Friday, September 29, 2017
Western Europe: Switzerland - Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
I was indecisive between going up to Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn. As I was staying in Gimmelwald, it would make more sense to go up Schilthorn given the geographical logic as well as monetary reason.
It will take me less than 30 minutes on a single cable car ride to get there from Gimmelwald whereas getting to Jungfraujoch takes about 2 hours.
Getting to Jungfraujoch from Gimmelwald involves the commute of
Gimmelwald - Stechelberg (cable car)
Stechelberg - Lauterbrunnen (bus)
Lauterbrunnen - Kleine Scheidegg (train)
Kleine Scheidegg - Jungfraujoch (train)
As for the cost, I would get a 50% discount to get to Schilthorn (ooh, just googled and it looks like it could be free from 2018 with a Swiss Travel Pass, i.e. included in the Swiss Travel Pass price) but smaller discount to get to Jungfraujoch. I have no doubt Schilthorn would be amazing but the brain, or rather my brain isn't that logical all the time. Despite all that I chose to Jungfraujoch with a single reason that it would be a long time till I set my foot to Switzerland again (it is still too expensive!) so if I can only choose one, I'll close both eyes and pay for Jungfraujoch. I even paid extra to return via Grindelwald.
I set out in the morning and in my rush to not miss the cable car even though it was literally just outside the door from the hostel, I left my camera. I took out my camera to stuff in a scarf and a beanie thinking it could be cold and ended up leaving the camera out. I realised when I wanted to take some shots from the cable car (yes, even when I take the same route every day from Gimmelwald down to Stechelberg) and no camera in the bag. I could of course remain in the cable car and head back to retrieve it but it meant I would probably end up an hour later. I had my phone with me and the camera on my phone wasn't bad especially during day time so I decided not to go back for it. If I was still using my ancient iPhone4, it would probably be a different story. So all photos were taken using my s7 on that day.
View from both side of the windows were amazing but some said it is slightly better on the right side when you travel from Interlaken to Kleine Scheidegg via Lauterbrunnen. Of course in my case, the train ride was just from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg. Trains towards Jungfraujoch was probably the most crowded compared to the other rides I took, I guess it is unavoidable as it is probably one of the most visited destination in Switzerland.
The train stopped briefly at Kleine Scheidegg and for about 5 minutes at Eismeer. Eismeer station sits at 3,160 metres above sea level. I didn't go down thinking that I would do that on my way down but the train didn't stop at this station on the way down, so do remember to get off the train to have a look.
Jungfrau region is presided over by glacier-encrusted monoliths Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The other biggest reason why anyone goes up to Schilthorn was because of the spectacuar panorama of Swiss Skyline - Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Well, if you are up on Jungfrau, then you can't see Jungfrau on the skyline, right? ;)
Jungfraujoch is sitting at 3,454 metres and is the highest station in Europe. At Jungfraujoch station, there are "tour" signboards to lead you from one checkpoint to another. At the station hall, there is also a place where you can stamp your "Jungfrau Railways Passport" which was given together with the train ticket.
At the fourth "checkpoint", which is the Sphinx View Point one can see the overall view with signs indicating which peak you are looking at.
The next stop was my favourite, stop #5 - Aletsch Glacier (Snow Fun - Top of Europe). At this stop you can go out and walk to Mönchsjoch Hut instead of standing at a viewpoint.
There was flying fox thingy activity here if it is of any interest but I ended up taking a lot of photos from here. Don't forget to pack sunglasses and slapped sun block on yourself. It was glaringly bright. It wasn't hot and I didn't need my beanie or scarf that I packed which caused me to missed my camera. Pfft. I also forgot my sunblock but thank goodness for my boots and sunglasses! I didn't walk the whole way but maybe just 1/3 of it. It took a while to walk on the snow. In fact after the walk I felt much warmer compared to before.
One could also see the longest and most voluminous glacier in the European Alps, Aletschgletscher (Aletsch Glacier). It runs 23 km long and stretches from Jungfrau in the Bernese Oberland to a plateau above the Rhône.
At the last stop, there were some shops and one of them is Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven, which essentially is chocolate shop. Look at the chocolate sauce in the bowls, (especially the milk chocolate sauce), they looked so real but they are not! I didn't buy any chocolates here but the train conductor gave a free chocolate piece after checking the ticket on train.
I took the train to Grindelwald and got off at Grindelwald. The plan was to spend some time there but I didn't end up walking too far away. Then I had some unfortunate encounters with trains. Haha. Swiss train are generally efficient and on time but for some reason the train on scheduled to depart from Grindelwald was postponed due to technical error. No big deal as it wasn't too long of a delay... and Grindelwald is pretty as a picture.
All was well and I got on a train out of Grindelwald. I bumped into Mia who I met earlier on Jungfraujoch where she asked if I could help her take some photos. We chatted and she was heading back to Lauterbrunnen so we got off at Zweilütschinen for a change of train. The next train we got on was exceptionally warm but it was summer after all. Then came unfortunate train event #2, the train stopped. An announcement came up mentioned of some technical issue. A Swiss girl sitting across from us started talking to us. She has been taking the train since young as her grandmother lives in Grindelwald and that she is on her way to visit her. She said that she has never had any issues with the train.
Ahem. That was unfortunate train event #3. She was on the way to visit her grandmother who lives in Grindelwald and we were supposed to head to Lauterbrunnen away from Grindelwald. After sitting in the hot train for about 30 minutes with a lot of people running back and forth the train, the train started moving and brought us back to Grindelwald. Hahaha.
Mia and I got off the train in Grindelwald and got on another one. This one brought us to Zweilütschinen and this round we confirmed and reconfirmed the change of train did bring us to Lauterbrunnen. We parted ways and I continued onwards to Gimmelwald. I probably ended up spending an additional 2 hours to get back to Gimmelwald. I was going to go for a walk but it started raining soon after I got back. At least I wasn't caught in rain. Little win. :)
Side note: Do you know that the name Jungfrau comes from the former convent in Interlaken and its alp beneath the Jungfrau mountain?