We checked into our eight bed hostel dorm, which was actually pretty comfortable, and luckily our roommates were friendly. Balmers seemed to be a decent hostel, but definitely had a younger “party” crowd, which made it quite noisy at night.
The next morning we took the local train up the mountain to the village of Grindewald. We walked through the village and then took a gondola further up the mountain to First. We had planned on doing a hike down to a little lake, which should have only been a less than two hour round trip hike on a fairly easy trail. It took us about an hour to get to the lake which was about what we expected. Once we got there, we looked at our map and saw that there was another route that would take us to a different stop on the gondola that was only about half an hour longer of a hike, so we decided to be adventurous and give it a go! So, about four hours into the hike, we realized we had gone down the wrong path, which was a much longer and much more difficult hike than we had planned, but the views we got were amazing! We walked alongside some herds of cows, with their chiming bells. We came across some mountain goats munching on some flowers, and crossed some beautiful little streams on rickety, wooden bridges. About halfway down, we arrived at a beautiful little cafe up in the mountains, which seemed to be the hikers hangout. We shared a sandwich and some water, and then hit the trail again. Once again, we chose the more intense path. Instead of taking the smooth trail that went around the side of the mountain we ended up on a path that basically went straight down the side of the mountain. At the end of the day every inch of our bodies were sore, but we enjoyed a cold beer and felt that we had earned it.
The next day we had planned on going up to Jungfraujoch, but the train tickets had sold out the night before. Instead, we spent the morning doing laundry and getting our bags reorganized. While we were waiting for our laundry we met a really nice guy from Seattle who was traveling by himself. We ended up talking with him for the two hours it took to do laundry. By the time our laundry was done it was lunch time, so we ended up walking to town and having lunch with our new friend. After lunch he was catching a train to his next travel destination. Although it was a short amount of time, it is always nice to meet other travelers that are on a similar yet completely different journey than ourselves.
We spent the rest of the day walking around town, looking in shops, and planning what we were going to do for the next few days.
The events that happened later that night changed my entire outlook on what I thought was a great hostel. We were getting ready for bed, I had just climbed up on my top bunk when I noticed something climbing up the wall directly next to my face…instinct set in…smack…splat! It was the dreaded hostel nightmare…a bed bug!!! I grabbed my flashlight and shined it in the cracks of the paneling on the wall and sure enough there were several more. In disgust I jumped off of the bed and was grateful we had put our bags in lockers that were outside versus having them be infested with bugs in the room. Scott went down to the front desk and explained to them what happened and what we saw. The guy quickly apologized and offered to move us to a private room on a different floor at the other end of the building. He told Scott that they would be removing the beds that we had been in and would be spraying the room to take care of the problem.. Originally we considered leaving the hostel and trying to stay somewhere else, but being the small town that it is, basically every hostel and hotel in Interlaken were booked for the night. When we got to our new room I spent an hour doing a thorough inspection of every inch of the room with my flashlight to ensure there were no bugs that would be feasting on us. I hardly slept all night thinking bugs were crawling on me.
Early the next morning on our way down from our room Scott poked his head in the infested room to see if they had moved the beds out like they had told us they would do. We were in shock to see that there were already two new people sleeping in those beds!!! We asked the girl at the front desk about it when we got downstairs and all she told us was “It's Saturday. We get anyone to come spray for bugs on a Saturday and the beds in the entire hostel are booked.” It is understandable that bed bugs can happen, but it is unbelievable that they didn't do anything about it and would allow two unsuspecting victims to check into a room when they knew there was a problem. It was sickening! We asked for a refund for our last night since we had originally planned on staying one more night, and then we booked a room at the Renaissance in Zurich, where we would be going after our day at Jungfrau. There is a definite point where we draw the line on budget traveling.
After we checked out of the hostel, we hopped on a train up to Jungfraujoch since we hadn't gone the day before. The train ride to the “top of Europe” was extremely pleasant and the views were breathtaking. Once we got all the way up to the top we sat and had lunch to allow ourselves a little time to adjust to the elevation. We went all the way up to the Sphinx viewing platform, which is at 11,716ft above sea level. We wandered through the alpine exhibit and the Eispalast (ice palace), which was formed in the inside of a glacier. After the exhibits, we went out and walked around in the snow and got some great pictures.
We rode the train back down the mountain, which took almost two hours. Once we got back down to Interlaken we grabbed our bags and headed to the train station. We got to Zurich around 6:30 pm, checked into the Renaissance, ordered some room service, and had the best nights sleep we'd had in days. Next stop…Munich!