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Friday, June 14: Day 53 – Top of Europe

This morning we set out for Jungfraujoch. They call it the top of Europe. We rode a train to Kleine Scheidegg and switched to a cog railway.

All of the trains in this area are outside of the Eurail network, so we bought the Jungfrau Travel Pass. Then we purchased an additional discounted ticket for the cog railway. The weather is beautiful with many of the mountain peaks cloudless.

The cog railway travels through a 3-mile-long tunnel. The terminus station Jungfraujoch opened in 1912 at an elevation of 11,329 feet. Construction took 16 years to reach this point. It is Europe’s highest altitude railway. A research station here conducts research on aerosols, ozone, and climate change.

At Jungfraujoch there are six restaurants, tourist shops, and a series of activities organized into a “tour”. First stop is at a viewpoint, the Sphinx Terrace. We take a 300-foot-elevator to reach it.

The tallest mountain in the region Jungfrau (13,642 feet) is in full view. I think it is a rare cloudless period.

Jungfraujoch station itself is located between Jungfrau and another 13,000 foot mountain called Mönch.

We went back down the elevator and walked through a tunnel out into the snow. Now a “45-minute” hike uphill will bring us to a restaurant at Monchsjoch Hut. It probably took us twice as long since we stopped about every 50 feet to catch our breath. Trekking poles became like ski poles. Shadows of clouds and sunlight waltzed across the snow.

A few minutes later when we looked back, the research station and Sphinx Terrace observation point at the peak of the rock where we started looked far away.

The trail stretches to the top of the next hill and the next. Finally we reached our destination.

First stop was the bathroom. This sign maked me curious about the toilet habits of the Swiss, or perhaps the problem is with the tourists.

After a bowl of soup at Monchsjoch Hut and a Coke that fizzed over because of the altitude, we started the trek back. The clouds had closed in. At times it was difficult to see the trail. Where mountains appeared before, now there were only clouds.

At one point I slid about 10 feet down the 45 degree side slope of the trail. People appeared and disappeared in the distance.

The wind had gotten stronger. Birds were blown about as they flew around.

Despite the change in weather and visibility, the trek back was actually much easier because it was all downhill.

Back at the main building the crowds had arrived. Why do so many people come here from India? Many of them were wearing flip flops. One of the restaurants is called “Bollywood”.

Our next stop on the “tour” was Alpine Sensation. It reminded me a bit of “It’s a Small World” at Disneyworld – interesting if you had a 4-year-old with you.

Then on to the Ice Palace. The floors and walls of the tunnels are made of ice.

There are a number of ice sculptures. We walked through but didn’t stay long.

Our last “tour” stop was the Plateau. Hurricane force winds greeted us as we ventured out. As I neared the flag, I could hardly stand up.

Finished with Jungfraujoch, we got back on the cog railway and passed back through the 3-mile long tunnel. On the other side sunny skies and visible mountaintops greeted us. Small towns were scattered about on hillsides. We went back down into the valley surrounded by massive mountains and towering peaks, returning once again to our balcony view.

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