On Monday we were supposed to check out of the Florhof hotel at noon and head down to Swiss Alps area, specifically the town of Interlaken.
We had a very nice breakfast at the hotel (another included option among others such as free Internet, etc.). Classic European breakfast with choice of different cold meats, cereals, very tasty bread and other bakery products.
We went to do some final exploring of Zurich since the stores were starting to open in the morning. We did some light shopping on the main shopping street of Zurich (Bahnhofstrasse). In addition, we paid a visit to the Sprungli store that sells the most amazing chocolate creations (according to my wife). She also now regrets that we did not buy half of the store...:)
We've checked out of hotel Florholf (again, what a place, wow!), set our new destination on the TomTom (NAV) and said "good bye" to Zurich.
The road to Interlaken is full of incredible scenery and leads you through many tunnels, which was a nice surprise, as we were expecting some crazy narrow mountain roads with many switchbacks (just like drive to lake Tahoe on the freeway 50). Instead, it was a very nice trip with lots of amazing views of the Alps, mountain lakes, etc.
We arrived to Interlaken in the early afternoon (everything in Switzerland is close enough) only to find out that TomTom navigation is leading us to the town through Interlaken Ost train station, the road to which was blocked by one of those metal blocks sticking out of the ground. We pulled over, and Regina went to Police station right next to the blocked section to find out how we could get to our hotel. When she rang the bell, someone responded that police station is closed until 2 PM. The person did not understand why we could not just go to our hotel.
We figured that it's okay to just drive on the opposite side of the street (only one part was blocked) and proceed to our hotel.
Hotel "Royal St. Georges" looked nice, but larger that other hotels we have stayed at on our trip. They had free parking in the back of the hotel and room was nice enough, but the view out of the windows was simply amazing. We got a corner room (again), so we were able to enjoy views of the Alps from several angles. I could also see the car parked in the back of the hotel from our room :)
After dropping our bags at the hotel, we went to do some exploring of Interlaken. It's essentially a small town that by the looks of it lives specifically to serve an army of Swiss Alps visitors. Many hotels, restaurants, a casino (maybe more than one). Everything you would need to have a great time after (or for some people instead of) having fun on the mountains.
After a quick stroll down the main street, we had a very nice Swiss lunch (very much Swiss, according to the waitress, who spoke variety of languages including German, some English, Polish and Russian) at the restaurant nearby.
We still had some time that afternoon, so based on suggestion of the hotel receptionist, we went to visit one of the local waterfalls - Giessbach (25 - 30 minutes drive from Interlaken).
We were very surprised to find out that the road leading to the very small town (it's not even a town, as the only thing we found there was a nice hotel right on the side of the hill - "Grandhotel Giessbach") was truly the mountain road. It was incredibly narrow and at times would require one to pull to the side to let the opposite traffic pass.
Since we did not know the exact address of the place, we simply set the NAV system to lead us to the center of the Giessbach town, which happens to be the hotel that I've mentioned here. At the hotel the road basically ends with the hotel's parking lot, which happened to be completely full. There was no chance of making a U-turn, so we had to back out for about 300 or so feet up a pretty steep hill. I was about to give up the entire adventure and go back to Interlaken... :)
Good thing we did not give up, as the Giessbach waterfall turned out to be amazing! The water is falling from incredible height, which makes the whole experience of walking around this waterfall unbelievable. The visual and sound effects are very intense.
The "Grandhotel Giessbach" is strategically located near the lake on the hill, so rooms have incredible views of the lake and the Alps. At the same time, the hotel is very close to the waterfall, so some rooms have unbelievable views of the waterfall as well as the lake and the mountains. I think everyone in the hotel has to hear the water falling! We checked out the price list, and even though it was not a cheap place, it was not crazy expensive either.
It started to rain a bit, so we headed back to the car (we parked a good 5 - 7 minute hike away). BTW They have some very nice mountain hikes close to the waterfall with breathtaking views of the lake and Alps.
We headed back to Interlaken and finished our first day in Interlaken with a nice Swiss Rosti dinner at the restaurant DesAlpes ( http://www.desalpes-interlaken.ch/templates/home/index.cfm)