Friday, July 20, 2007

CH - Gimmelwald

I ride to Interlaken Ost then travel the rails south to Lauterbrunnen – base of some scenic waterfalls. The scenery only improved during my bus ride southward, through the valley, toward Stechelberg; and it climaxed after I exited the cable in Gimmelwald, where my hostel lay immediately across the tiny street. The view from my dorm in the Mountain Hostel is fantastic: the valley below framed by its terminus into the surrounding mountains. This valley is frequented by daytrippers headed for Schilthorn or Jungfrau, but my tiny village seems to miss most tourist itinerates. There isn’t even a grocery store or café in town: one must travel to nearby Mürren to get food (apart from the pizzas cooked up by the Mountain Hostel).

A note on Jungfrau: it is pronounced “young-fruh.” Anyone familiar with the Volkswagon commercial song by Master Cylinder may now understand the song’s name: “Jung at Heart”. Sure enough, “Jung” means “Young”… so it’s really not that much of a stretch.

My only hike for the day had the sole goal of getting food. I originally intended to get lunch at a café, catch the cable car up to Schilthorn, and walk back down. As I ate my lunch, however, ominous clouds began to make their presence known. Just as well: I was having an excellent conversation with a Floridian family at the table beside me. As soon as the rain began, I made my way to the Coop for groceries and hiked back down to the hostel.

This hostel is, hands down, the greatest hostel I have ever been to. It has a spectacularly social atmosphere, owing to being pretty much the sole source of food in town. A game room and a dining room are all there are to store the backpackers, town denizens, and visitors whom are stopping by just for the legendary atmosphere. The endless stream of pizzas and beer from the bar fuel the mayhem and pasta is the main course being cooked up by backpackers in the kitchen. This may be a poor choice if you seek an early bedtime, but is if you don’t mind a generally college-aged crowd with a couple families, parents, and older travelers thrown in. An outdoor hottub is another perk, though I managed to burn myself quite nicely on the pipe (it’s basically just a big wooden barrel on top of a fire, with a blazing hot chimney pipe within leaning range of somebody sitting on the rim of the hottub)

While here, I met a girl whom doesn’t drink – a true rarity – and I also met the legendary Rick Steves, himself. He hung out with us pretty much all night, with plenty of photos taken those two nights which, with any luck, will make it into his next guidebook. Now a note on Rick Steves… my co-worker had mentioned his name before I left, but I completely forgot about it. Earlier in the day, while wandering through Mürren, I saw a shop sign saying something along the lines of “as referenced by the legendary Rick Steves.” Just a few minutes later, while talking to the Floridian family at the café, his name once again came up. I had no idea who he was, but everyone else sure did. Then I meet the guy just hours later… I picked up one of his books at my next hostel and read through it: he has some great travel tips!

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