Yesterday, we had a leisurely morning and a walk around the harbour on Lake Geneva before walking the 300 metres, or so, around to the station to catch our 12:55 Golden Pass Panorama train to Interlaken. We started by following the same route as we took to Mt Pilatus, but then turned left to head over the mountain pass. All of a sudden, we began to climb up a very steep grade, that I guess must have been along a slope of 25 degrees. It took me a few minutes to realise that the locomotive used a cog system and that was how we could climb, and later descend, so steeply. Our two hour trip took us through some beautiful scenery – just like you see on those chocolate boxes -rugged peaks, pretty valley, villages with Swiss houses and long narrow lakes.
We arrived in Interlaken at about 3:00 pm and took a taxi to our hotel. It is the tallest and ugliest concrete building in the town. The Lonely Planet says that the best thing about staying here is that you get a room with a balcony that overlooks Jungfrau and you don’t have to see the hotel as you are looking out of it. However, the rooms are very comfortable and it is in a convenient location in the middle of the town. The station is about a kilometre away and it looks to me as if the old part of the town is near the station as that is where most of the grand old hotels are located.
When we arrived, there was not a cloud in the sky and the mountains were as clear as could be. There were dozens of people para-sailing and we watched them as singles and tandems descending from the peak behind town and landing in the park opposite the hotel. We were hoping that it would stay fine today for our planned trip to Jungfrau. When we woke this morning, the mountain was again clear, but it seemed that that there were more clouds in the sky and there was a risk of the weather changing. We decided to get going early and go straight up the mountain before there was any risk of the weather changing. With our Swiss rail pass, we were able to buy half price tickets (about $105) and so, we set off from Interlaken Ost station on a trip that would take us about 2 1/2 hours. Our trip began on a local train to the little town of Lauterbrunnen – about 20 minutes away. We didn’t dilly-dally there, but changed straight onto the next little cog-wheel train which took us high up the mountain through Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg (45 minutes). By now, we were at 2061 metres (after leaving Interlaken at 570 metres). This is a pretty impressive place, high above the tree line and overshadowed by three famous peaks – Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau – all of which soar about 2000 metres over the town.
From Kleine Scheidegg, our third train took us to the highest station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. this 50 minute ride was mostly in a tunnel and over this time we ascended to 3454 metres. The station at Jungfrau is all carved into the bedrock of the mountain, but tunnels take you to two wonderful vantage points – a lookout near the peak and then the Sphinx weather observatory which can be reached by a lift that raises vertically up an additional 100 metres through the rock.
We had lunch at the cafeteria at the summit and I can assure you that that the quality of the food is exactly inverse to the quality of the view. to avoid starvation, we shared a rather tasteless veal snitzel with reheated frozen vegetables and greasy french fries. I had my mind set on a nice lunch with a glass of wine as we overlooked the glacier, but nothing very nice was available at all. We left on the 2:00 pm train and just as the peaks were starting to cloud over. By the time we got back to Kleine Scheidegg, it was beginning to rain although this didn’t last long at all. We consider ourselves to be very lucky with the weather. We took an alternate route home via Grindelwald. This is a beautiful town. The Lonely Planet guide describes the beauty of this town as making you want to lunge for your camera. I found it hard to stop taking photos as it was a very beautiful place.
From Grindelwald, it was about half an hour back to Interlaken and while the nearby peaks are still clear, Jungfrau is now quite covered in cloud.