The 1.5-hour boat cruise of Lake Brienz is extremely worth it

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Mildly funny vocabulary mixup: I was telling my French teacher that I rode a gâteau in Interlaken, and she looked confused. That’s when I realized I should have said bateau — boat. Gâteau, on the other hand, means cake.

The best part is that I didn’t even have to pay the 35 francs for it! They have a policy allowing passengers to ride free on their birthday — and in first class, too. I was thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity.

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The voucher. “Geburtstagskind” means “birthday kid” in German.

The train ride from Geneva to Interlaken Ost is just under 3 hours, with a quick transfer in Bern. I did the same trip with my dad last year, and it was weird and a little sad being back here by myself. It’s hard not to notice how empty the village is without tourists. The last time we were here, it was literally 50% Chinese tourists. And now… crickets. The boat tour was mostly me and a bunch of nice Swiss retirees.

This was the boat tour I took. It basically functions the same way as those hop-on hop-off buses in big cities do, but runs much less frequently. The two main stations are the docks at Interlaken Ost and Brienz, located at opposite ends of the lake, but there are also smaller stops in between like Iseltwald. In all, a roundtrip journey takes about 1.5 hours.

My train arrived at 12:57pm — just enough time to catch the 1:07pm boat. I think the next one wasn’t until 3pm, so I was lucky since I didn’t bother to check the boat schedule before booking my train journey a month ago. The dock is right next to the station, with arrows and illustrations of boats leading the way, so you can’t miss it. First class was on the top deck, and second class was on the bottom.

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Waiting to take off at Interlaken Ost.
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The brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Brienz are truly remarkable. No filters, no photoshop. Nature is incredible.

At this point I popped into the cabin to eat lunch. It was pretty expensive and the food was middle-of-the-road, but since I had already gotten the cruise for free, I was happy to contribute in this way.

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It was pretty chill being in the cabin because a) you get to charge your phone and b) it’s a nice break from sitting under the blazing sun outside; I had to drape my jacket over my lap because my black jeans were heating UP. But then I heard the captain announce “Iseltwald” and realized I’d almost missed the opportunity to take a picture of the boat dock.

Some background: the dock at Iseltwald is a big part of Crash Landing on You, a popular Korean drama that came out earlier this year. It’s a forbidden love story between a North Korean military officer and a South Korean businesswoman who gets blown across the border in a freak tornado accident. (Yeah, I know.) I enjoyed the drama, but my mom is a true stan. I promised her I’d get some pictures.

Still from the show.
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And in real life.
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One of the stops was Giessbach Falls. There is a gorgeous hotel next to it that I’ve been seeing in Instagram ads.
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Different angle taken on the way back.
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And here was the dock in Brienz, the other end of the lake.
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Approaching Iseltwald…

On the way back, I got off at Iseltwald to take some more pictures of the dock. Clearly I wasn’t the only person who had seen that K-drama!

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From there I took bus 103 back to Interlaken Ost.

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The bus stop.

It was about a 20-minute drive and the bus only came once an hour. Some of the paths were surprisingly narrow and the driver had to maneuver the turns super carefully; otherwise we might have fallen into the lake!

Expenses

Roundtrip train tickets between Geneva and Interlaken Ost: CHF 38 (I got a really good advance ‘super saver’ fare for first class seats)

Boat tour: free but normally 35

Lunch on the boat: 28

Bus fare from Iseltwald to Interlaken Ost: 3

Snacks bought at train station: 10

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