The ever peaceful nation of Switzerland with its smiling people and captivating locale has the magical spell to enthral visitors. The very name entices people to see it in their dreams. I too had a wish to visit this wonderland someday and get smitten by its charm. The country is a founding member of many International Organisation but a part of none. It has not been into any war since two hundred years. A clear hint of it peace loving and welcoming residents. So, to experience it all I set foot in Switzerland through Zurich but got introduced to it through Interlaken.
The very first picture of Switzerland that most Indian paints in their imagination are the scenes from Bollywood movies. And later comes the other mode of information like the travel shows and other sources available on the internet. Since childhood, these pictures makes an everlasting impression.
And I had my own. As we deboarded the swiss rail to step into the city of Interlaken, two elderly gentlemen walking by the platform cheerfully welcomed us. We were surprised by this warm gesture in a foreign land. As said the morning shows the day. The beginning destined our trip to be ever memorable and amicable.
The transport system here, for sure is supposed to spoil us. Hassle free and fast we reached from Zurich airport to Interlaken by swiss rail. Thanks to the linking, connectivity and the easily available information. After collecting our luggage from the airport the rail station was just a few storey down. The trains run on time. We had to change the train at Bern. And finally, we are at Interlaken.
The train journey through the picturesque surrounding was amazing. Many co-passengers gave us a welcome smile. While others were excited seeing our excitement. We moved on through the green slopes with beautiful houses with slanting roofs. The haystack piled up and timbers gathered enough to last this winter, all neatly laid in front of the houses.
The scattered houses with straight roads running through the woods and connecting the villages. The scene itself acts as a glue to stick yourself by the large glass windows. This is when comes the famous Swiss tunnels, one after the other. Soon my ears entered the cycle of getting clogged and unclogged. The tunnels were huge. At times seemed unending even though the high speed train sometimes ran with the highest speed of 230 kph.
With my mouth gaped open I swallowed the moments. It was hard to believe to be true. The best was yet to come. It is still the European winter. So the overcast sky with frequent showers was common. I was much concerned about roaming around if the rain gods showered its wrath (or blessing whatever is applicable based on the situation).
The first sight of Interlaken had me spellbound. Emerging out of the platform, the small town with broad clean roads, a bridge on a long narrow waterbody and beautiful buildings invited us with arms open wide as if to embrace us. I entered a state of hypnotism. I was soaking in the beauty of the surrounding.
Then the surprises arrived one after the other. Straight across the road, there was a Bollywood Restaurant, which provided all Indian as well as Chinese food. Then walking the streets to reach our hotel we encountered many strangers giving us a welcome smile and greeting us ‘Hello’. Never in my lifetime did I receive such welcome from strangers.
The road to our hotel pleased me even more. Again a broad road with spaced out buildings and beautiful architecture and tiny gardens on either side. It was just the way I imagined Switzerland to be. At once I started humming a line from a favourite old melody – “Hain tum bilkul waisi ho, jaisa maine socha tha” (Yes, you are just like what I thought of).
Things were turning out as a fairy tale. I was wondering and wondering how this dreamy world was gradually unveiling itself. While on an afternoon stroll we spotted children riding horses. The young horses were very attractive with trimmed, hairy legs and shiny, muscular body. We followed them. But before I could manage a decent click it disappeared at a certain turn.
We did not give up. We followed the horse dropping trail, but soon it vanished too. You must be thinking what a failed attempt. No! No effort goes in vain. We were now in a beautiful locality, with wonderful houses and the snowy mountains in the backdrop. A common sight was the model of swiss cow made in front of most of the stores, villas and hotels. The sky was gloomy the day we arrived with frequent showers and biting cold. But this day was bright with a beautiful sky, although the chill remained the same.
I always wanted to visit European countryside. I never thought that it would happen to me in this way. Aimlessly loitering around the streets, meeting and greeting many people, some on their regular exercise of jogging while others with their dogs for a leisurely walk. All were so gentle and warm. The strangers at once became friends. Such strong is the power of a smile.
Little to realise we came a long way to reach the other side of the canal, which then turns to enter some other village. There was a bridge too. Crossing over the bridge we were now moving towards the rail station by the side of the canal. Here we came across many bird species. Some Mute Swans, Mallard, Mew Gulls and so on. One of our favourite activity in every trip is birdwatching and it was fulfilled too.
Reaching the other side of the railway crossing, we were on the commercial part of the town. Here we have stores selling the famous Swiss Chocolates, souvenirs, winter garments, Swiss military knives and its famous watches and the Cuckoo clocks. Ah! The chocolates, so tempting. Being a chocolate lover it was tough to refrain from such sinful indulgence.
With a bag full of stock and mouth full of the velvety delight we moved on. There was the Casino Kursaal, an old beautiful and sophisticated building within a green surrounding. I took a walk through the woods. The sights, sound and smell of the environment reminded me of the childhood stories. I felt that it was just a picture taken out from one of those. Then we came across a bronze statue of a man with his large movie camera. Ignorant me did not recognise the man in the statute.
Later my friend informed that it was the statue of the famous Bollywood director Yash Chopra. Switzerland was one of his favourite shooting destination. So to honour his work his statue has been erected in this place. People are much informed about Bollywood and its stars, here. We stopped for a warm cup of hot chocolate and we encountered a photo of the famous Bollywood star, Ranveer Singh along with the lady of the shop.
It strangely felt good to see known people in these unknown land. Known people? No, no, I don’t know Ranveer Singh personally. It is just the feeling to see a fellow Indian. Indians and Chinese are among the top visitors in this country. Thanks to the Bollywood movies, the Indian tourist flock to this place to locate the spot of their favourite scenes from their favourite movies.
The streets were full of Chinese tourists and a few Indians, including us. What an example of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai. The spring and the summer see the maximum number of tourist that too mostly from these two nations. Gathering all these information we retired to a restaurant beside the Bollywood restaurant. Here we befriended Juma, the employee working here for last four years. He is from the war-ridden country of Syria.
His smiling and welcoming gesture made us visit the restaurant for every meal for the days we had been in Interlaken. We heard the stories of his hardship of life. His father stays in Iraq and his wife in Saudi Arabia. All his family lives scattered in different nations leading the life of an immigrant. He wishes is to visit Mumbai. He amicably asked to sponsor his beverage on his visit to India. 🙂 He plans to move to some other nation the next year after visiting his father and his wife. As a gesture of goodwill, he used to offer us tea and coffee free of cost.
Everything here went like a fairy tale. Too dreamy to be real. The people, the place, the weather, the transport, the chocolates and everything is ready to captivate all your senses. You will always wish to visit here again and again. As every trip imparts a real life lesson. This was no exception. Interlaken taught me to smile, much more than I used too. And now I do not hesitate to smile to strangers. Yes, a smile is infectious and a disease good enough to get infected.