Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Skydiving in Interlaken

I had signed on for Interlaken, Switzerland for my last weekend trip ready to participate in some extreme sports. What I didn't know was that I would be jumping out of a helicopter 14,000 feet in the air within an hour of being there.

For an entire week before leaving I had been wrestling with the idea of skydiving. I had about a hundred different people in my head influencing my decision. I received opinions from every end of the spectrum: my Florence friends said to do it, my mom said no way, my dad said no but he probably would do it, and many people reiterated how dangerous it was. It was not until the train-ride into Switzerland and seeing the breathtaking scenery when I decided for myself that if I was ever going to skydive in my life, it would be over the Swiss Alps.

Upon checking into our unique hostel, the Funny Farm, the clerk pointed us in the direction of the adventures booking desk. Hearing that the rest of the weekend had a chance of rain, Bill, Tim, Liz, Molly, Megan and I immediately checked out what excursions were available for that day. To our luck, there was a skydiving slot open in 30 minutes, giving us only enough time to throw our bags in our room and catch the bus to the Skydive Interlaken site.

Immediately after getting off of the bus, we had to go through certain precautions before the real fun could start. This involved learning the proper skydiving positions (back arched, arms out), filling out paperwork signing away our lives, pairing up into groups of two (to which I was with Liz, my partner in crime) and suiting up into a bright orange jumpsuit that made me look like a convict. After a little more time waiting around and taking numerous pre-death pictures, it was time for Liz and I embark on the greatest thrill of our lives.

Standing outside the helicopter, we were boiling over with excitement and nerves to the point where we were jumping around like two children on a sugar high. The two of us chest bumped and then climbed into the helicopter next to our respective divers who strapped themselves to our backs to assist us in our free-fall.

I was attached to a New Zealander named Andrew who undoubtedly thrived on the sport based on the permanent grin attached to his face. As the helicopter slowly rose off of the ground he asked me if I remembered his name. To this I responded, “yes, Andrew, I am not going to forget the name of the person solely in charge of my life.” To this, he chuckled and before I knew it we were way above ground.

Looking down at the view, my excitement endured a drastic change. A nervous excitement had no longer energized me. The experience had finally hit me, and the beauty that surrounded me shot chills throughout my body. One of my pant legs had been slightly pulled up to where cool wind was uncomfortably hitting my bare skin, but no distraction could take my attention away from the scenery.

The Alps were magnificent chiseled gray rocks with white peaks surrounded by white fluffy clouds. The rolling mountains of forest green presented a contrast to the vibrant, kelly green pastures. Also visible were the crystal clear waters of the two lakes that encompass Interlaken. Never before had I seen so many vivid colors of nature all put together in one single scene.

Before I knew it, Andrew informed me that it was time to jump. All the anticipation had built up to this moment and I could not wait to be immersed into this scene without the restrictions of the helicopter walls. I quickly scooted over to the ledge and we dropped so suddenly that I barely had time to catch my breath.

My heart immediately dropped while adrenaline along with a cool wind chill overtook my body. I blanked and completely forgotten everything the instructors’ had told us before diving. Luckily, my body automatically flailed to an arch and we were soaring through the sky. After the initial shock of falling, my fear was gone. Due to the fact that the atmosphere looked so surreal, it didn’t seem as if I were plummeting to my death. Before I knew it, the parachute opened slightly whipping us up and I was suddenly calmed with relief.

On the way down to land, I was able to relax and enjoy the scene even more while feeling the Switzerland breeze against my face. We hit the ground in a surprisingly smooth fashion and it felt good to be back on land.

After detaching myself from Andrew, I ran to embrace Liz. We both had the same “jumpy” excitement as before, only this time we were on a high knowing that we had just shared the same amazing experience.

Skydiving in the first hour of being there was the best welcome that Interlaken could have possibly given me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Upon arriving to Rome, I knew that the one thing I wanted to see was the Vatican. I heard from several sources that getting in required waiting in an endless line of tourists. Prepared for hours of waiting, Liz Caskey and I woke up earlier than college students ever should, and made our way to Vatican City. We soon realized that this so called “long line” was just and myth and really only took twenty minutes. Now having the whole day ahead of us, Liz and I ended up getting more out of Rome in one day than we had anticipated.

The columns aligning St. Peter’s Square left the two of us in awe. Saint Peter’s Basilica stood at the front of the square as the clear focal point of the structure.

Liz and I had to capture our excitement in front of a fountain of the square before entering the Basilica.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, light shining through gave the church a majestic feel. The large interior filled with colors and detail gave us a lot to look at.

We then made our way around the corner to the Museum for some more Vatican fun.

The Vatican Museum displayed all different types of art, ranging from tapestries to maps. The building contained long thin hallways with radiant, beautiful ceilings.

The Spanish Steps are a great place to sit down and enjoy the scenery. However, Liz and I decided to walk up the entire structure and burn off our lunch.

Finally we made it to a significant symbol of the Roman Empire, The Colosseum.

The age of the Colosseum was even more apparent from the inside. Learning about all of the gruesome stories of gladiator fights, it was hard to believe we were where they actually took place.

Shops and lights follow the Tiber River, making Rome just as beautiful at night.

After meeting some friends for an Italian dinner, gelato was only a necessity for Ann, Liz, and I.

We ended the night at the Trevi Fountain to enjoy its beauty and converse with other tourists. While throwing a coin into the water, I could only wish that the remainder of my time in Rome would live up to this day.