Heading up to Jungfraujoch - The Top of Europe
Aug 12, 2015
|Wednesday, August 12th.
We lucked out with this campground. It was an 8 minute walk downhill to the train station and free bus passes for the trip back, which was uphill.
In chatting to the owners at reception we found out that it is family owned and run. The campground was started by her grandparents and they will be celebrating its 60th anniversary next summer.
People that she played with are returning with their children and grandchildren.
Because everyone who worked at the desk had grown up playing, hiking, skiing, fishing and living on different parts of the mountains , they knew them intimately. As a result we found their advice sound and very helpful.
For example, we were told to never buy a pass up-hill until you had checked the weather forecast for that day or days to come. She checked the weather for us and informed us that the next three days were going to be sunny and hot. The best deal for us was the 3-day pass so we set out to the Top of Europe.
Quickly we walked down to the train station and waved good bye to the train we had missed by a minute.
It was only a 20 minute wait until the next one so we spent the time at the little tourist office trying to figure out why the trip to the top was going to take so long and viewing The Jungfrau standing at the end of the valley at 4,158 (app.X 3 for feet for all you Americans) meters above us. It was a spectacular view.
In no time the train had arrived. The train headed up the valley with us hanging out the window snapping pictures as fast as our fingers would allow. At the Lauterbrunnen Station we all had to de-board and transfer trains. As we approached the track where we needed to catch the train it was obvious there had been an accident. It seems one of the supply wagons had jumped the cog. As in everyplace else in the world there was one worker and 10 supervisors (I counted). A cheer went up from the crowd as the engineer dragged the wagon along the track with the engine, then a collective sigh! Whatever they had done (oh, should have said, he did) it hadn’t worked.
The only remaining track had to carry both uphill and downhill traffic, so it was a bit of a wait until our train was clear to take us up hill. The “work” crew kept us entertained in the interim.
The scenery we saw on the second leg of this trip was breath-taking. There were waterfalls springing out of the hanging glaciers, snow covered jagged peaks reaching into the sky, sheer drops below the train tracks it seemed, I couldn’t see the bottom, and forest clad hills with cascading rivers, truly an awesome journey.
Out next changeover stop was Kleine Scheidegg, at 2,361 m.
Following the signs directing us to Jungfraujoch, we went down under the tracks and a road up an elevator then escalator to the tracks to pick up the next train.
It was a very busy station and train. We had to climb over strollers and luggage left in the aisles to get to a seat. Our car was full of Muslim women and uncontrolled children excited to see snow, perhaps for the first time. The men were nowhere to be seen. In chatting to the women, they came to the mountains to escape the 54 C degree heat. No kidding. I wondered if there was a store room in Dubai (where they were from) that had snow gear for the children and men to rent while in this cold country. Who knew what the women had under their robes? They spent considerable time re-wrapping their head coverings and checking their make-up.
The last stop before heading into the mountain was at Eigergletscher at 2320. There were many trailheads here and hikers de-boarded to enjoy the rigours of hiking in this beautiful terrain.
There were two more stops inside the mountain with apparently cut-outs in the mountain-side where you could snap a hundred more pictures. Bill and I decided it wasn’t worth losing our seats over and we would see it all from the top anyway. These stops were at 2865m and 3160m respectively. (Remember app. X3)
Next stop was Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe at 3454m. The station was inside the mountain and with not a clue as to where to go except to follow everyone else, we backed against the wall to get our bearings. This was also for self-preservation, the way people were running about and yelling one would think the mountain was going to erupt. We couldn’t figure out what all the haste was about and in short order most of the masses had disappeared and we walked sanely across the tracks and followed the now visible signs to Jungfrau.
We knew to follow the tour signs as they would lead us to all the sights. After traveling up two different escalators we entered a very bright room with floor to ceiling windows letting the brilliant sun shine in and PEOPLE. We escaped quickly to the outdoor viewing areas to look at the spectacular landscape surrounding us. I can’t begin to describe the beauty before us.
This was a WOW moment!! These high-altitude Alps were majestic but would be bleak, cold and merciless in bad weather. The views were just sensational
The Aletsch Glacier the longest in Europe stretched into infinity before us, surrounded by snow and glacier clad mountain peaks. The people below us playing on the Glacier looked like insects they were so far below us. Apparently there is a 250 meter long zip line ride. We thought we could see it. People were traveling down this playground made of ice on skis, snowboards, and snow tubes. We were so far away we couldn’t tell if they were having fun or not. There were too many very deep crevices in that Glacier that I could see quite clearly at my altitude for me to be out there comfortably.
We walked all around the building just drinking in the view. Inside we found the, “Ice Palace”. Created in the 1930’s, it has to be constantly cut, because of the warmth generated by thousands of visitors and kept at a cool -3 C. Crystal like sculptures such as eagles, penguins and bears adorned the niches cut into the walls. Thank goodness there was a metal hand rail along the side of the ice wall. It was quite slippery and for people never having experienced walking on ice, quite a challenge.
Up here they also bragged about having the highest post office in the world. I had to take the opportunity to send a few postcards with the Passport stamp – Top of Europe on them.
The trip down was as exciting and exhilarating as the trip up was. By the time we had walked up to our campground we were ready for the sack after a quick dinner.
The history of this mountainous area is quite interesting;
Planning the lift to Jungfrau summit;
Swiss industrial magnate Adolf Guyer-Zeller had an audacious idea while on a hike. The “railway king” wanted to blast a tunnel through the rock of Eiger and Monch and construct a cogwheel railway to the Jungfrau summit. Local people recognize the touristic potential and supported his plan.
Construction began July 27, 1896 with around 1000 Italian labourers making 4.60 francs per day. The Kleine Scheidegg- Eigergletscher section was opened September 19, 1898 and blasting work began in the tunnel. Adolf died of pneumonia but his descendants carried on his work.
July 28, 1905 the Eismeer station was opened but work was suspended due to financial problems.
February 21, 1912 was the date of the breakthrough to the final station on the Junfrau and on August 1st of that year the highest-altitude railroad in Europe is opened at 3,454 m after a 16 year construction period. Constructions costs amount to 16 million francs, twice as much as originally estimated.
Amazing to me that they were able to accomplish this without today’s technology.