Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken

Eight Reasons why you NEED to visit Interlaken

Many travelers tend to stay put in the major metropolitan cities of Western Europe, which do indeed offer many breathtaking sites. Yet if you step outside of those major cities you will often be greeted with charming towns. Just a short two hour train ride outside of the major cities of Switzerland lies just one of those places, called Interlaken. Interlaken is a namesake town in Switzerland and for good reason, with the best part being that it hasn’t become over crowded with the buzzword term we call ‘over tourism’.

Here are EIGHT reasons

why you need to visit Interlaken:

(1) The Adventure

Interlaken is one a world favorite adventure capital! Many visitors flock here for extreme sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, canyoning and more! With a mix of mighty Swiss Alps, low lying lakes and everything in between, it’s no wonder this area sees it’s fair share of adventure seekers and dare devils.

(2) The Hiking

Interlaken’s centrally located setting between the Swiss Alps and lakes makes it a perfect setting for beautiful hikes. We loved how the hikes ranged in length and difficulty so that anyone visiting Interlaken would feel comfortable getting outside and hiking.

(3) The Natural Beauty

There is a reason the Swiss Alps are internationally known. The natural and pristine beauty that accompanies the reputation of the Alps will leave anyone speechless. And Interlaken has a wonderful combination of lakes and mountains, with idyllic swiss homes nestled in between.

(4) To feel on top of the world

We’ve been mentioning seeing the Swiss Alps in Interlaken, now imagine being able to go up to the top of them and see below. There are cogwheel trains that take visitors to the top of the Swiss Alps, such as Jungfrau and Neiderhorn. And once at the top you’ll feel as if you’re on top of the world looking down on the valleys and surrounding mountains.

(5) The Castles & Legends

There are a handful of beautiful castles near Interlaken. Few can compare to the breathtaking Oberhofen Castle curled up on the coast of Lake Thun, except for maybe the Thun Castle, which is settled high up in the town of Thun, Switzerland. Both are filled with lots of history and beautiful views. There is also the legendary St. Beatus caves in between these two castles. Visitors can visit inside the caves where legend tells of a saint defeating a dragon who once inhabited the area.

(6) The Central Location

The convenient location of Interlaken is stellar for those who want the convenience of being near a city without the hustle and bustle. Interlaken and its surrounding lakes are close to the country’s capital, Bern, only a two hour train ride from international hub, Zurich and the up and coming city of Basel. You would be hard pressed not to find time to visit Interlaken if you are staying in one of these nearby cities.

(7) Perfect for Day Trips

While Interlaken is conveniently close to the major cities listed above, it is also great for exploring even further into Swiss country. There are hotels, AirBnbs and more in the surrounding areas of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Thun.

(8) It’s self contradicting

Interlaken’s activities are known for having variety and contrast – casual hikes along Lake Thun to skydiving thousands of feet above. Yet, it’s landscape is also vastly unique from one end to the next. With bright turquoise water lakes to white snow-capped mountains, and vibrant green forests in between. And of course it’s colorful small towns with picturesque Swiss chalet homes and storefronts.

People from all over the world flock to the Interlaken area to soak in its beautiful scenery and marvel at all of the possibilities for outdoor adventure. If you’re considering a trip to this area of Switzerland check out this ultimate guide to Interlaken.

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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Japanese Culture

Japanese Culture

Easy to remember & good to know information about Japanese Culture if you are visiting for the first time (or need a refresher!)

Japanese culture is known around the world as a fascinating, unique and deeply historic culture. Tokyo, Japan’s capital city is where tradition meets innovation. You can be standing next to a thousand year old temple with a modern day skyscraper in front of you.  With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, Japanese culture and traditions are being highlighted for the world to see. Yet, it was only a few hundred years ago that the country was isolated from the rest of the world.  This allowed the famous culture in Japan to become such a fascinating lifestyle to learn about and experience.

I have only spent a few days in Tokyo, Japan (it was also my first time in Asia) and continue to cherish the beautiful and serene lifestyle. If you are visiting Tokyo, Japan, here are things to know about Tokyo culture to help you feel at home and be prepared for your travels there:

[Traveling to Tokyo for the first time?  Check out my First Timers Guide to Tokyo, Japan]

Basics of Japanese Culture

Japanese Food Culture

1) Japanese food is created with pride and excitement

The Japanese take great pride and excitement in the food they prepare, with many things being made with the craftsmanship that modern day ‘hipsters’ seemingly adore (however, if we’re being honest, the Western view of local & craftsmanship has shifted away from the typically adored mass production of food in the last few years- maybe the Japanese are onto something…)

    2) The Japanese diet consists mainly of rice, fresh seafood and pickled vegetables

    This healthy diet is considered to be one of the reasons the Japanese live such long lives.

    3) Japanese food is so much more than sushi

    Sushi has become a Westernized speciality for celebratory nights out or a self indulgent treat. It is also the food that Japan has become most well known for. However, Japanese diets go beyond sushi.  While fresh seafood is a huge part of their typical diet, vegetarians (like myself) can find plenty of tofu, buckwheat noodles and seasonal vegetables to enjoy.

    4) Chopsticks are the equivalent to a fork and knife.

    And just like we have etiquette with utensils in the United States, there is etiquette for using chopsticks.

    Never point with your chopsticks

    Don’t place your chopsticks in a bowl of rice or pass food around with them

      5) Soy sauce should be used lightly

      Japanese cook with pride & dousing your rice in soy sauce translates to the chef and restaurant owner that you were served poorly made food

      6) No need to tip

      The Japanese are extremely kind (more on this below) and will provide excellent service regardless, so there is no cultural norm to tip. In fact, most will try to awkwardly give you back your tip if you leave one

      7) Don’t pour your own drinks

      Your host/ess or friend should make sure your glass is always full, and you should do the same for them- Kanpai! (cheers)

      8) Vending machines are everywhere and are filled with unique beverages

      Drinks on the go is a lifestyle here, however the use of plastic doesn’t make this a sustainable tactic

      9) Speaking of drinks, tea is the drink of choice in Japan

      Most restaurants will supply you with hot green tea, just like you would receive a glass of water in western culture. And there are many delicious teas to try besides green tea.

      Japanese People & Mannerisms

      10) Japanese people are very friendly and kind. They will notice if you are a visitor and are helpful if you become lost or confused. You will be in awe with how polite, well mannered and quiet the Japanese are

      Some say that this mentality stems from the strong history of the samurai (discipline, respect honor), which transcended through time to modern society

      11) PDA is a no-no

      It’s improper to show public displays of affection

      12) Instead of pointing with your finger, show with your hand, palm facing up

      13) Greet with a bow

      A bow is the equivalent to a handshake. You don’t need to bow to everyone who bows to you (otherwise you would bow to every restaurant employee you come across and spend your entire day bent over), you can instead do a polite head nod. However, many Japanese are becoming accustomed to shaking hands

      Bows are silent ways of saying thank you, greeting or saying farewell and for apologizing

        Overall Japanese Culture

        14) Public spaces are quite quiet. You won’t see many loud or rambunctious Japanese in public spaces, however the nightlife can be a completely different story

        15) Overall, the city of Tokyo is very safe.

        We never felt uncomfortable or that there were pickpockets

        16) Try not to stare

        I’m not sure if it’s the sales person in me, but I found myself giving direct eye contact to way too many people when visiting Japan. I noticed I was doing it because they do not do the same. I came to find out that this a cultural norm.  Which can be quite convenient since Tokyo is…

          17) The maps for public transportation can be quite confusing to a visitor.  Don’t let it frighten you, because if you look lost someone will most likely stop to help you.  At one point during our trip, a gentleman stopped on his way to work to help walk us outside of the metro station and take us to the correct station (did I mention the Japanese are some of the kindest people?)

          Great piece of advice: don’t just stop inside of a train station if you are lost or confused. Move to the side, out of the way, as there are so many people filtering through them

          I put together an awesome guide for how to use Tokyo’s Public Transportation, check it out here!

            18) The city of Tokyo is spotlessly clean

            There aren’t many public trash cans, yet the streets are all immaculate (I once saw a man shining a fire hydrant… that’s cleanliness level that Monica Gellar would be proud of). This means that the cities cleanliness is partly self maintained by its people. Respect the country and its people by not littering.

              Interesting Cultural facts about Japan

              19) There’s a difference between a shrine and temple

              A shrine is for the Shinto religion, whereas a temple is for the Buddhist religion.  You can tell the difference upon your entrance as a shrine will have water for those entering to wash their hands and mouth in order to cleanse the soul before entering, and a temple will most likely require shoes to be removed prior to entering.

              20) You will see evidence of the country’s religious heritage everywhere you look.  The Japanese are very proud of it, although for each person religion is typically a private affair

              21) In fact, many Japanese gardens are based on Buddhism, but the two religions mutually exist together

                Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                As with any country there are different cultural segments among the people – for Japan it would be Shinto, Buddhism, Ryukyukan and Ainu – yet the overall sense of respect and honor transcend throughout its entirety. Japan is a country where traditions that go back for thousands of years are respected, and fast paced evolution with fashion trends, architecture and technology are sought after simultaneously. There is debate among which stands to support Japan moving forward – the traditions or advancements – but that’s a discussion for another time, maybe one we can have during or after the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

                  [If you’re planning a trip to Japan, then don’t miss this Weekend Itinerary for Tokyo, Japan.  No trip to Japan is complete without experiencing this incredible city]

                  Things Japan is known for:

                  -sushi

                  -geishas

                  -samurais

                  -iekbana (flower arranging)

                  -origami

                  -kabuki (theatre)

                  -sumo wrestling

                  -anime

                  -tea ceremonies

                  -capsule hotels

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                    Visiting the Belize Zoo

                    Visiting the Belize Zoo

                    Why it’s worth a visit (even if you don’t like zoo’s)

                    The Belize Zoo is a safe haven for orphaned, injured, or misused animals local to Belize.  I’m not a fan of zoos or animal encounters, as so many contain animals in unnatural habitats, living in cement cages, who were ripped from their parents and paid for for human enjoyment.  So, I make sure to do research prior to contributing any funds towards something that could potentially endanger or threaten the quality of life for an animal. With this being said, the Belize Zoo is a gem of a place for the creatures it houses.

                            The Belize Zoo started as a simple ‘backyard zoo’ to help house and protect animals that were used on film sets in the 1980’s.  Today it protects animals only natural to Belize’s land in open enclosures (some of which the animals could very easily leave if they wanted to).  It serves as a resource to the country as prior to the zoo existing many did not know of the species native to their country.

                            These native animals living at this zoo have come in naturally; meaning they weren’t paid for to complete a set of animals a guest might want to see.  As I stated earlier, this place began on the premise that film set animals needed a refuge after being used for ‘work’ (another post for another time).  Currently many of the animals are rescues of wildfires, hunting accidents/orphaned young, or injured due to loss of habitat.

                    How unique & precious are tapirs?!

                    They are very difficult to see in the world and are Belize’s national animal.  To me, they look like a cross between an ant eater and a hippo.

                            While still hesitant to visit any zoo, no matter it’s rescue efforts as a cage is a cage to a wild animal, I really enjoyed how the areas that held the animals were much larger than what I’ve seen at any zoo in the United States (with the exception of the San Diego Safari Park).

                    There were also signs throughout the park educating guests not to pluck any plants, the need for these animals to remain wild and why these animals ended up at the Belize Zoo. And the staff here are caretakers, not just assigned trash pick up or queue directors.

                            If you find yourself in beautiful Belize and are able to, try to make time to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Belize Zoo with a visit.  See for yourself and compare to others zoos that you have visited- if you’ve been there, what did you think? Would you agree with how they have built this place?

                    Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                    End Note regarding the Belize Zoo:

                    I do not endorse any zoo or animal encounters of any kind.  I truly believe that animals should be kept in their natural habitat if possible.

                    Unfortunately, much of Belize land has been changing (tourism increases and buildings) that if an animal’s home is burned or destroyed their last option may be a zoo similar to Belize’s.

                    Please keep in mind that we are all entitled to our own opinions- if you disagree with mine or the words used in this post feel free to share, but in a respectful and kind manner.

                    *there is an option to pay to feed one of the jaguars;  I’ll admit I had considered doing this (as jaguars are my favorite big cat) however we connected with someone who used to work at the zoo while on another tour and he told us that he didn’t agree with the direction these encounters were going — as you can now have the jaguar perform tricks (?!) While these animals are well protected and cared for, this type of ‘entertainment’ should not be an option.  Pay to visit the zoo, but don’t fall for the trap of this kind of animal encounter.

                    If you’re planning a trip to Belize, check out my other blog posts on the most beautiful places to visit & the best things to do in Belize

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