Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day Two: Jungfraujoch

One of the most interesting, and one of the most expensive trips in Switzerland is the trip to Jungfraujoch. It takes about two and a half hours by train from Interlaken. Leaving the lakeside city we started slowly ascending amongst various villages, pastures, and mountains. After our transfer to a second train, the ascent began much more quickly and in the span of maybe 10 minutes we had climbed 400m (1300ft), and then another 800m (2600ft). Our third train was the special one, the one that goes through the mountain! It is mostly cool in theory as you marvel at the knowledge that the train is chugging through one of Switzerland's famous alpine peaks. In reality, it doesn't seem much more than a very long tunnel. There are 2 five minute stops on the way up to let the descending trains pass. At these breaks there are observation windows and theory and reality collide as you peer out of the mountainside.

At the top we went directly to the Sphinx observation platform 3571m or 11,782ft above sea level. It was stunning. There was the HUGE, 22km long Aletsch glacier, with a string of ants moving along a path. Oh wait, those were people. A lot of people. I think I would be disappointed to go and walk on the glacier only to be in a rather crowded line of hundreds of other tourists. We spent as long as the kids would allow us up on the observation deck, just soaking up the impressive atmosphere. After lunch, a combination of supplies we had brought with us, supplemented by the cafeteria, we went up to the "Ice Palace". Entirely carved out of glacier, there was ice all around us. The floor was a little slippery as there was no sand/salt for the hundreds of visitors shuffling along, gripping the lifeline of a railing. There were a dozen or so ice sculpture exhibits and L was enthralled.

We left the glacier interior to go and walk outside. Alas, L was adamant that one should not walk in snow, in the middle of the summer, in your running shoes. And he whined. M had already decided that he wasn't going to walk while we were still inside the ice and he did not want to leave the vantage point of my back. It is a good thing that the views totally made up for any back discomfort.

We then decided to get going while the going was good and got in line for the return journey. M had a nice nap most of the way down the mountain. We thought to get off at Winderswil, a stop on the way back, and take a quick look around. Luckily, a gourmet store was actually open on a Sunday and we popped in and bought some essentials...milk, coffee, cheese, etc.

Back at camp we ate and let the kids play in the playground all evening while C and I went through the tremendous number of photos. We started to wonder if we would need to purchase another memory card before the end of the trip.

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