We walked to the tour office at the Sihlquai Terminal in Zurich. The terminal and office terms are misleading, as it is small kiosks in a parking lot, that the buses stop at. However, it is a very busy place with buses of all types coming and going. On the bus we ate our breakfast of bananas, muffins, and bread. Our tour guide for the day was Annette, who appeared to be a bit ditzy, but she knew her information. More more on the ditzy part, later in the post. This tour was all about awe-inspiring scenery and lots of information. The drive to Interlaken was very beautiful. We passed 2 large lakes along the way and Annette shared some interesting information about the area and we took lots of pictures from the bus. We did make one stop at a scenic over-look.
We learned, that Interlaken means between the lakes. That all cows have a bell around their neck as there is lots of fog and the farmer can hear where they are. The cows go up the hill in the summer, but are still milked twice a day. The milk is brought down in barrels by either a small train/tram or tractor. We passed a mountain named after Pontius Pilate. Legend has it that no country wanted his body, but it ended up on a local mountain. The citizens threw the body in a lake on the mountain. The lake mysteriously drained. Locals think the mountain is cursed. However, the mountain is now home to the world’s steepest cog train at a 48% grade.
1291 was when Switzerland was loosely founded for protection by 3 neighboring states. It officially became a country in the 18th century. Elgi is the most common fish, like a trout but bigger and fatter. You can fish from the shore without a license, but if you fish from a boat then you need a license. The Swiss grow 70% of their food, but only 7% of the citizens are farmers. Pretty efficient!!! The written language is German and the Swiss speak German but with a different accent, depending on the area.
We saw various chalets and barns on the drive. We learned that the Swiss have planters boxes of Geraniums outside their windows to keep bugs out of their houses, as most chalets do not have screens.
At Interlaken we were told to buy lunch and take it with us . We could only find a Subway, so bought 2 foot-long sandwiches for 25 Francs, thought it was a bit expensive, but what do you do when you only have 25 minutes. There was a couple in front of us ordering Tuna fish sandwiches. Kept asking, “How fresh is your tuna? Oh that is too much mustard, scrape some off’. Oh goodness…. We did have an unusual bread, covered in nuts and seeds that was really good.
At Interlaken there were hang gliders that landed in the field near our bus. Wow, what an awesome experience…next time. We had a great view of Jungfrau. Our bus drove us to the Grindelwald station where we would board a train to travel up the mountain. Again, beautiful scenery up in the valley and up the mountain.
We arrived at the train station, and while we were waiting we checked out the near by glacial stream.
We caught the train to the next station.
The scenery was still spectacular…
We passed the top of the chairlift and thought what an awesome place to ski.
At the Kleine Scheidegg station we changed trains.
In order to reach the top, the train would travel through a tunnel. The tunnel is man-made and construction was from 1896-1912, 16 years to complete. Quite a feat back then. The tunnel ends at the highest train station in Europe. The tunnel project was the idea of Adolf Guer-Zeller and the local residents could see the tourist potential. The goal was to reach the summit of Jungfrau, but World War I cut that plan short of the summit. The tunnel is approximately 3 miles in length. Before entering the tunnel we got some great views as we were now at the snow elevation. We were told we were very lucky as most days, the clouds make it impossible to see the surrounding mountains.
About at about the halfway point of the tunnel, the train stopped at Eigerwand, at approximately 9400 feet. There was an observation area with a view of the surrounding mountains.
Jungfrau comes from the name of a former convent that was in Interlaken. Once we reached the top, there were a variety of things to do…but first a picture!!
We took the elevator to the Sphinx Terrace. There were incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Alps means eternal glacier and on a clear day, you can see Europe’s longest glacier from this point.
We walked through the Alpine Sensation, with the whimsical wood carvings, a history of the railway and a tribute to the workers, some who lost their lives during construction.
Our next stop was the Ice Palace. It was created in the 1930s. The tunnels and rooms have to be constantly re-cut as their ice can move up to 15 centimeters per year. You could even see the various layers of ice.
The ice sculptures were wonderful, but the lighting made it difficult to obtain a good picture. We had a great time in the Ice Palace.
We walked out to the Plateau area. This is a large snow packed viewing area.
We made at stop at the highest Lindt chocolate store in the World. Jerie felt a bit sick, so she ate the rest of our Subway sandwiches and a Lindt white chocolate and felt much better. A drink at the top was 6 Francs which made us feel much better about the price we paid for the sandwiches.
While eating our sandwiches, we had a great view of the Sphinx observation area and we made sure to get our Jungfrau Railways Passport stamped.
We rode the elevator back down to the station to catch the train. A man from Australia who was on our tour and had been the entire day, needed a seat so we offered him the extra one by us. Our tour guide proved she really was ditzy. She says, “No, don’t do that, he isn’t on our tour.” He was really nice about it and we laughed all the way down the mountain. We all discussed that Jungfrau was truly remarkable, how they were able to drill and lay the track to the top over 100 years ago. An incredible engineering feat.
We pulled out our bottles of pop/soda, and thought it was pretty cool how the air pressure had affected them coming down from the top of the mountain.
We got on the bus and marveled at the amount of water flowing from the mountains. It had been a full, wonderful, exhausting day. When we got back to Zürich, we did the American thing and headed to McDonalds. We got hamburgers, cheese burgers and fries. We laughed that they charge .20 Francs for a packet of ketchup. Took the food back to our apartment and had muffins and popcorn for dessert. We packed away all the clean clothes and watched another movie, with no sound and made up the plot. This could be our new past time. Another tour tomorrow…Heidiland and Lichtenstein.