After getting something to eat to soothe my slight hangover, I asked about canyoning at reception. With the rain from last night and the awful weather today, canyoning was cancelled as well as many other activities. Today was looking to be a very boring day but I guess I should be blessed I have had such good weather so far for my trip. Looking outside, I could barely see much of the mountains. I wanted to canyon today and then hike today and tomorrow since the valley and mountains are beautiful beyond words but this storm might push me right out of Switzerland earlier than I had planned. I used the early portion of the day to book hostels in Barcelona and figure out how on earth I can get to Pamplona since it is a decent ride from Barcelona. The San Fermin Festival is a continuous 24 hour event with the party starting the night before with fireworks until the running of the bulls at 8 a.m. followed by parades, drinking, and bull fights. Having missed out on other festivals I knew I couldn’t miss out on this. Anyways, I checked back into my room and met twins from Australia. Since I was bored out of my mind sitting in the hostel all alone, I asked to join them for a walk around town and a trip up the cable car to one of the lower mountains in the area. The walk was wet, cold, and miserable since I chose to leave my umbrella back at the hostel (smh). Once on top we couldn’t see much but I could still see mostly all of Interlaken as well as the mountain I hiked yesterday which stood surprisingly much higher than the viewpoint I had today. Even with all the clouds and fog having masked a great deal of the terrain, I could still view the town of Wilderswil, where I started my hike, and the open grassy mountainside where I walked through the grazing herd of cows. Speaking of cows, a life size plastic cow stood on a platform that jutted out of the mountain. Despite being greased down with water, I had to mount this mountainous cow. If the weather was going to deprive me of the views I had grown to love on my first full day here, I had to make the most of the day, in any weird way possible. If it meant jumping atop a cow and doing my best Titanic impression over the platform railing, so be it. Since we couldn’t do a proper hike, we rode the cable car down to continue moseying around Interlaken. I popped into a church with creepy automatic doors to find a heavily wooded interior. I felt like I walked into the forest with its deep earthy scent coming from the finely crafted pews and all the rest. What really caught my senses was the sight of a stained glass window. This stained glass window was not ordinary by any means because within this window in a variety of colorful patterns was a cow. I knew the Swiss love their cows since they are everywhere, on mountainsides and on every touristy corner, but in a church? That was a new one for me. We stopped into a grocery store and when I noticed some cheap Swiss dark chocolate I had to go for it. Since I was living out of cans of tuna to go along with loaves of bread, I needed a small reward. Back at the hostel a beggars meal awaited me. Peanut butter and British biscuits was the only option on the budget menu. After eating this meal in the room while hunched over trying to hide the evidence, I went out with the twins to a bar to watch the Germany-Brazil semifinal match. I had no coinage with me to pay for drinks but the girls generously afforded my 2 for 1 happy hour beers (sad but true). The game was exciting to watch as a German fan no matter how depressing it got towards the end during a 7-1 match. While watching the game, we talked about our differing cultures including how ridiculously expensive Australia can be. They told me about their winters of 60 degree weather which I quickly shot back is a complete joke compared to Ohio winters. I mentioned to them places they had to eat at while in Cinque Terre, Rome, and Napoli; I’ve been one of the most fervent preachers of the church of Giolitti’s during my travels and I will continue to spread its gospel message. I also told them about the best bartender I’ve ever met but from what I remembered he wasn’t going to be working that night. At that point, I was dead tired and couldn’t even finish my beers so I went back with them for some much needed sleep. When I was passing the bar lounge, I noticed the bartender from last night, Abahz, who gave me and my friends all those free drinks. From across the way he greeted me with a huge smile and then a big hug to match it. I only went over to say hello and joke around for a bit before heading up for the night, but Abahz wouldn’t have any of that; he poured me a beer and slapped it down in front of me. Shit, I had to drink this when the thought of beer couldn’t have sounded less appealing. I milked the Swiss beer while talking to him about how he got to Interlaken all the way from Albania and telling him about how much I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Switzerland. Conveniently, I sat next to a Brazilian who has made Switzerland his home for 30 years. Something about this valley in the mountains stays with people forever. Either you end up living here permanently or make it a point to travel here often. Something about the energy that Abahz had brought to the bar just got everyone in a great mood. He seemed like a man that never had a down day in his life or was just so positive and lively that he wouldn’t let anything negative bring him down. At 12:45 a.m., I was about to finish my beer thinking that I would still have enough time to get a good amount of sleep before waking up at 7 to get ready for the possibility of canyoning. I raised my glass for cheers to the happy, smiling Brazilian next to me but Abahz filled up yet another beer for me. I pleaded that I had to wake up early but he wanted me to stick around a little longer and enjoy myself. In a way, he’s right; these moments are fleeting so they must be savored to the fullest. With this hospitality, I had no choice but to finish the beer out of respect to him. In the course of two nights, he served over 30 francs worth of drinks to me, all free of charge. Kissing goodbye the night of sleep I had planned, the three of us, Abahz, the Brazilian, and myself, talked further about the beauty of the mountains and the people that inhabited them. I’m not sure if it is because Interlaken has the feel of a village more than an actual city but for the most part, everyone has been really kind and friendly. The Brazilian and I had to work through a bit of a language barrier but we talked about cooking, including him telling me about typical Swiss meals, since he cooks at the hostel/hotel. I finally finished my last beer (as I took that last gulp I wasn’t so sure) and then said goodbye to the Brazilian before giving Abahz another long embrace and many thanks for being the friendly, down to earth person that he is. Tonight, I prayed that the rain would hold off for just a little while so that I could experience canyoning for the first time in the morning.
Day 43: Rain, Rain, Go Away!