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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 Monch.

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 look back, the research station and Sphinx Terrace observation point at the peak of the rock where we started look far away.

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

First stop is the bathroom. This sign makes 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 start the trek back. The clouds have closed in. At times it is difficult to see the trail. Where mountains appeared before, now only clouds.

At one point I slide about 10 feet down the 45 degree side slope of the trail. People appear and disappear in the distance.

The wind has gotten stronger. Birds are blown about as they fly around.

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

Back at the main building the crowds have arrived. Why do so many people come here from India? One of the restaurants is called “Bollywood”.

Our next stop on the “tour” is Alpine Sensation. It reminds me a bit of “It’s a Small World” at Disneyworld – interesting if you have 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 walk through but don’t stay long.

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

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

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