Discovering Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
Our first stop in Switzerland was a village called Lauterbrunnen nestled at the bottom of a valley between the two largest mountains in the Swiss Alps. On the left side is Jungfraujoch. On the right side is Schilthorn. Actually to call it a “valley” is misleading. I don’t know what geological event caused it, but the two shadowing mountains rise straight up to dizzying heights. It is as if the valley has been cleaved with a mighty axe blow. Base jumpers come from all over to pursue their sport at Lauterbrunnen.
To get to the Top of Europe is quite simple – it is a two hour train ride. The engineering involved to make this a simple train ride is quite remarkable and worth the journey just to appreciate it. Which might be all that you get from your train journey as being at over 11,000 feet the summit spends lot of time in the clouds, even in summer. And don’t try to predict what you might or might not see at the top, because clouds move quickly and a white out can become dazzling sunshine in minutes.
The train journey is broken with a change of trains at Kleine Scheidegg. Our original plans included getting off at Wengen, catching a cableway to Mannlichen and hiking (4km) to Kleine Scheidegg. Sadly, time was against us and so we stayed with the train the whole way.
There are a couple of 5 minute stops on the way up to the summit and passengers are invited to get off and walk a few metres to viewing windows. This is a nice touch. On our ascent, the first stop was in a cloud but the second way stop offered bright sunshine.
Be sure to bring a coat and scarf. It might be in the high 20s at Lauterbrunnen but it will be close to zero at the top!
Our visit to Jungfraujoch was just hours after arriving in Switzerland from Australia. The combination of hunger (we missed lunch after a very early breakfast) and exhaustion from 30 hours of travelling combined with us not being used to the altitude (3454 metres) left us feeling a bit funny. As a result we limited our visit to a late restaurant lunch with an amazing view before heading back down. However, there is a range of attractions to enjoy at Jungfraujoch – with no extra charge.