sleep with the sun, straddled at the base of the Bernese Oberland, in a narrow valley between lakes Thun and Brienz.  It’s name in German translates into ’between lakes’.  

Interlaken - Train Station - Switzerland - Europe - Ren Michael
Train Station at Night; Interlaken, Switzerland

My plans lay in the surrounding mountains, shrouded in pitch-black darkness that evening as my train rolled in.  The guy working the front desk at the Funny Farm seemed friendly, even chipper, considering the sleepy atmosphere around town.  I asked him for directions into Gimmelwald, the tiny village somewhere in the mountains to the south, where I was planning on staying tomorrow night.  

As he spoke he wrote the instructions down on a scrap piece of paper.  I was to take the bus to Wilderswil, then hop on a train that would take me through the Lauterbrunnen valley, then stop at a cable car station toward the valley’s end.  There, the cable car would lift me from the valley floor onto the cliffs of Gimmelwald. 

I was pretty sure I had it all down, as I tucked the instructions safely in my front jacket pocket.

I got into my dorm and could tell most of the bunks were full judging from the dark shapes of suitcases and backpacks at a few of the bedsides, not to mention the light snoring.  Despite my excitement and eagerness to get out into those mountains in a few hours time, I fell asleep as soon my head hit the pillow. 

Interlaken - Switzerland - Grindelwald - Lauterbrunnen - Ren Michael
Interlaken at Night; Interlaken, Switzerland

I woke up next morning from the soft glow of light coming from the window.  I hadn’t even realized there was a window.  I looked around me and saw that all the beds were empty, a few were made, others weren’t, and by the looks of it, most of the guests here were using the hostel as a base, a place to sleep while they got out during the day and hiked, biked, climbed or whatever else in the surrounding mountains.

I raced toward that window and looked out to get my first view.  The dense fog enveloped much of the town, but not enough to keep me from getting a few glimpses of those Alps, immense and towering high above us to unseen heights.  I stretched my head out the window as I stood there open-mounted, gaping in awe, trying to identify their peak.

I stood there looking for a long time taking it all in.  Breathing in that unmistakable, crisp mountain air.  Always best in the morning.  I looked back down around me.  The surrounding town was still quiet but I could hear the distant hum of buses now, some quiet conversation on a nearby street corner and birds chirping.  I brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, grabbed my bag and started down toward the lobby.  After a quick breakfast and a fresh cup of coffee, I checked out, stepped outside and started my way toward the bus station.  I could smell breakfast in every building.  The air was cool and the birds were out singing.

Interlaken - Switzerland - Funny Farm - Hostel - Alps - Swiss Alps - Ren Michael
View from my window at the Funny Farm; Interlaken, Switzerland
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