The “Scenic Route” to the Swiss Alps

by Ella Galaty

I spent the past semester studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam, where I took a hodgepodge of exciting classes and explored the vibrant, dynamic city via my bright red bike!

On one of my long weekends in September, four other students and I planned an exciting hiking trip to the Swiss Alps – we booked our flights, found a hostel, got ahead on assignments, mapped out our hikes, and packed ourselves up. Despite our thoughtful planning (and double, triple, and quadruple checking up on our bookings), our plans still managed to get derailed (don’t they always?). We got an email from EasyJet two days before our departure, kindly letting us know that our flight had been canceled!! As five excitable adventurers, we were unable to allow this hiccup to derail our long-anticipated plans.

Instead, we spontaneously booked a car and drove ~8 hours across five countries to reach the fabled mountain range we had all been craving to explore for so long. (I could write a whole post about this car ride – running out of gas in the middle of Germany at 1 am, buying and eating hot dogs at multiple different gas stations, car karaoke, and getting to know these almost strangers who now I consider some of my closest friends – but the point of this is post is to discuss my outdoor adventures so I will save that for another time!!)

Arriving at the Swiss Alps via car will likely always be one of the most magical and unique moments of my life. Both sides of our car were riddled with fields full of cows, small huts with roofs growing grass, low clouds hanging in the air, and the biggest mountains I have ever seen. Our excitement was boundless. We arrived at our 20-person hostel, introduced ourselves to our bunkmates, dropped off our stuff, and immediately took the gondola up the mountain that sprung out of our hostel’s “backyard.”

On our first full day, we went on a day trip into Oeschinen, a beautiful hike in Kandersteg that takes you under waterfalls, over creeks, and out to a breathtaking view of a bright blue alpine lake. We stopped for lunch overlooking the water and enjoyed the summer sausage, cucumbers, hummus, trail mix, and kombucha that we had packed in our camelbacks. We laughed and bonded and took pictures, but mostly we ooo-ed and ahh-ed at the wonder right in front of us. After a long day of hiking, we descended the mountain and took a dip in the freezing cold water and made friends with the other brave swimmers around us.

The next day, we woke up to rain and clouds and were encouraged to change our hiking plans to err on the side of caution. With access to a car, we were able to drive ~1 hour North to Interlaken. We confidently walked into the tourist office and the helpful guide sent us to Staubbach Falls, which happened to be one of the most famous waterfalls in the whole country.

We walked a while through the base of a massive canyon, ogling at over 11 waterfalls on either side of us. For lunch, we got cheese and sausage out of a refrigerated vending machine that supplied fresh goodies from the owner of the attached farm. The sun came out just in time for us to watch the sunset on one of the lakes in Interlaken, and prompted enough courage to spontaneously jump into another freezing body of water (because really, when would I be in the Swiss alps with amazing friends, at sunset after a rainy day, again?)

On our drive back to Amsterdam, we stopped and got a snack in each country – France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium – and reminisced on the unique experience we shared together. I was filled with gratitude as I sat squished in the middle seat for eight more hours, thinking about how I had just made four new friends, laughed until I cried more times than I could count, checked off a major bucket list item, and road tripped through Europe (??). Although we weren’t able to complete one of the hikes we planned, and although our flight was canceled, my adventure buddies and I had the most amazing three days together that quite literally bonded us for life.


About the Author:

Name: Ella Galaty

Major: Design, Business + Environmental Studies Minor

Grad year: 2024

Hometown: Denver, CO

Favorite outdoor activity: hiking!

Favorite camp food: Quaker maple and brown sugar oatmeal

Ideal outdoor trip destination: Cane Bayou

What she would bring to a desert island: a hammock