2021 Europe: Day 9 – Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe

I slept a nice 6.5 hours which is my norm, up a little before 6am. I finished the blog over coffee, as normal an early vacation morning as they come. Ash got up a little after 7 and we went for a walk before breakfast just to get a feel for the town of Interlaken which we pulled into early yesterday evening.

A house with interesting architecture we enjoyed in the center of town.

This was an open field in the centrum as well. The thing to notice in this photo are the two paragliders about to land: a yellow one left of center in the center of the photo, just above that hotel, and another one above that to the right against the blue sky. There were more lined up to land following them.

Ash fixed a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese, potatoes, toast from fresh bread we picked up this morning, and of course the fresh milk we got the night before. We ate on the balcony of the apartment and it was lovely.

We found a laundromat and were resigned to spend a few hours babysitting that task. The woman who ran the place lived upstairs and was very helpful. Ash tried charming her into doing it for us but “no, too stressed!” was her response. He again guessed that she spoke Spanish and attempted once more in that language, this time succeeding in getting her to do it for us for 10 Francs. The smallest bill we had was a 20. We started to walk away to get change and I thought: it’s silly to waste more time buying something to break the bill – let’s just give her the 20. So we walked back and when Ash announced that in Spanish she literally squealed with delight and her mother who’d been watching from the balcony clapped! We were just thrilled we got out of the work!

That out of the way, we decided to go to Grindelwald, another town on the mountain that we heard was worth checking out with a couple of decent gondola rides. We headed out initially in the same direction as the night before, but with clearer sky you could see 3 distinct mountain ridges this time.

We made it to Grindelwald in about 20 minutes and perfect weather. After much discussion we finally decided to go for it and purchased the big ticket item: Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. And we are very glad we did.

“What the heck is that” you’re probably wondering. We’ll explain as we go along!

The first part was a gondola ride up to about 7600 feet. The cars run close together so there’s essentially no waiting, or at least the line would move pretty fast if there was. They easily hold 30 people.

There was just one other couple with us so we had a whole side to ourselves. And what a view we got of the Grindelwald valley as we went up.

Here’s a little video to give you a better idea of that.

The gondola stops at the Eiger Glacier Railway station which is at 7600 feet. It only takes about 15 minutes to get there. We had about 15 minutes before the next train came to take you into the mountain (yes, you read that right) so we walked around and got a few photos. From here on out, remember the phrase “the photo doesn’t do it justice.” This day was made for that.

I was pretty excited.

Somehow Ash manages to take these photos of me that I don’t think look anything like me; a similar shot occurred in Alaska. I guess I really look like that….

Like I said, the photo doesn’t do it justice. But note the little village dead center.

One our way into the mountain and up to the top. This railway was first completed in 1912. Hard to imagine. Everything about this experience was impressive, especially how well designed it is to move A Lot of people rather quickly.

We made it. Jungfrau translates into “maiden virgin” but is also the name of the highest peak in this ridge. “Joch” is saddle which refers to the stretch of land between the Jungfrau peak and another called Monch. The train ride was actually longer than the gondola, and by the time we got here we were ready for lunch.

It’s a huge complex at the top of the mountain, with 2 restaurants, shopping, lots of things to see and do. We decided on the nicer restaurant of course, because why not?

This was the view outside my window at lunch time.

Ash had a salad….

…and tomato soup.

I’d been wanting to get fondue since we crossed the Swiss border. So when the menu had “classic Swiss fondue” on it I decided eating it here was the Swissest thing I could do! And it was as good as I’d hoped: swiss and gruyere cheese melted with some white wine, served with bread, pickles, pickled onions, and potatoes.

Ash helped some and as we got to the bottom the cheese got really thick and was even better. Ash couldn’t resist catching a video of me trying to get it all….

It was a pretty big place and packed.

We left the restaurant and decided to just follow the “Tour” signs to see where they led us. We were not disappointed.

After another elevator ride up, we entered the Sphinx, on observation deck at the very top: 11,782 feet. It’s referred to as the Top of Europe because it’s the highest railway station on the continent. A couple offered to take our photo and Ash returned the favor.

That peak on the left is Monch. Here’s the point of this photo: see that curvy line in the snow that goes from bottom center over the right then up towards the top? And those little dots in it? Those dots are people and there’s a lot of them, walking up to the top of the mountain. We considered it seriously for a moment but decided we didn’t have the right shoes. And boy was my vertigo kicking in.

That building is the Sphinx, the observation building that this deck is attached to.

Looking back into the Grindelwald valley.

We took the elevator down and walked down another hallway, again just following the signs.

Eventually it led us to an outdoor space we felt we could get away with in our regular ole walking shoes.

This was on the other side of Sphinx and gave us this view of Jungfrau- that’s her in the middle, the highest peak. Doesn’t look like much from here because that’s only about 1500 more feet up at 13,642.

That building in the middle of the photo is the restaurant where we had lunch.

It’s probably around 2:30pm, we’re on the train going back to the Eiger station to take the gondola back to the car. Remember the train is in a tunnel. We’d noticed the whole time we were up here we were getting incredible cell phone service. We get a text from Art, checking to see if we were interested in coffee or something. Well of course we are! So we would make our way in that direction once we got off the mountain.

The view into Grindelwald looked different going down just because the sun was in a completely different place, but of course beautiful still.

I’ll skip the whole story of why it took us nearly 3 hours from that text to get to Art in the small town of Murren, which is next door to Gimmelwald where he’s staying – just a gondola ride away at any rate. But it included getting stuck behind a bus, and a gondola ride and a train ride for us. But worth it!

This was our view as we got off the train in Murren.

Art had an early dinner at the Edelweiss Hotel and was waiting for us to get there before he had dessert. When Ash said “but we can’t see your pretty eyes”…..

…I got this one!

Art had the better view from where he was sitting but we got to see it here!

Apple strudel with a vanilla sauce and some blueberries. It was just OK but I was pretty hungry at that point, too, so ate it all of course. Had an espresso as well. Ash just got mint tea.

It had started to rain a bit and we had to move to the covered portion of the patio, but we were blessed with a little rainbow after it passed.

And that was pretty much our day. We said goodbye to Art although we will see him one more before he leaves since we’re taking him to the train station. We got our laundry and made it back to the apartment around 7:15pm. We’d picked up some groceries earlier when we got the bread. Ash made a simple dinner of salad and chicken. We ate that and watched The Green Lantern, a DVD in the collection here. Ash sat with me while I loaded the photos and then went to bed. I was still a little wired for some reason so decided to get the blog up before I went to bed, something I haven’t done in awhile. So hopefully it still reads OK without the coffee fueling it!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is our last full day in Interlaken and we have no idea what we’re doing yet although we do have dinner reservations. Beyond that, we’ll see. That strategy has worked well for us on this trip and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the spontaneity. There’s nothing like being in the moment from one to the next, makes it all last longer somehow.

Here’s one final photo for you, courtesy of the men’s room at the Edelweiss Hotel.

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