The Alpine Journey ~ Shalini P. Sawkar

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A freshwater stream flowing by the side of the railway track, a wooden bridge straight out of a fairy tale, lush green meadows around you with plump cows grazing on them, snow-clad mountains looming in the distance, a puff of cold air brushes against your cheeks, and a scent of wet grass tickles your olfactory senses. Where are you? That’s right, you’re in Switzerland! 

With its untouched natural environment, Switzerland offers a wide variety of sports to bring out the adventurer in you. And even if you’re not enthusiastic about hiking or skiing, you don’t want to miss out on the spectacular views atop the Swiss Alps. 

Stay: in Interlaken or Lucerne 

Interlaken is a traditional Swiss village and a tourist hot spot. It is centrally located in the Bernese Oberland region, overlooking the Aare River. A laid back town with sights of old timber houses, and parks; it is close to Mount Jungfraujoch. 

Downtown Interlaken 

Lucerne or Luzern is a town close to Mount Titlis, and Mount Pilatus. 

Jungfraujoch, the top of Europe:

Activities: Outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and hiking the glacial pass to Mönchsjochhütte: a serviced hut in the mountains. 

Indoor activities include Alpine Sensation, Ice Palace, Lindt Chocolate house, and the Observatory Deck. 

A glacial pass between Mount Jungfrau and Mönch mountains of the Swiss Alps, Jungfraujoch, is also known as the top of Europe for its highest railway station in Europe at a height of 3,454meters. Eismeer Station, a five-minute stop on the Jungfrau express, offers panoramic views of four thousand meter peaks from different vantage points.  

View of the Alps atop Jungfrajoch, the top of Europe 

A close-up of Mount Jungfrau

You can begin exploring Jungfraujoch with the historical tour inside the Sphinx Observatory known as Alpine Sensation. A 200-meter long corridor displays images of the miners who helped build the railway station on the mountain. 

Alpine Sensation: Historical Tour of Jungfraujoch

Discover the treasures of the Ice Palace, as your feet glide across the frozen corridors, where sculptures of eagles, bears and penguins made purely of ice greet you. If that is not all, there is also an ice tunnel that you can explore in this frozen cave. The sculptures are maintained at a temperature of minus three degrees Celsius; yet, they are subject to melting and are occasionally replaced. 

Eagle sculptures in the Ice Palace

Go up the Observatory Deck to get the best views, and walk on the snow outside, build a snowman. You can also post a postcard from the topmost post office, shop for souvenirs, and chocolates. 

Best Routes: 

There are two ways to reach the mountains and Jungfraujoch from Interlaken: one route is via Lauterbrunnen valley, and the other through Grindelwald. 

You can take the local train from Interlaken Ost Station to Kleine Scheidegg via Lauterbrunnen, and from there you can board the Jungfrau Express, which is a cogwheel train that is built to operate on vertical inclines and climbs to the top of the mountain. 

On your way back from the mountains, you can take the other route from Kleine Scheidegg to Interlaken, via Grindelwald. Temperature atop the mountains usually range from 0 degrees to minus 5 degrees Celsius. But some days it can be warmer. There are also chances of sudden snowfall, rain or storm. Check the weather before you go.  

Travel time is about 2.5 hours, each way, therefore a total of 5 hours. Tip: Keep an entire day free for the Jungfrau tour. 

Map of the two routes to Jungfraujoch, via Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald

Picture Source Credits: ASIC 2017 http://www.cogs.indiana.edu/asic/2017/activities.shtml

Best Time to Visit: 

Although, January and February are the coldest months, skiing is best from mid-January to mid-March. Watch out for snow and rain. If you wish to travel in the off-season you can go in May. There’s snow on the Alps throughout the year.