Two of My Favorite Things: Elena and Nature

(April 17-20, 2013)

I feel incredibly thankful for the study abroad experience and I feel especially special that I’ve been able to kick it with some Willamette homies too. Clara (twice), Gracie, Kevin and now Elena! Right after returning from Paris, I was greeted by the presence of Elena. While I had classes, she did some exploring around Switzerland and then we did some romping together.

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Wednesday: We meet up at Elena’s hostel near Lausanne Gare and then walk to the daily food market held in Place St. François. After buying some food for our dinner, we decide to keep walking to the lakefront since it was a gorgeous day. We stroll from the edge of Ouchy all the way to Vidy and up to the Université de Lausanne campus. After our brief reunion, we split up so I can go to class and so Elena can check out some thermal baths in the area. We meet up for dinner together at her hostel which was an array of fresh fruits and vegetables, wouldn’t except anything less from Elena. We spend our whole evening chatting with three other guests (two Australians one Brazilian) and drinking a grand total of 5 bottles of wine. Returning to my apartment on one of the last metros, I attempted to tipsily pack my weekend bag.

Thursday: I woke up with enough time to finish packing (sans toothbrush par accident) and to meet Elena at the train station. With our backpacks and bags of food in tow, we hop on the train to Interlaken! The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we decide a lakeside lunch would be perfect. First though we buy cheap postcards and find a bathroom and grocery store. Then, we head towards the lake! Well…or we thought we did. The path turns into a road which does not look promising. (The train ride made everything seem so much closer!) After about 20 minutes or so, we double back to where we know we can find the other lake. Making it back to our “starting point” aka the train station, we decide the canal is better for a lunch spot solely because it was right there. After refueling we decide to have another go at finding the lake, this time we head in the other direction. We find a gravel path along the canal lined with wildflowers and little houses. Eventually, we make it to a bridge so we can crossover the canal and reach Lake Thun. We quickly find a little pier with great views of the lake and mountains and decide to get our tan on. Elena also decides to have a lovely little dip…in the glacial-temperature water. The moment the sun goes behind the clouds, we decide to pack it up and head towards the train station again. Incredibly parched and waiting for the train, we just ogled the beverage section at Coop pronto.

A quick train ride later, we arrive in Lauterbrunnen–a valley in Switzerland renown for it’s amazing hikes, views and 72 waterfalls. Not wanting to waste the daylight, we decide to explore the area after checking into our hostel. Being a couple of rebels, we hop a fence so we can climb up a trail to get a better view of Staubbach Falls. We almost hiked higher so we could go behind the waterfall but decided against it. Good decision because when we returned to the base, we saw that there was an abundance of snow. Back at the hostel, we eat our dinner (bread and cheese and fruit) outside, meet the hostel cat and huskies and enjoy the beautiful view of the valley. We spend the evening writing our numerous postcards and doing some light reading.

Friday: We wake up to slightly worse weather, that of Oregon. We don’t let a bit of rain stop us though so we decide to hike two trails. To sum of Wengen, the first trail, in one word is: UP. Not stairs, not switchbacks, just up. It was definitely a challenge for me but it was worth it. The whole way up we had great views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley below and then going back down was a breeze. Back at the hostel we had a break for lunch and then were back on a trail. This one was slightly easier because it was just switchbacks leading up to the top of the other side of the valley. Unfortunately, we ran into some snow on road and then reached a point where the road was completely covered in snow. Having feeling rather accomplished for the day, we decide to head back down and have an early evening full of wine and relaxation. It was definitely a good call because about two hours later, the light rain from throughout the day turned into fat snowflakes. And it continued to snow for the rest of the night turning the sun-soaked valley from the day before into a winter wonderland.

Saturday: It continued to snow all night so we woke up to piles of snow all around the hostel. We decided that out best course of action was to just say goodbye to Lauterbrunnen earlier than planned. Hiking and stunning views are the main draw of the valley so when the weather sucks, there’s not much to do. As we waited at the train station, we noticed that even some of the gondolas were shut down because of the snow. We took the train to Interlaken where we bought some souvenirs (more postcards for friends and a Swiss army knife for me) and then we were back en route to Lausanne. We considered stopping in Bern since we had a connecting train but decided against it since we both had been traveling a lot recently. At the Lausanne train station, we said goodbye as Elena was catching a train to Paris for her flight back to the states. All in all, it was a wonderful trip with a wonderful person in a wonderful place!

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