Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day 7, June 5 (Interlaken, Jungfraujoch, etc.)

Our plans for the day included trip to Jungfraujoch, but we did not know if the weather would permit it. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see very clear sky in the morning with pretty nice prognosis for the day.

We had a breakfast at the hotel, which was not as impressive as the breakfasts we've had in other hotels, but sufficient enough.

We took a short walk to the Interlaken Ost train station. The round trip tickets are not cheap (174 Swiss francs including discount with the hotel provided guest card). If you are looking to take several trips up to the mountains, I would recommend to do some research on getting Swiss card, as the tickets are only 50% with that card in addition to other savings provided to the card holders.

Every hotel and travel agency in Interlaken have plenty of information about excursions including Jungfrau region maps, etc. According to one of those maps, we would have to change several trains in order to get to the "Top of Europe" station. We've decided to take a route via Grindelwald on our way to the mountain and a different route via Wengen with a short stop in Lauterbrunnen before coming back to Interlaken Ost.

If you are planning a trip to Switzerland I would recommend to use http://switzerland.isyours.com/e/index.html site, as it has a lot of information about the country and common attractions, etc. The site also has pretty detailed maps of Jungfrau region including railroad map.

The train ride to the "Top of Europe" station is an amazing adventure, as you are climbing from a little over 500m elevation in Interlaken to almost 3.5km at the "Top of Europe" station in a few hours! Be prepared to feel the effects of changing elevation as the train climbs up the mountain! Make sure to take some warm clothes with you as well. The temperature up on the mountain was just above zero degrees C in the morning of June 5.

Thanks to mostly clear weather, we checked out some amazing views from the "Top of Europe" (and a few stations on the way up). There is a lot to do at the top, especially if you want to participate in some of the mountain adventures such as hiking and possibly skiing, etc. We spent a little over an hour checking out views, taking pictures, walking through the ice tunnels, but got pretty tired soon, so decided to have some lunch in one of the restaurants and head back down.

There are several restaurants in the "Top of Europe" complex, and it's easy to find food to your taste. One somewhat interesting point was that while we visited a fairly expensive restaurant (lunch for two including 2 beers and tips was close to 100 CHF), they were pretty inflexible regarding the dishes they served (no substitutions on the side dishes, no espresso machine, according to the waiter, due to high altitude...). But the food was pretty good, and the view was unbelievable!

Train ride down the mountain was also pretty spectacular, and after about 1.5 - 2 hours and changing several trains we were in Lauterbrunnen. It's a small town stretched along the railroad and squeezed between the Alps. We hiked to the waterfall near the town (pretty amazing experience as well).

We also did some shopping in one of the local grocery stores. Things are a lot less expensive at these stores than anywhere else we shopped in Switzerland! We bought some exceptionally fresh and tasty fruits (or may be we were just hungry from all the walking we did that day :) ).

The train ride from Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken Ost is only about 20 minutes, so we were back in Interlaken pretty soon. Overall, very interesting day in the Alps, and we would recommend this adventure to anyone who wants to explore the area.

We finished our evening with a dinner at the Des Alpes restaurant (again!) and a nice walk around Interlaken. It was probably the most exciting day of our trip (second only to the car pickup day :) )...

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