The Top of Europe: Jungfraujoch
Claiming to be “the top of Europe” (but actually just the highest railway station), Jungfraujoch is a journey well worth your time. Located close to Interlaken, Switzerland, I took the earliest train from Interlaken Ost (taking the earliest train gives passengers a discount of about 25 francs) and spent the morning wandering around this beautiful mountainside. Clear skies are essential for your visit, so check the weather before you arrive. Local news stations broadcast pictures from the top of Jungfraujoch frequently, so you can get an idea of what the weather is like.
|Me with ice sculptures, note the socks on my hands|
I dressed warmly, used my inhaler before arriving (asthmatics, carry your inhalers, and everyone should try to breathe through a scarf if possible to warm the air before you inhale it), and was struck by the beauty. There was a limited amount of things to do – and the lodge was quite touristy, but just walking around on snow-covered paths close to large mountains was plenty of entertainment for me. The lodge sells overpriced food and drink (try to bring your own if you can), and expensive souvenirs, but the photos I took will remind me more of my journey than any commercially-produced photograph would.
At the top, I was immediately struck by how cold it was-below zero degrees Celsius. I was wearing a cap, short-sleeved shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a ¾ length shirt, a cardigan, a skirt, a pair of pants, and tights. I also wore a pair of socks on my feet, and another pair on my hands. I had heard horror stories about the temperature, and I was prepared. Actually, outdoors wasn’t the problem – standing outside in the sun was warmer than walking around in the Ice Palace or through the tunnels blasted in the mountains.
|So close I could walk to this|
Next, I went to the infamous Ice Palace. These human-made caves are covered in ice – the floors, the walls, and the ceilings. There are ice sculptures, and lovely lights that illuminate the walls and hallways. It is especially cold in these caverns, as you slip around the floors.
All guests can use snow disks for free – a small deposit is required to borrow the disk. You slide down a hill, and scream like a child. The second time I hit my head against the ground, and flipped over as I fell down the hill, covering myself in snow. I returned my disk after that time, and went on a hike.
I was sad to leave here, and glad I went. If you can, budget the extra francs to see one of the most beautiful places in the world. The train ride alone produces ample photo opportunities, so keep your camera handy. This will be one place I definitely want to come back to.
From Interlaken, 2 ½ hours each way (Sfr 169 round trip; cheaper good morning ticket of 145 Sfr if you take the early train of 635 a.m. and leave by lunchtime). An additional discount exists for Eurail holders (25% off) so show your pass. Trains transfer in Grindewald, and other towns, and you can get off the train and walk around, and hop back on the train later that day. Clear skies are essential (or you are basically looking at fog, not majestic mountains) so check 033 8551022 for taped forecasts, this website, or watch the weather update from the top of Jungfraujoch (broadcast on local TV stations).