I could see France, Germany and Italy from the observation terrace perched above a 14-mile long sea of ice in the Alps. Did I climb there? No it’s easy with the Swiss Jungfrau Railway.
If you love mountains and train travel, there’s no place where it’s more reliable, clean and spectacular than in Switzerland. From the moment you arrive at the airport, you can hop aboard a train that run as smoothly as a Swiss watch. I had an ideal vantage point of the high mountains, thanks to gondolas, cogwheel trains and the historic Jungfrau Railway.
A few weeks ago I was whisked into the high Alpine world of the snowy summits, thundering waterfalls and sapphire-blue lakes. The highest railway station of Europe is the Jungfraujoch – towering at 11,333 feet (3,454 meters).
At the end of the track, I explored an “Ice Palace” with bluish tunnels and intricate animal sculptures of ice. There was a window in the tunnel and several Swiss teens stripped to the waist for photos. Tough guys in an ice tunnel!
Up an elevator up to the observation “Sphinx” building, at 11,760′ I stood officially on the roof of Alps. Standing next to a gentleman in a wheel chair, I realized that we were enjoying views of glaciers and mountains that only hard-core climbers were privileged to see before.
It was all so easy!
All the cliches you’ve head about Switzerland are real and visible.
The 7.5 mile train trip begins in Interlocken and meanders through Alpine meadows with hamlets of traditional wooden chalets set in flower-filled meadows with fat grazing cows. The snowy summits of the regal trio of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau surrounded us. We snacked on Swiss cheese, freshly-baked bread and dreamy chocolate.
What an engineering feat! One of Switzerland’s most impressive achievement in railway construction.
After the car-free village of Wengen, perched on a sunny plateau, the train moves up the deeply cut glacial valley and the ascent becomes steeper. The train chugs up the mountain through tunnels blasted into rock of the Eiger massif. Space is tight between the train and the solid walls, making it a thrilling ride. We made a short stop at a cavern-like observation hall, inside the mountain, with huge panoramic windows. Inside the mountain, as we climbed higher and higher the temperature dipped, so I bundled up in a fleece jacket. I stood at the windows looking out in silence, mesmerized by the dizzying views of close-up ice towers, vertical walls with rock climbing pitons chiseled into them, and the famous north face of the Eiger.
Building the Eiffel Tower and the Jungfrau Railway occurred at the same time: 1889.
The construction of the Jungfrau Railroad is unique in railway history. A Zurich textile industrialist, Adolf Guyer-Zeller (1839-1899) was the driving force behind the it. It’s hard to imagine a 54-year-old business man proposing the construction of a railroad to the top of the Swiss Alps?
After 16 years of construction, it was opened in 1912. Let’s Celebrate.
Next year, 2012 will be filled with centennial celebrations of the Jungfrau Railway.
Anniversary Deal for the Train Pass.
From May 2012 to October 2012 the Jungfraubahnen offers the “Jungfrau Centenary Pass” which offers a 35 % discount compared to individual normal train fares. For CHF 225.00 full fare (CHF 170.00 with Swiss Pass, Swiss Card or Halbtax Abo of the Swiss Railways). You can travel three successive days on the whole network of the Jungfrau Railways and ride the train to the top of Europe once.
UNESCO World Heritage of the Swiss Alps. The Aletsch Glacier, 14-miles long, is the longest ice stream in the Alps, and yes, it’s melting too. It is surrounded by the peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. The scale of this massive glacial stream is hard to grasp. Snow and ice flows as far as the eye can see.
For more information: www.MySwitzerland.com