Swiss Summer: Interlaken and Basel

21st – 24th August

Arriving:
The journey from  Trubschachen to Interlaken was a 40min train to Bern, then a 45min train from there to Interlaken. Swiss trains are comfortable and the scenery is lovely. We were staying in Wilderswil, so we had to catch the bus to get there from Interlaken.

Leaving Interlaken to get to Basel was just one around 2hr train. Also comfortable and scenic. We had great views of the alps on this train.

Staying:
We stayed in an Airbnb in Wilderswil, which was a small “backpacker room” which was described as “with shower”. We didn’t realise this meant the shower was IN the room. We had no cooking facilities, but we did have a (thankfully) separate toilet. It was £56.50 per night for both of us.

In Basel I stayed in YMCA Hostel Basel, it was around £25.80 for one night. I was in a bed room, with five sets of bunks. The toilets were down the corridor from the room. I was given a free travel card for Basel and there was a kitchen and seating area downstairs. The location was good, not far from the station.

Day 1:
We left Balmeggberg around midday and visited the Kambly factory again before getting our train to Interlaken. Once in Wilderswil, it didn’t take too long to find the Airbnb and we moved our stuff in before heading out for dinner at a local Pizzeria called Luna Piccante, it was very tasty but not too cheap, but this is to be expected in Switzerland!

Day 2:
We got up early to put on some washing, then I headed out to buy some breakfast from a bakery called Kindler, which I ordered in German! I headed back and we ate breakfast before I had to go out to Wilderswil station to be picked up to go Paragliding!

3-imag0609
Wilderswil Station

I was picked up by a friendly englishman and we drove to Interlaken, where we picked up some more people. We then went to the Paragliding Interlaken office to change shoes and check in. After that, we picked up the pilots and drove up the mountain above Interlaken, the views getting more and more exciting as we saw the Jungfrau rise up behind Interlaken and the lakes Thunersee and Brienzersee either side of it.

At the top, we were introduced to our pilots who strapped us into our harnesses and got us ready to launch. I flew with a guy called Dominik, who lent me an extra jacket – paragliding is not the warmest of experiences. Once we were ready to go, we ran down the hill and the wing lifted us into the air. We spiraled upwards and I looked down over the trees – the view was truly awesome!

The airtime was supposed to be 20mins but it felt a lot longer as we soared and swirled above the landscape. Near the end of the flight I was allowed to steer, which was incredible. It was such an amazing experience and one I intend to repeat at the earliest possible opportunity. The views were stunning, the feeling of flying was such an intense thrill, without any feeling of falling at any point. It was like floating on the sky!

Once we landed, I received a cute windsock with a USB attached to it containing my photos of the experience – taken using a selfie stick – best use for them! I then retrieved my own shoes and hopped on the bus back to Wilderswil, where I rejoined Q. We walked to Unspunnen Castle, near our Airbnb and looked around. It was quite small, but had information about all the times it had been extended over the years.

Afterwards we headed out to Unterseen by Thunersee to go kayaking. We took the bus to Interlaken, and rather than waiting 20mins for the next bus, we began to walk to Unterseen, only to walk for 30mins before we caught the bus the last two stops!

We hired a double kayak and headed out across the lake. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was breathtaking so we sculled around, taking photos and catching the wakes of bigger boats. We had a few hours, so we stayed out admiring the landscape, then returned and dried out before catching the bus back to Interlaken to find dinner.

We ate at a place called Cafe de Paris where we sat outside and had drinks – I had a beer, Q had a cocktail. We had some rostis, which are grated potato dishes with various toppings. They were very tasty. We paid the bill and dashed back to the bus stop, making a brief detour so I could rapidly buy some postcards.

Day 3:
We got up early and packed. I quickly ran to the post office to send my postcards and then we headed into Interlaken once more. We had a look for some souvenirs and I bought a lovely little wooden cow – very Swiss! We then took our train to Basel.

Once in Basel, I checked into the hostel, then we had a look around. Basel is surprisingly nice! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it has a lot of nice architecture and cute side streets. We saw the Town Hall, a weird but kinda cool fountain, called Tinguely Fountain and some very cool graffiti. The river Rhein flows through Basel and people were swimming down it, with their stuff in large, fish-shaped dry-bags – if I ever come back I want to try it!

We were meant to be meeting up with Q’s friend Leon, so we headed to a park to meet him. He was with a group of spinners practicing staff and poi. We were offered some tasty soup and watermelon and sat and chatted to them until it got dark, then they did a little fire show.

Tips for Interlaken and Basel:
– Switzerland is very expensive, so only go if you’re prepared to pay!
– Interlaken and Wilderswil were so Swiss – beautiful and alpine!
– Go Paragliding! It is amazing!
– Go kayaking too, the lakes are so beautiful it would be a missed opportunity not to.
– Basel has some lovely sqaures and buildings, spend some time wondering through them.
– If you have time, swim down the Rhien in Basel.

A Week of Poi in Beautiful Balmeggberg

14th – 21st August

This post is going to be a bit different as it was a very specific event in a very specific place! Balmeggberg is a permaculture centre in Trub, Switzerland and is basically in the middle of nowhere on a Swiss mountain.

29229988945_c7f04fd009_k
Balmeggberg from above (Photo by Harold Dahl)

The week was a Poi and Yoga retreat. The Poi teaching was lead by the wonderful Nick Woolsey and there was also some teaching from the fantastic Jon “Alien Jon” Everett. They are both such lovely guys, with very different teaching styles and I learnt such a lot from both of them. Jon was also selling his amazing FiberFlies Pixel Whips, which are these really cool, colourful, fibre optic, whippy things that you can play with – endless fun! The yoga was run by a softly spoken guy called Adrian, who not only taught us how to do yoga, but explained the spiritual aspects of it.

Balmeggberg is such an amazing place. Everything is done in the least environmentally impactful way possible. They eat the food they grow and everything is grown there apart from the butter and cheese which they get from the neighbouring dairy farm. There are compost toilets, which smell a little rough, but are very good for the environment. There is a drinking water fountain fed by a spring up in the mountains.

There are a few families who live on Balmeggberg, they live in the large farmhouse, which has been extended to include a large studio space for holding courses in. We did some of our poi in that room. There are also many yurts on the site. There is a massive yurt which we used for our yoga sessions (and some poi sessions – including our Poicademy, where we learnt some poi theory!). There are several sleeping yurts – I was in one for six people, there were also two four person yurts. The final yurt is my favourite – the sauna yurt! This is a tiny yurt with a stove in the centre of it, which heats the yurt to a high temperature. We used it on the evening when there was a storm -it such an amazing place to sit in, the the rain pounding down outside, before running out to the outdoor baths which look out over the valley to have a cold plunge!

They keep sheep on Balmeggberg, who control the amount of grass and will eventually be used for meat. There are ducks to eat pests such as slugs and snails as well as chickens and a few cats. The cows on the neighbouring land are hard to miss – their cowbells can be heard all through the day, gently clanging as they walk along.

The food at Balmeggberg was mostly vegetarian or vegan and was incredibly tasty! Edible flowers were used to decorate it. I ate way too much on Balmeggberg – especially on the day they fired up their wood burning pizza oven!

In nearby Trubschachen, we visited the Kambly factory, which makes hundreds of different kinds of cookies. Even better, the shop has free samples of pretty much every kind of cookie they make – so you can try them all without even buying any! On the same day we visited the factory, we also attempted to swim in the river in Trubschachen which was freezing cold! We warmed back up afterwards with a poi lesson in the sunny field by the station.

I had a wonderful time on Balmeggberg and met some lovely people. It was great getting to know everyone, learning some more poi and some yoga and just spending time in such a lovely environment. One of my highlights was the fire performance evening where a few of the girls had their first ever fire spin – it’s so amazing to watch people spin fire for the first time! It was also pretty amazing watching Jon and Nick perform! Hopefully I’ll return another year to enjoy the heavenly place that is Balmeggberg again.

28609634753_27b8b853b7_k
Valerie, Anna and I spinning some fire!

Thanks to Harold, Abby, Chantal, Till, Valerie, Fede, Samuel, Florian, Adrian, Alex, Sunshine, Lea, Anna, Artur, Kristina, Q, Nick, Jon, Adrian and the whole Balmeggberg squad for a lovely week! And special thanks to Harold for allowing me to use his incredible photos on my blog and for taking them in the first place!

29230111385_e803d4b9ea_k
The visitor book (Photo by Harold Dahl)

 

 

Gorgeous Geneva and Awesome Annecy

11th – 14th August

Arriving:
The train to Geneva from Rome was long. It left early, so I slept most of the way to Milan – I got very good at sleeping on trains! We changed at Milan and the next train to us to Geneva. The first train took 3hrs 20mins and the second took 3hrs 58mins.

To get to Annecy from Geneva was a train to Aix Les Bains then another to Annecy. This didn’t take very long – we had also been waiting for a double-decker train all InterRail and our last train as a group was finally a double-decker!

Staying:
In Geneva we stayed one night at the inventively named Geneva Hostel which cost £26.82 per person per night – Geneva is expensive! We were in a six bed female dorm. There was a bathroom along the corridor from the room and there was a lounge and breakfast facilities downstairs. We got a free travel card (not that useful for us) and free breakfast (much appreciated).

In Annecy we stayed in the lovely Annecy Hostel, which cost £20.27 per person per night for our own room with two single beds and one bunk bed. This hostel was small and alpine looking, but very lovely. The room was fresh and large, there was a bathroom next door to the room and a kitchen and lounge downstairs. In the garden was a large bar area with really cool seating.

Day 1:
When we arrived, we walked to our hostel and checked in. We settled in, then went out for a walk. After some bickering, we decided which direction to go in. We found the lake and saw the Jet d’Eau. We walked along a little, then went and found dinner at a burger place called Edward’s Sandwiches. You could design your own burgers! They were very tasty and reasonably priced for Geneva. We went back to the hostel for an early night, walking past all the stalls that were there for some kind of lake festival.

Day 2:
The next day, we got up early again and went for breakfast before walking to the bus stop. Turns out that the bus wasn’t running, so after maybe 30mins of waiting, we headed back to the hostel for Wi-Fi and advice. Apparently the best thing to do was to get a train from Geneva station to Aix Les Bains and change there for Annecy. We walked to the station and waited for the train – it was a short journey and soon we were changing onto our double-decker train!

We soon arrived in Annecy and walked through the picturesque French streets to the hostel which was quite simple to find, but it was hot again. After checking in, we headed out to find the beach, walking through the old town on the way. We saw two young ducks trying to swim against the river current – so cute! There’s town was exactly as I remembered from my last visit five years ago – so so beautiful!

We got to the beach and Becky and I bought ice creams. I finally had a coconut and pineapple combo! We then went into the lake! It was a bit chilly, but lovely to swim in, with the gorgeous backdrop of mountains. You could see the paragliders whirling in the distance. After a while, we got out and sat down. I wrote my diary. I them jumped back into the lake for an obligatory selfie.

We walked home via the supermarket – Hayley and I were making chilli, Emily and Becky crepes. We got home and cooked, which took quite a while before retiring to our room to play “Game of life” before bed.

Day 3:
We got up reasonably late and headed out to visit the Gorge de Fier, which required us to take two buses and walk. The first bus (the 1) took us to Poisy, where we changed to a tiny minibus (the 12) to Loverchy. Loverchy is a tiny place high up on the hills. From there we walked down into the valley where the gorge lies. We stopped the way down to talk to some cows, some of which had bells!

We arrived at the gorge and ate our picnic lunch, then we ventured in. The gorge was quite deep, with undulating sides. The path was actually a wooden walkway, supported from below by metal girders set into the walls of the gorge. The walkway sat about two thirds of the way up. The walk through was narrow and shady as the gorge is so slim that you can touch both sides of it in places. It is also breathtaking. We made our way along and found a sign which marked all the highest points that the water had reached. The highest was in 1960, at 22.7m. Under the sign was a small cave which we crawled into briefly. It didn’t go very far back.

We walked along to the end of the gorge and then steps took us up and outside of it. We walked along above it. There were plaques explaining how you can see faces in the rock in places and a story about the gorge. Basically: girl married rich guy, rich guy turns out to be an alcoholic, she goes on walks with her bestie, her bestie falls in love with her, but she falls for handsome stranger, her bestie finds out and tells husband, husband tries to kill sexy stranger, he escapes but kills her bestie, girl locked in tower until she dies. Such a happy tale.

SAMSUNG CSC
Emily, Becky and me in the mini cave

We walked back along the gorge, now taking in the faces in the rock. At the end, there was a room with footage and photos of the floods over the years. We left the gorge and began to walk back up the hill. We stopped at the a castle called Chateau de Montrottier on the way up, but it was too expensive to go in, so we just looked around. We climbed in the heat back to Loverchy.

We then found it was an hour’s wait for the bus. We sat and read in the shade by the church next to the bus stop until the little minibus arrived. We arrived back in Poisy in time to catch the bus back to Annecy. We then went back to the hostel to get ready to go out to dinner. I also did some washing.

We decided to go out as it was our last night and found dinner in a cute little creperie called Le Potron Minet in the old town. It was delicious. I had a cheese and potato crepe then a chocolate and cream one along with some cidre. We then walked home and packed ready for bed.

Thanks to Emily, Hayley and Becky for such an incredible holiday! Love you guys 🙂

Tips for Geneva and Annecy:
– Geneva is lovely, but expensive – recommended only to people with money!
– Annecy is a beautiful place, and not one most people would think of – go for at least 3 full days!
– Swim in the lake (probably only in the summer though) – it is lovely.
– Visit Gorges du Fier and Chateau de Montrottier if you have time – they are both brilliant!
– Spend some time wandering around the picturesque streets and have a leisurely French dinner somewhere – no better place!