After returning from my first ever solo trip, which took me to Alaska, I almost immediately set about preparing for my next sojourn. With a two-month rail pass in hand I set out for main-land Europe, one of the great cultural melting-pots of the world. My first stop was in Koblenz, Germany but my second was in among the luscious mountains of Switzerland.
As part of my budget-centric travel plan I had brought a tiny one-man tent with me. It disassembled into multiple parts which I could strap to the sides of my heavy-duty back-pack. I opted to make the Swiss city of Interlaken the first host to my minuscule travel-home. I had pre-planned this part of my journey so I knew there was a decent camp-site right next to the train station. I set up and sat a while in awe of the towering mountains, pristine sky and pervasive greenery abounding all around me and my little tent.
To keep costs down I developed a habit while travelling of always keeping a stock of effervescent vitamin tablets with me. When mixed with water they created a simple yet tasty fizzy drink. The drinks were my only form of breakfast on many mornings. The gassy drink filled me up and the vitamins gave a least a slight health benefit. I took to occasionally carrying an assortment of fruit such as apples or oranges which supplemented by liquid breakfast.
Another travel habit which I developed took root during my first visit to a supermarket in Switzerland. Near the check-out, as I nervously waited to be served, I spied a display of sweets. Among the readily recognisable items was a package from my childhood that I had forgotten about until that moment. A tube-shaped wrapping contained fat disks of fruity gummy. From then until landing back in the UK two months later I always kept a pack of these juicy bad-boys on hand. They were my boosters, of both morale and energy. Sometimes they were also my only source of food.
Walking And Talking
I couldn’t resist the lure of those magnificent mountain trails for long. On my second day I set off for a higher plane. I didn’t feel the need for overly strenuous exertion so I selected one of the more “family friendly” routes recommended by my guide book. It was a glorious day. The sun was out but the air was crisp enough to keep one fresh. I spent the better part of the day leisurely meandering my way along the well-signposted routes, stopping only once or twice to photograph the fantasy landscape in front of me.
Upon returning to the foot of the mountain I decided to seek out an Internet Cafe so as to re-assure friends and family that I was well and dandy. I found a funky little Jamaican-themed place that was actually more of a cafe/bar with some computers in one part of it. They were set up with web-cams and head-sets so I started a Skype call with a friend. At the time I only had one friend who regularly used the service so my usage wasn’t really consistent. This meant that I frequently forgot my credentials and was forced to create new Logins again and again. By the end of two months of InterRailing I had about seven different Skype accounts.
As I sat and chatted to my friend I was dimly aware of two other customers coming in and sitting at a normal cafe/bar table behind me. After a few minutes my friend exclaimed with amusement
Are the people behind you smoking a bong?
I peered at the little window on the desktop that displayed what the web-cam was showing my friend. I guffawed loudly, making the other customers jump.
It’s a hookah.
I said, and reminded him that I was in Switzerland, not the Netherlands. However, it is funny to note that less than an hour later I was walking back to my tent when noticed a vending machine stocked with, among other things, “Cannabis Soda” …
I Love Owls
One of the key reasons behind budgeting so tightly, regularly to the point of discomfort, was so that I could then spend big bucks on fancy restaurants and famous cuisine. I’ve always had a love affair with food and I was determined that worries of cost would not hold me back from sampling the best that these countries had to offer.
One of the first big dining expenditures came a couple of days after arriving in Interlaken. It was my twentieth birthday. I wanted to celebrate. To do so I went to one of the most famous purveyors of classic Swiss delicacies …
So it was that I merrily celebrated the time of my birth whilst looking out at immense snow-topped mountains, drinking crisp beer, breathing deep the fresh country air, enjoying the large rack of ribs in front of me, and enjoying equally so the racks that walked by my table.
I continued drinking until it got dark, then I began the stumble back to my triangular abode. The path to the camp site went along a gently babbling canal. The moon, bright and full, cast a calm light over the evening. As I walked along the path by the canal the babbling stirred an urge within me and I swiftly assaulted a large tree with a powerful stream of what was once very tasty beer.
As I did so I took to singing. The song that randomly erupted from me was D.I.S.C.O except that I replaced the letters and so, at the top of my warbling voice I began singing (well, rhythmically shouting)
B! I! N! G! O! … SINGING B! I! N! G! O! … SINGING BINGO!!!
over the not-exactly-quiet sound of my explosive pee. I finished, tucked in, and stepped backwards away from the tree. As I did so I realised two things. The first was that on the other side of this large tree there was a bench. The second was that on this bench there sat a young couple, clearly out on a romantic night under the beautiful moon.
I caught a brief glimpse of them, wide-eyed and aghast, as I hastened silently past them in the direction of my camp-site. It was only the next morning that I thought, with a flash of white-faced embarrassment,
I should really be more careful when walking drunkenly by a canal! I could have fallen in!
Still more to come from Switzerland: Cuckoo Clocks, Fondue, Sky Diving and more.
Have you ever been to Interlaken? (or Hooters?) What was your trip like?