Just like a dream, I was recently invited by Swiss Tourism, Maison de Voyage and Rock-On Holidays by Thomas Cook India to experience Switzerland in a unique way. While enough has been said and written about the romantic / family vacations of Switzerland our idea was to leave out all the famous / touristy activities and instead explore this country through a new lens i.e. through the eyes and activities of a single budget traveler. Hence our itinerary included all kinds of adventure sports, walks and many new experiences that people normally don’t associate with Switzerland.
We started our trip in the picturesque valley of Interlaken which is situated in between the two Alpine lakes – Brienzersee and Thunersee and surrounded by the Bernese Oberland Alps. Interlaken is a very small town and a good base to explore the adjoining Villages, Lakes, Alps and try some adventure sports. Our host here was Annie from Interlaken Tourism who suggested that the best way to get introduced to Interlaken and its countryside would be via Flying Wheels and their electric cycles. We were intrigued with electric cycles and post a quick walk to the store met with Frank, our host and co-owner of Flying Wheels. Frank was super fun and started our tour with a quick introduction to Interlaken countryside, to the route that we would be taking and most importantly gave us the required instructions mainly to always drive on the right. Post that we got our helmets and based on our heights our electric bikes.
What are electric bikes? Well, these are like normal cycles but have a small battery-powered electric motor that does a lot of the actual cycling work for you. I hadn’t ridden on a bike for a while and was convinced about falling off them, but 5 minutes on the seat and I was cycling like a pro. Take my word, these are super easy to ride with various levels such as Tour, Sport and Turbo that makes cycling fun and with no lasting effects on the legs the next day ;).
Due to limited time we took a short tour where we covered Interlaken – Unterseen – Widerswill – Matten – Goldswill forest – Interlaken. It took us about 3 hours and we drove about 20 kms. Yes, I have proof of it too ;)
We started from Interlaken and first drove through Unterseen. Frank was a very knowledgeable guide and kept stopping at various intervals to tell us about the background of the place, show interesting sights, share stories & anecdotes and point out some easy to miss things. In fact had it not been for this tour I would have missed many quaint and beautiful things about this place. Frank told us that Interlaken is not just Interlaken but 3 political municipalities - Interlaken, Matten and Unterseen. While Interlaken and Unterseen are separated by the Aare river, the boundary between Interlaken and Matten is confusing and sometimes in between houses. Can you imagine – half your house in Interlaken and the other half in Matten :)
As we cycled our way the scenery kept changing – from the modern look of Interlaken to lush green fields and picturesque villages with the traditional old houses (made of wood and coated with tar) and the oldest house here was as old as 1621. All these houses were decorated with all kinds of wooden artifacts, topiaries, flower gardens (locals here are very proud of their gardens), etc etc. We even saw a small windmill in one house. For the entire tour Frank took us through interesting routes and we cycled through old town squares, along rivers, through wooden bridges, through old villages, near foothills of the hills, etc etc.
During the tour we also stopped at a local farm-house and shared a small element of the local farm lives and saw the super heathy & shiny horses and cows. We also saw a day old calf, named him and met with two extremely naughty young calves – Honey and Nunny. We then tasted the local fresh milk and saw the local farm shop, which had quite an interesting concept. Farms here set up a small shop where they sell milk, eggs, cheese and other local fresh produce but there is no salesperson. Every customer comes, picks up what they want and drop the correct change in an open box (not even a safe). And no one steals or puts in less money. Can you believe that?
After this we cycled on and met the 3 impressive snow-covered peaks of this region – Eiger, Monch and the Jungfrau. Frank also pointed out to us the famous point “Jungfrau – Top of Europe”.
Cycling a little ahead we saw the most amazing sight of this region i.e. Lake Thun. This lake is huge with Alps all around it, blue grey waters and people trying all kinds water sports (despite the low temperatures). Frank then quickly explained to us how the Lakes Brienz and Thun were originally a single lake and post Ice Age split into two, thereby forming Interlaken. He gave a quick history about Interlaken and showed us the longest village in Europe called Beatenberg.
Frank then took us to a local runway (which is no longer in use for aircrafts) and we went absolutely crazy here. Against the backdrop of the setting sun, we drove in circles at crazy speeds and must have looked like hooligans to anyone who saw us. But it was truly exhilarating with wind blowing through my hair and being free to do want I want. I also felt that this was one unique experience, as how many people can claim that they cycled on a runway :)
We were really enjoying ourselves, but sadly the sun was setting and the tour was coming to an end. Hence we started cycling back to Interlaken through the Goldswill Forest, which was again a beautiful sight with trees in the autumn colors of green, rust and brown. We then reached Interlaken and had to return the bikes back to Frank.
Overall we had a fantastic time with Frank and Flying Wheels and truly recommend it to everyone who is planning a trip to Interlaken. Frank was an amazing host and a truly knowledgeable guide, who showed us numerous pockets of this countryside that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Also super thanks Annie and Frank for introducing me to electric cycles and I will definitely try these on all my future trip to Europe. :)
Tips for the Trip -
- Flying Wheels has numerous tour options ranging from hourly, to half days to full day tours. They also have multiple types of bikes and you can try anything that you like. Due to limited time we could only do a short tour, but they have an amazing full day tour for”Lauterbrunnen – Murren 72 waterfalls & famous mountain village Murren” that I am definitely going to try on my next trip here. You can check more about them at the Flying Wheel website.
- Their store has a small section for local produce that retails a lot of local organic products from the region. A definite must check-out.
- Lastly, Electric cycles are super easy and anyone can ride them for long hours (even uphill), including people with no fitness levels.