Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 10: Jungfraujoch

Today we will be scaling the heights of Europe – Jungfraujoch, the high mountain in Europe at 3,571 meters above sea level. To get here, we had to wake up super early at 4.30 to catch the first train. A clear sky was predicted. Return tickets to Jungfrau cost 140 Swiss Francs. From Interlaken we made our way to Interlaken Ost from where we took the train to Lauterbrunnen. The train journey was out of this world. It’s really amazing when you think how man build rail tracks on routes like these. Some were so narrow ans almost looked impossible to maneuver.

Getting to Jungfraujoch, is a long journey. You got to change trains three times. From Lauterbrunnen we had to take the train cart, it’s smaller than a train and runs on tracks which have grips, to Kleine Scheidegg. At all these locations we had to get off the train and step outdoors, so that we get used to the rise in altitude. Kleine Scheidegg is a pretty little station and we stopped to do some sightseeing. There’s nothing much to see but amazing valleys and lots of snow. With temperatures at 0 degrees, we then had to board the gauge rack railways to Jungfraujoch. Our 9km ride to the top was breath-taking, with the ice palace all the while glinting in the sun.

Soon we are on the top of Europe. Whooo hoo. Here you find a series of tunnels leading to various buildings. We just followed the signs and made our way to different places. First we landed at the ice sculptures where you can find intricate works. Man was it cold here. Despite four layers of clothings I was still feeling cold. Then we walked up out into the open snow. Wow. Really wow. And the scene from here, f%$*ing mindblowing. I threw a couple of snow balls at Tan, who just made a face at me. And soon we realized we were sinking in the snow. Plus we were wearing walking shoes, so totally not equipped for walking in the snow (mental note to self, next time come prepared with hiking boots).
We walk back to the comfort of the building where we pass by restaurants, a small cinema and an observatory and research station. Here it was freaky. Called the Sphinx Terrace, this structure has a landing that’s suspended into the air. Under you, you can see a sheer drop and snow and more snow. I for sure had my tummy in a knot.

We have a quick look around and scamper back to the safety of the landing. Oh it was freezing all the while. -4 degrees, we soon came to know. However the cold did not stop us. We decided to try some adventure sports. Once again out in the snow and the sun shining, we walked into blinding light. The scene was so white, that you need to have your sunglasses on to deter the light. What we can see is miles and miles of sun.
There were a couple of options in adventure sports. We decided to try the Tyroline. A small hike to a mount and soon we were off screaming our guts out like banshees. Tan went first and I followed. Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh. And then I landed in snow. The experience was super wow but it ended so soon.

We sat out on the deck observing the scene. After basking in the sun for almost half an hour, we decide it’s time to head back. The return journey takes you through another route. Jungfraujoch - Kleine Scheidegg – Grindelwald. I was amazed by the countryside. Everything is so picture perfect. From rows of coniferous trees to a lone cow grazing in the pastures to hillside filled with wild flowers and houses with beautiful gardens, Switzerland is one breath-taking country. I wish I could own a home, here right in the middle of nowhere. From Grindelwald we had to change trains again to Interlaken Ost. And a 5 minute ride lands us back in Interlaken.

Suddenly we realize we have not had lunch. It’s about four in the evening and we decide to walk about the town. Deciding to have a budget meal, choose Mc Donald’s. Bad choice, the food was horrendous, and they make you play for ketchup. That’s it! From now on its food bought at local supermarkets and hot dogs, except for the one time where we treat ourselves to the local cuisine.

We decide not to go to Lucerne and chill out in our room. Later in the evening, we grab hot dogs and sit by the river trail eating our dinner. A small walk in the area leaves us wondering if we are the only two souls in this town. All in all it was a wonderful day.

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