Switzerland: A Winter Wonderland

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Jan 04, 2013

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Flag of Switzerland  , Swiss Alps,
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Switzerland in the winter was a Cali girl's dream come true. Snow blanketed every open surface and made the city even more magical then it already was. The Swiss Alps are probably the most picturesque background one could ever ask for. They are covered in trees and those trees- when they're covered in fresh snow- are the most beautiful sight to ever behold. In a word: Breathtaking. 

I was fortunate enough to go Paragliding. The experience was probably the best thing I've ever done in my life. I had originally intended on going Skydiving in Switzerland- go big or go home right? However, financially, that wasn't the most economic option for me, so I decided Paragliding was a reasonable alternative (and at more than half the cost, I was happy). We took a short 20 minute drive up the mountain up to our "Jump Site," which was actually still a 5 minute walk from the road. The drive itself was simply gorgeous. White everywhere you looked. Once we arrived at our drop off point, we gathered our gear and trudged through the snow. This wasn't as easy as I had anticipated; the walk had some very steep drop offs and trying to walk down them in the snow proved to be challenging to say the least. I can proudly say that I was able to complete the walk without falling- I can't say I did it quickly though. 
We then reached the jump point- i.e. an enormous cliff that I would soon run off of. It was essentially a half circle- the back half surrounded by snow covered trees that towered above us and the front half an enormous vista of the land below. I was surprised by how calm I felt. Not once did I ever stop and think "I'm actually kind of nervous," nor did I experience any physical responses- I.e Butterflies, nausea, etc. I was however the last one to go. My guide and I had to wait for about 10 minutes for the right wind. It also didn't help that an immense and opaque fog rolled in. We couldn't see anything in front of us- that's not good when you need to jump off a cliff and there are other Paraglider's flying around out there in the fog. After receiving the green light from one of the other Paraglider's already flying around, we were off. 
Trying to run off the cliff was challenging. At first, you run down the hill but then your chute fills with air and now you have this resistance pulling you back. I felt like a roadrunner trying to move forward but my feet weren't moving me anywhere as if the road weren't even under my feet. My guide and I powered through the resistance and eventually we were moving again, this time down the hill. I was trying to keep up and not bend my knees and sit like the guide told me to avoid doing but my body wasn't listening. At some point my knees were collecting snow and I was being dragged off the cliff. Luckily, there was a drop off and instead of falling, I was flying. The mess was over. There isn't a more incredible feeling than flying. It's a magical feeling that's hard to imagine through the mere words I have written here. 
I was up in the air for around 10-15 minutes however it felt much shorter. By the time it was time to land, I felt like I was only in the air for 5 minutes. It was over faster than I could imagine. Landing was...tricky. The goal was to get into a standing position while in the air and sort of glide onto the field as if you were Cedric from Harry Potter (you know the scene where he is flying/walking down onto the ground after being teleported to the Quidditch games). That was not the reality sadly. It was more like I tried that and I ended up squatting onto the ground while trying to stumble back onto my feet into a standing position. Graceful- i know. 
Paragliding was a dream. I'd recommend it to anyone in a heart beat. 
The same night, I rode a Funicular up to the top of this small mountain where a very small Christmas market was held, and what I mean by small is that there were 5 tents. 
It was a little bit of a let down; HOWEVER, the Alpine Slide that I took down the mountain made up for it. 
The best way I could describe it is to imagine you are sitting in a very tiny kayak (but your legs are exposed because there's no cover/lid) and you have a lever in-between your legs- push forward to go and pull back to brake. You are then strapped in and explained directions in a almost un-understandable accent and told to "Go." After having some trouble figuring out the lever, you're off! You're gliding down a roller coaster-like metal pipe and zooming around corners feeling like you're going to fly off at any point. It was exhilarating and over way too soon. I would have done it over and over again but the line was way too long. Everyone wanted a piece of the fun. 

The next day I went to Zurich. It was a 2 hour bus drive from Interlaken and at least 40 minutes of that drive was some of the most gorgeous scenery one could imagine. There were also lots of tunnels (long tunnels) that made sleep the most logical option. 
Zurich is a lovely city. The buildings are lovely and the city is very modern. I saw pieces of all the cities I've traveled too in different parts of the city. The city I can best relate it to would be Prague. The churches and Old Town buildings resemble the buildings in Prague more than I had imagined. 
People aren't lying when they say that Switzerland is crazy expensive. If you think Interlaken is expensive- don't travel to Zurich. The prices are even higher! It's insane. I did splurge on some Starbucks. It had been over 4 months since I'd had Starbucks and the cold winter air was telling me it was the perfect time for a Pumpkin Spice Latte ^_^
There isn't much to do/see in Zurich unless you love shopping and have loads of money to spend (which I did not). The Christmas markets in the train station were interesting. The smell of hot wine and cheese radiated throughout the building. I couldn't turn a corner without getting a whiff of some of the most pungent cheese I'd ever smelt
As the day drove on and I was done with my sightseeing, I decided to wait in the train station (which is essentially all outdoor) for my group, and since there wasn't anywhere free to sit- I stood. Standing there for 2 hours was probably the worst decision I could have made. The cold broke through my massive coat and reached all the way down to my bones. I was freezing. Even with a massive coat and a beanie, I was frozen. Eventually, the 2 hours passed and I SLOWLY thawed out on the bus ride back. 
My last day in Interlaken was spent walking around in the falling snow. I had never experienced this type of thing before so I was over the moon, dancing in the streets, singing in the *snow.* Apart from the snow flying into my eye a couple times, it was a lovely passeggiata ("walk" in Italian :)) 

I was sad to leave my Winter Wonderland. 
The bus ride back was filled with breathtaking scenery for a couple hours so I was able to pretend I wasn't leaving for a little longer ^_^
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