Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Interlaken. This is a very well known city in the Alpine Region of Switzerland. It's kind of the gateway to the Alps and sits in between the lakes. The lakes being Brienz and Thun. The in between is the flatland of Interlaken. The views from this city to the surrounding lakes and mountains is unmatched. It is another one of the most scenic places on Earth.
One of the best parts of Interlaken is the convenience. There are trains stopping in this burg every ten minutes or so. There are always a barrage of taxis and carriages at the train station to get the travelers where they're going. It seemed to me that everyone in that city spoke English too, which is great for us Americans. One of the important things for Americans traveling in Europe tends to be areas where people speak English. I don't subscribe to the idea that everyone should be able to speak my language, which is why I speak a few; but a lot of Americans never learn a second or third language and they need that gap bridged. Otherwise the only option that they have for travel is a guided tour. Guided tours are fine, but I like the freedom of independent travel. So, let's review. If you don't speak other languages, traveling to a beautiful area of Switzerland where most people already speak English is a good thing.
One of the amazing things about Interlaken is its variety of experiences. This is a modern city with all the shopping that you could imagine. This is a city with modern transportation and one of the most advanced train systems coming in and out of it. But, it also has turn of the century (19th into 20th century) buildings and horse and carriages on the streets. There are great modern boat tours to take on the lake as well as older sailing boat tours. There are mountain roads for you to drive to the summits in some areas and in others there are centuries old funiculars. It's an amazingly diverse atmosphere with highly contrasting experiences.
In Interlaken you will find everything that you might want to purchase on your trip to Switzerland. You can buy all kinds of modern things at Claire's Boutique or the Swatch Store. But, you can also buy traditional liederhosen. There's a wide variety. You can visit the cleverly camouflaged modern water closet underneath the street, but you can also stay in a grand old hotel. You never run out of options.
One of the things that I loved about Interlaken was the people. It was a place where you needed to go while staying in the Bernese Oberland like we were. The smaller towns don't have all the touristy shopping and restaurants that you find in Interlaken. The people of Interlaken seemed to expect to see all of us that were actually traveling to other places, but did our shopping and such there. They seemed to enjoy listening to our stories of our travels. It probably bored them to tears in reality, but they acted as though they were enthralled. The people that I met in Interlaken were friendly, helpful, and never seemed to take themselves too seriously. They wanted to help. I found that you could book one of the mountain tours of the area, and the lake tours and all kinds of tours from agencies in Interlaken. For an extra 10 ch you could book anything right there in the city and be all set when you arrived on site at your attraction. Very convenient. The Swiss know how to make tourism convenient, and that makes lots of tourists want to visit. The country is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, but you throw in major convenience and it will be a booming tourism industry.
Another thing that you will find in Interlaken is all your American fall backs. There's McDonald's, Best Western, Baskin Robbins and so forth. It's all there if you don't like to try the local things while abroad. I do advocate trying the local fare and hotels while in Switzerland, however. The food was great everywhere I went, and if you like cheese and pork; you will love this country. I also would not have traded my experience with the hotel that we stayed in in Lauterbrunnen. We stayed at the Staubbach Hotel, and it was a fabulous experience. I still keep in touch with friends that I made while I was there. So, do it your way, but try something different. Fall backs are great, but adventure is great too.
To be honest, we only spent a day once and an afternoon another day in Interlaken. What I can say is that it was a great day and a half. There are a lot of day tour type things to do, both on the lakes and in the mountains. The shopping is great from giant flea markets to stores that remind you of Walmart to antiques, to traditional Swiss items, to watches, and beyond. One of the best things that I did in Interlaken was to sit at an outside cafe and eat and watch what went on before me. It was one of the best people watching experiences I ever had. It's a stop on the train or on the road. It's the place where you do your shopping and see some sights. It's that place where you get your supplies or catch your next train. It's full of wonderful people and grand old buildings. If you need a fix of American, you can get that there too. I wouldn't have missed seeing the touristy Interlaken. Would I visit again? I visited twice the last time I was in Switzerland. Of course I would. It's a great place, and if you run into some weather, which is always a possibility in Switzerland; this is your place to see a show or a movie or go on a pub crawl. There are so many reasons to stop off in Interlaken that you should give it a try. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
It's amazing how much time I have spent visiting all of the State Parks and State Forests around the tiny state of Connecticut. I have lived here for 25 years now. I can't believe it's been that long and I don't know where the time has gone. I have lived in the northwest hills of Connecticut for 23 years, and I can't believe that in all that time, I am just hearing about a magnificent place called Topsmead State Forest. The very first time I ever heard of this place was last year. It's right up the road from my house. Amazing.
Topsmead State Forest is the former summer estate of Miss Edith Morton Chase, daughter of Henry Sabin Chase and Alice Morton Chase. Henry Sabin Chase was the first President of Chase Brass and Copper Company in Waterbury. Chase Brass was one of the leaders in the brass industry when Waterbury was the Brass Capital of the world. -CT.gov DEEP.
That means that there is a beautiful old manor house on the 500 acre property. Don't kid yourselves, this place is a State Park, not just a forest. It has manicured lawns and great views from the hilltop. I think that it may have been a funding thing that led to it being labeled a State Forest. Connecticut does have severe budget problems.
At any rate, the place is gorgeous! Unfortunately, the house is not open. There are bathrooms provided on the grounds, and I do believe that the house is available for rental for special occasions. The house itself on a regular basis is just for view from outside. It is lovely however, and the view from the hilltop is well worth it.
There are 500 acres in this park and a lot of that space is devoted to bird watching and open space. They do have one thing that I found very cool. They have a wildlife viewing blind in the middle of one of the vast fields across the dirt road from the manor house. This blind is overlooking the butterfly garden. This is a great place to view butterflies when in season. I only saw one while I was there this time of year, but since it's still pretty early; I'm guessing that later on there will be tons of butterflies for viewing. There's a lot of information right in the blind to teach you what you are looking at and looking for. It's a great place to take the kids to learn about nature.
Topsmead State Forest is a wide open natural wonderland that is a great getaway for those of us who live in town and love to get out and see some nature. It's fields are vast, it's views are amazing, it's wildlife is accessible for viewing, and there are tons of places to take walks and have picnics. If you like to have enough room to play some football while out with the family, then this place is for you. It's free, it's gorgeous and it's close by for those of us who live in the northwestern hills of Connecticut.
It's only one of many things to do outdoors in Litchfield as well. I love to walk at the Lourdes Shrine and hike at White Memorial. Litchfield is one of the richer parts of the state, but also one of the more beautiful parts of the state. It's a great place to spend the weekend if you love the outdoors. So come, see some great estates, hike some fabulous trails, see the twelve stations of the cross in a gorgeous setting, eat some good food and spend some time at a fabulous little state forest called Topsmead in Litchfield, Connecticut. Enjoy!