Yesterday we decided that we could no longer wait to be weathered out to do some sight seeing in Switzerland so we planned a trip to Lauderbrunnen. Each morning that we fly, Jon and the guys attend a 9 am pilots briefing, they come home for a nice breakfast and then we go to the field and inflate about 11:30 am. Here, we decide to go sightseeing and we are up at 5 am and on the road by 6:30 am…our normal Colorado ballooning schedule…the crew was confused. We traveled 2 hrs. by car through Interlaken and Lake Thun to Lauterbrunen and took the train up into the Alps to Kleine Scheidegg (you can see the change in the names - we are now in the German part of Switzerland) where we had a late breakfast and changed trains. There are four stops along the way to get off the train and ski or sled down he mountain some with mountain villages that are right out of Heidi.
We took a train up 13 miles through the interior of the Jungfrau to the Top of Europe…the highest train station in the world at 11,333 ft. There were two stops and observation points where we could look out at the face of the Eiger. These became escape routes when climbers were in danger on the Eiger (if you have seen the movie Eiger Sanction you know what I mean). The construction of the Jungfrau Railway began over a hundred years ago with 300 men and lasted for 16 years. It is incredible how they cut these tunnels out of sheer rock by hand.
The Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger are breathtaking to say the least. The Eismeer glacier (means sea of ice) sits snugly between this beautiful panorama. You can walk through the "Ice Palace" where a tunnel has been dug out of solid ice with beautiful ice sculptures lining the halls. You exit onto the Top of Europe. We have posted a photo of the Team at the Top with the Swiss flag. When you stand at the top, you truly do feel like you are top of the world...it was a clear day above the clouds and you can see forever! There is summer skiing from April to August and dog sled trips. What a place! There is a high altitude research and weather station called the Sphinx at 11,760 ft. This is where the past meets the future!
We returned in time for the Night Glow which is a favorite of people from miles around. Since we had not been chosen to glow, Steve and Jeff crewed for the Rooster and headed up the mountain to assist their team. The glow was comprised of 24 balloons, ski divers with lots of flares on their feet, fire works and music from James Bond movies piped so loud from the town square that you could hear it for miles. It was spectacular and very impressive. There was a town celebration in the square with lots of booths, food, spiced wine and a live band for dancing in the streets.