Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
Travelling along on the freeway called life; some journeys leave an indelible mark on our minds and hearts and they remain evergreen in our memories. They reside deep in the recesses of the mind and it takes just a glimpse of a photo or the sound of some words to bring these memories to life in front of the mind’s eye. One such experience that continues to enthrall us, is a breathtaking journey that we undertook to the Top of Europe – Jungfraujoch, a heavenly place high up in the Swiss Alps. Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe is a must see destination in Switzerland. It is the highlight of a Swiss holiday, a UNESCO World Heritage site of the Swiss Alps. It has the highest railway station in Europe.
When we were planning the trip to Jungfraujoch and were googling for information, one image used to constantly come up. This was of a building with a shining steel dome perched high up on top of a snow clad cliff. Seeing this image, I was overwhelmed by a sense of Deja Vu and I tried to remember where I had seen this before. After a lot of introspection and retrospection, I realized that the image had an uncanny resemblance to Xanadu, the magical abode of Mandrake, the Magician.
I had been an avid reader of comics of Mandrake and Phantom as a kid and the image of Xanadu had remained in the inner recesses of my mind and had come alive on seeing the images of Jungfraujoch.
With this kind of a background, I was terribly excited, when on a cold Saturday morning, when it was still dark, we left our hotel in Uster, which is a small city in the canton of Zurich and which had served as our base for exploring the beauty of Switzerland.
We walked swiftly to the Railway Station which was just a few minutes away and waited for our train which would take us on the first leg of our journey to the Top of Europe.
The train arrived precisely at the time it was meant to, after all the trains work like clockwork and function with the famed Swiss precision. We entered one of the First Class compartments and made ourselves comfortable, we had the entire compartment to ourselves! We settled down as the train pulled away towards our immediate destination, Interlaken OST.
The train chugged along, taking us nearer to our destination, and soon day broke outside, we looked out of the window and the sight that greeted our eyes took our breath away. Lush green meadows sloped as far as the eyes could see, the grass wore a silvery sheen because of the early morning dew, the first rays of the morning sun bent gently to caress the beautiful earth, some sheep grazed in this paradise on earth as little lambs gamboled behind them. In the far distance we saw picturesque little houses embellishing the beautiful landscape with a daintiness which was in harmony with nature.
We could not take our eyes away from the window as the beautiful and picturesque landscape of Switzerland passed in front of our eyes. But our stomachs did not care, they needed their fuel and rumbled with anger. Thankfully, we unpacked the sandwiches, cheese and orange juice, which our hotel had thoughtfully packed for us and had one of the most wonderful breakfasts that we have ever had. After all, not everyday do you breakfast in a Swiss train, with your eyes feasting on the gorgeous Swiss landscape.
As we neared Interlaken OST, the landscape outside changed and we had our first glimpse of the mountains and their snow clad peaks, the excitement we felt was literally palpable as I stood up to open a small window at the top which enabled me to take pictures without the intervening glass. The train passed through a winding bridge as we rode over a small rivulet with crystal clear water washing the rocks beneath it. We pinched ourselves, to make sure that this was real and not a beautiful dream the would end soon, such was the magic of the moment and no words would do justice to capture those hypnotic moments.
Soon we arrived at Interlaken OST, the end of the first leg of a breathtaking journey and the beginning of a more spectacular train journey that would now take us to our ultimate destination, The top of Europe – Jungfraujoch!
We changed trains and hopped on to a train that took us to Grindelwald, a picturesque little village and gateway to the Jungfrau region, situated at a height of 1,034 meters. At Grindelwald, we again changed trains and took the train to Kleine Scheidegg.
It was from Kleine Scheidegg that we would begin our ascent to the Top of Europe in a cog wheel train. The Jungfrau Railway itself is in many ways, an engineering marvel and has been climbing up the snow clad mountains for a century..
We excitedly got into the train and the train pulled off from Kleine Scheidegg on the last leg of our journey to The Top of Europe.
The train started a steep ascent almost immediately and as I peered out of the window, I was excited and shouted like a kid as I saw one of the most romantic and fascinating sights which excite boys and men alike. It was the train taking a turn in a wide curve as it made its way up the winding trail. We were able to see the engine in the distance as it made its way proudly up the mountain trail.
After about two kilometers the train drove into a tunnel, a tunnel which ran for almost seven kilometers, right up to Jungfraujoch. The tunnel is again a monument to the ingenuity, grit and determination of engineers who have bored this tunnel into the mountains of Eiger and Monch.
There were two brief stops before we reached Jungfraujoch. The first one was at Eigerwand or Eiger Wall, the underground station is situated behind the famous North face of the Eiger mountain.It is at an altitude of 2,864 meters or 9,396 feet.
The train stopped here for 5 minutes and everyone rushed towards the glass windows which are carved into the face of the rock. We were first of the block and managed to get a vantage point from where we were able to view the stunning Bernese Oberland in all its majestic beauty.
The second stop was Eismeer, which is situated at an altitude of 3,158 meters or 10,361 feet. The station is situated behind the South-East face of the Eiger. Here again the train stops for 5 minutes. We again rushed towards the glass windows and what we saw was a sea of ice as we viewed the Grindelwald-Fiescher glacier.
After a few minutes of silently marveling at the spectacular white carpet that stretched beneath us, we were back in the train on our last and final assault on the Top of Europe – Jungfraujoch.
Soon we arrived at Jungfraujoch station, located at a height of 3, 454 meters or 11,332 feet and took an elevator.
The elevator took us to the Top of Europe Building which is actually the building with a steel dome on top of a cliff, which had captured my imagination. This building is situated on a cliff or summit which is known as the Sphinx. Because of this the building has also come to be known as the Sphinx. It houses an observatory which is one of the highest in the world.
The building houses restaurants with panoramic views and what interested us the most was an elegant restaurant named Bollywood. We traveled in the elevator to a viewing platform by the side of the observatory at an altitude of
3,571 meters or 11,716 feet.
We marveled at the snowy white sea stretched out all around is and as it was pretty sunny some of the cliffs glistened and looked like huge scoops of milky white ice cream.
We also saw a crow sitting on a cable, its jet black color a sharp contrast to the sheet of white behind it.
Then we walked down a tunnel and were out in the snow, we trekked for some time in the snow, made balls of snow and threw at each other and slid down the snowy slopes with gay abandon. We spent quite a bit of time playing in the snow and generally having an awesome time. Soon it was time to get back indoors.
We visited an ice grotto which housed many ice sculptures.
We then made our way to the elevator which took us back to the Railway station to begin our journey back.
We were settled in our seats as the train pulled out of Jungfraujoch station, the darkness in the tunnel enveloped us, but our minds and hearts were aglow with the great experience that we had and the innumerable and valued memories that we were taking back. None of us spoke, afraid we would break the spell that enveloped us, if we did.
Which one of your journeys have left an indelible mark on your hearts and minds, do share with us.
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