Written by Lillian
October 17, 2022
Since applying to GTL, the one country that I have been the most excited to explore was Switzerland. The beautiful alpine hikes, extreme adventures around every corner, and a close proximity to Metz makes Switzerland a great destination for weekend travels. After weekends of exploring historical downtown cities, I was excited to finally get out into the European outdoors!
Right when we got into Switzerland, the first thing we did was hike to Harder Kulm, a 1,320-meter viewpoint of Interlaken. The weather was forecasted to rain later in the day, so we quickly hiked up the 800-meter (about 2,500 ft) trail to the viewpoint. By the time that we were hiking down, the sun set, the rain started, and we used our phones to navigate down the now dark slippery slopes. It was an adventure to say the least.
View of Interlaken from the Harder Kulm hike.
The next day, we went canyoneering near the Jungfrau Mountain. Canyoneering involves traveling through canyons by jumping off cliffs, swimming through gorges, and abseiling (or repelling) down the canyon walls. There was even a rope swing! My favorite part was the camaraderie that was built between the members of my group: we cheered each other on as we jumped off the rocks into the water and trudged through the swiftly moving water.
Abseiling! The drop was 10m (about 30 feet)!
To round out my trip to Switzerland, there was one activity at the top of my European bucket list: hiking the Mürren Via Ferrata. The Mürren Via Ferrata is a 2.2 km “via ferrata” which is Italian for “iron path.” On these types of hikes, you cling to cliff faces, using iron rungs cemented into the rocks for foot support. Additionally, you traverse over suspension bridges and hiking paths right on the edge of cliffs. This Via Ferrata takes you from the alpine village of Mürren to Gimmelwald. To get to Mürren, you must ride on a train, bus, and cable car from Interlaken. Even though the journey is long, it was worth being able to get a bird-eye view of the Alps and walk on iron rungs over a 1000 m (about 3,300 ft) drop. The days before my hike were filled with rain, so I am thankful that the weather cleared, and I got to do the Via Ferrata with almost no clouds in the sky!
Left: One of the suspension bridges on the Mürren Via Ferrata; the town in the background is Stechelberg. Right: a view of the iron rungs and 1000-meter cliff face; part of the hike, called the ”Cliff Walk” involved walking on just these iron rungs with nothing underneath!
Even though I had a great, adventure filled time in Interlaken, one of the biggest downfalls of Switzerland is the cost; the trip is notoriously expensive. Most other students spend, on average, 20-30 Euros on one meal alone! My group decided to move in a different direction where we attempted to save as much money on food as possible. We ate Kebab almost every meal that we had there which clocked in at 10 Euros a piece. Another money saving tip was that we cooked chicken rice bowls with vegetables one night that cost 2,11 Euros each. We used all the money we saved to do more of the more expensive one-of-a-kind activities.
Overall, I loved my time in Switzerland, and the weekend was my most adventure-filled one yet! It was super nice to escape the city and head outdoors, even if it was just for a weekend. Interlaken itself was very touristy and expensive, but because of that, it has a ton of different activities to do in one central location. Even though I only participated in three, Interlaken also has parasailing, skydiving, and large canyon rope swings. It also has a ton of other hikes right outside its doorstep!