Back to the Land of Cows and Chocolate
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 15, 2010.
I decided to return to Gimmelwald to see the place where I skied in January. I stayed in Gimmelwald for four or five nights, which is a longer stay than most at this hostel. Most kids coming through would stay only about two nights. This allowed me to witness two rotations of guests during my stay, meeting and learning the stories of many fellow students with diverse backgrounds and interesting experiences to share. I prefer to stay under the radar as far as my last name is concerned when I travel. In a place like Gimmelwald, Switzerland, as in the Cinque Terre though, it is almost impossible to escape the all-consuming shadow of Rick Steves. I like to go out and meet people and have them meet me for who I am and not the son of someone else.
Each night, immediately after dinner, the local kids would come and quite literally tug us out of our seats to go play soccer in the small courtyard of the school house. If you made an errant kick in this particular school yard, you had to run to catch up to the ball before it rolled down to the valley hundreds of yards below. Each night, there was a new crowd of hostelers and the same group of youngsters with them often being better than their international opponents.
On my last day, I organized a bike ride with a local kid who worked at the hostel. For years of visits to Gimmelwald, the opposite side of the valley had tempted me to explore it. That was my goal. So we met down in Lauterbrunnen, where I checked my bags into a locker in the train station and rented a bike and off we went. It was great as we took the tram up to Wengen where we rode up to Kleine Scheidigg and then all the way back down again. We said our goodbyes then I met up with Ben Cameron, a fellow tour guide and someone from my hometown for dinner. After dinner, I went to catch the last train back into Interlaken, but when I arrived, I realized the luggage storage was closed by that time, leaving me in my muddy athletic shorts and running jacket for the evening and night with a loaf of bread, a camera, an Ipod, and a bit of cash just in time to watch the last train ease out of the station. I ended up finding a bed in the Valley Hostel. I asked for a beer as I checked in and they said, “This is a quiet hostel.” Remember how I had a fun hostel in Istanbul? Well this is one of the ones where nobody talks to each other. In fact, it felt more like a morgue than anything else. The multitudes of unsmiling Asian passport pictures around the reception set the tone. In the dining room, you heard only the sound of forks hitting plates. A Korean couple stared at each other while slurping their noodles without saying a word, an American uploaded pictures, and another read an old Rick Steves guidebook. Silent. I went to the bathroom to wash my face, and when I opened the door to leave, I encountered an Asian girl trying to get in. She saw me, made a sound like a mouse squeak, and scampered off. It was terrible, and I couldn’t sleep because I don’t trust technology (my clock), and needed to make sure I got up early in the morning to catch my train out of Interlaken. I left the hostel at 6:30 a.m. hoping never to see it again.
I went to Rome with a few of my friends. Before we got there, our tour guide, Rhianne, sent us plenty of information regarding how to arrive at the hostel, and what our Itinerary would be like. She also made it a point to meet up with people the night before if their flight got in early so students would have something to do. Having a tour guide that lived in the city was amazing. It made me not have to stress about getting lost, and provided many opportunities to eat at the best restaurants, and, most importantly, the best Gelato places. By the end of the tour, I was good friends with each of the 14 members of the tour group, including our tour guide. I definitely recommend taking a tour through WSA because the guides make you feel like they actually care about each person on the trip. I knew that I could just relax, and enjoy my trip.Kyle Cook, Lebanon Valley College ~ Kingston University, London, Fall 2015
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