Jungfrau Mountain - Top Of Europe
After looking around Interlaken (on the first day of my trip), the next day, I planned on going to Jungfrau mountain, which is one of the best things to look at when you visit Swiitzerland. Jungfraujoch (Jungfrau Mountain Peak) is advertised/commercialised as 'Top Of Europe' in Switzerland, although it aint the highest mountain in Europe. Maybe because it is the highest mountain in Europe that can be reached easily (through the Swiss Cog Railways). Infact, the highest mountain in Europe is Mt.Elbrus, which is located in Russia. It is part of Ural mountains, which are considered to be the border between Europe and Asia.
'Jungfrau' is a German/Deutsch word, which when tranlated into English means 'Virgin'. I dont know the story behind the naming of the mountain, but I reckon the trip to Jungfrau as one of the best train-trips that I did so far. On that day, I went to the Interlaken 'Tourist Info' office at the train station and waited for my turn to get the ticket to Jungfrau-Joch. I was wondering whether I could make that trip or not, just because the weather wasnt that great and there was a prediction of a snow storm, for that day. Anyways, I waited a bit and asked for the booking and other information. They said that its open and there are no problems for me to make that trip happen. So, I got the ticket for a whopping 110 Yoyo's (Euros) for such a short distance. It might be short distance, but the train climbs high, up the mountains (in harsh conditions) and also passes through a tunnel, which is built inside a mountain, at a high altitude. Also, a lot of hard work has been done by those folks who built/laid the line at such high altitudes. Considering all these factors and the ease at which we reach the top of the mountain, the ticket is totally worth it. Also, Jungfrau-Joch station is the highest train station in Europe, at around 4000 mts.
I started off sometime in the noon from Interlaken station and the itinerary is as follows:
Interlaken --> Lauterbrunnen (Change The Train) --> Kleine Scheidegg (Change The Train) --> Jungfrau-Joch.
Looking at the itinerary, it looks like a long journey, but its not, as the distance from Interlaken to Jungfrau is something around 25/30 kms. The 'Changing the trains' part is probably because of different railway lines (because of the change in terrain and altitude) that serve the routes along the way to Jungfrau. Also, you can say that it works in steps of journeys as explained below:
1) From Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen: The terrain from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen aint so hard. So, a normal, local train serves this route.
2) From Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg: The terrain in between is a bit hard to build a railway line. So, a different kind of railway line is used to run trains in between these locations.
3) From Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfrau-joch: This is the hardest one. So, a cog railway is built between these 2 locations. It also passed through a tunnel, which is built inside of a mountain.
Here are some pics that I took along the way, from Interlaken to Jungfrau:
After a couple of minutes, the train reached 'Lauterbrunnen' (a small village), where I'd to change the train. A lot of backpackers or people who want to ski around Jungfrau location, stay at this place. Also, there's a 300 mts high waterfall around this place, called 'Staubach Waterfalls'. I got out of the train and waited for a couple of minutes and got into the train the goes to Kleine Scheidegg. This route is very scenic and as the train climbs up the mountains, you get to see panoramic views of the landscape filled up totally with snow and little villages, which look like they are tucked away in the middle of nowhere. It was very cold as it was winter and everything was filled up with snow, but it was cosy enough inside the train. Here's a video that I shot when the train left Lauterbrunnen, to Wengen and then Kleine Scheidegg (You can also see the waterfall from the train):
As the train climbed up, heading towards the next stop - Wengen (which is at a much higher altitude than Lauterbrunnen), I could see Lauterbrunnen and Staubach waterfall, from that point. Here's a pic:
And some more pics between Lauterbrunnen and Wengen:
After travelling a bit, we reached 'Wengen', which is also a small village like Lauterbrunnen, and a good place to stay for people who want to ski around the Jungfrau location. Here are some pics from that place:
The train had a stop at this place and after a couple of minutes left for Kleine Scheidegg. As we passed by, I could see the people skiing/snowboarding around that location. Here are some pics:
After travelling a bit, I could see the view of Wengen from some altitude (in the same way as I saw Lauterbrunnen). Here's a pic of Wengen, from that point:
So far, I guess, we have climbed around 2000/2500 mts above sea level. After a couple of minutes, we were almost there at the Kleine Scheidegg station. This is the station, where I had to make a train-change to head towards 'Top Of Europe' (Jungfrau). Around this place, is a major skiing point and so, you can see a lot of people skiing/snowboarding around this place. Here's a video that I shot as we reached Kleine Scheidegg:
Also, I could see the change in weather from that point. It became more windy (looked like a storm in the offing). Also, I could see the people who were skiing around, getting ready to leave that place, as the weather was getting worse. Here are some pics from that place:
After the train reached Kleine Scheidegg, I had to wait for the next connection, to head towards highest train station in Europe (Top Of Europe - Jungfraujoch). The train was a bit delayed as the climatic conditions were not so favourable. I couldnt stay in the open, as it was very cold. Also it was kind of stormy weather and all the snow was blowing towards me. I went inside the small building in that station, where a lot of people were already there to cope up from the cold. We stayed for sometime, inside that building and then those folks announced that we can get on the train. We then started off, towards Jungfraujoch. From this point, I could hardly see through the glass window as everything was white, with all the snow blowing towards and making the windows moist. Even if the windows werent moist, we couldnt see much as it was all white, everywhere (because of the snow storm). Here's a video that I shot:
And here are some pics:
At some point (or intermittently), it looked like the weather was getting better. At these moments, I'd glorious or panoramic views of the landscape and the surrounding nature. Here are some pics (In one pic, you can see the Lauterbrunnen and other villages. You can expect how high this train climbed up):
From this point, the train enters a tunnel (which is built inside the rocky part of Eiger mountain). So, you cant see much from this point til you reach Jungfrau. But here are some spectacular pics that I shot before entering the tunnel:
After travelling for a couple of minutes (inside the tunnel), we reached the highest point (highest train station in Europe - Top Of Europe - Jungfraujoch). Here's a pic from that end point (inside the tunnel):
At the 'Top Of Europe', there's a enclosed structure/building, in which there are some shops (souvenir shops), a couple of restaurants, Ice Palace, et al things. Its cosy and comfy enough for a visitor to look around that place, even if the weather conditions are worse (Only that you cant stay in the open-space for long time). In summer time, you can sit in open space and have a great view of the 'Aletsch Glacier', which is said to be the longest and most fascinating river of ice, in the Alps. Also, the first UNESCO world Natural Heritage Site is around this glacier. You can also hike through the high-altitude UNESCO hiking trail or use any of the guided tours or walk around the peaceful Aletsch forest.
Unfortuanately, I couldnt do all these things as it was Winter, when I was there. But anyways, it was exciting enough because of all the snow storm and other things. Indeed, I couldnt see anything outside the enclosed structure/building at 'Top Of Europe'. Here are some pics from which you can make out by yourself:
I roamed all around that place (inside the building) and looked around different things at that place. Also, I sent some Jungfrau post-cards (which I picked up from the souvenir shop) to my folks at home. Later I looked at the 'Ice Palace', which is one touristy thingy created around that place. Here's a video that I shot:
And here are some pics:
After that 'Ice Palace' thing, I walked around these small tunnels inside that place, which looked spooky enough when there were no people around. I walked all around that place and then climbed up to the next floor and looked around for any restaurants, but none were open, apart from a small shop where they were selling some eatables. In winter (specially when there if forecast for a snow-storm), you can see less people around that place, even if trains are comfortable enough to climb up. As I climbed upstairs, I could notice that I was getting a bit tired, because of thin air at high altitudes. There was a door around this place, through which you can go out in the open space and have a feel of its surroundings. When I was there, it was a bit scary to go outside as the winds were blowing hard enough, was very cold and you couldnt see much because of the snow-storm. Just have a look at the video below (in which I try to open the door and you can hear the roaring sound made by the wind - enough to scare the shit outta anyone) and you will get to know how hard it was at that time:
And here's a pic of that open space:
After opening that door, I was a bit skeptical as to go out or not - all by myself. I used a step-by-step, creepy approach like Tom does in 'Tom And Jerry'..haha..and went almost til the end, but couldnt stay for more than 5 minutes in that chilling cold. Also, I felt like I could be blown away by the wind. After staying there for a couple of minutes, I went in again and climbed up to the next floor, where there is a door, which leads to the peak of that mountain - Jungfraujoch. Here are some pics of the peak, from inside that building:
I didnt dare to venture outside, as the conditions were harsh enough and I wasnt equipped enough to do that. ;-) Also, I was always afraid that this wind could uproot me and blow me away to the Aletsch Glacier..haha. But anyways, I shot a short video of a bunch of guys, who went out and touched the peak point and came back immediately. Here I go:
After that, time was up and I'd to go back and get on the train, back to Interlaken. The weather wasnt getting better, but we were safe enough in the train back to Interlaken. Here's a pic that I shot at Kleine Scheidegg, back on the way to Interlaken: