Jungfrau the Top of Europe: Between Heaven and Earth, Switzerland - Poppy S. Winanti

Jungfrau the Top of Europe: Between Heaven and Earth, Switzerland

Filled under: Articles / 13 Feb 2012 / Hits: 5920

It takes approximately 5 hours from Geneva to Jungfraujoch Region by train and there’s no direct train for this route. To get there one needs to take a train to Interlaken Ost via Bern. The earliest train from Geneva to Bern is at 4.56 am.

Initially I intended to take the first train so I could arrive at Jungfraujoch as early as possible. However, I then changed my mind since I was hoping to sense a glimpse of the scenery on the way there too. If I took the first train then I might not see anything since it’s still too dark. So I decided to take the 06.10 am train. But since it’s already early winter even I took the later train, I still couldn’t see anything especially on the way from Geneva to Bern. It’s still dark and the sun just lazily came up after 8 am. Well, any way, the good thing was I didn’t need to wake up too early. Even though it only took less than 10 minutes walk from my hostel to Gare Cornavin (Geneva’s main station) but I was still not so sure how to get the ticket so I had to get to the station early.

I was planning to buy the ticket at the ticket office so it was something that I didn’t expect to come across a closed sign at its entrance (stupid me, what on earth would any ticket office open so early?). For a while, I didn’t know what to do and I had no plan B. I noticed there were several self-service ticket machines but I thought they were only for Geneva’s local transport and couldn’t be used for inter-region services since there were also two separate ticket offices for local and inter-region services. The journey had not started yet and I already encountered this problem (I felt a bit discouraged!). Luckily, there was a nice gentleman who helped me dealing with this issue. Apparently I could buy the ticket for inter-region service at the self-service ticket machines too (I got my lesson, do more small research for something like this beforehand and always have plan B!).  I bought the ticket for the whole journey in advance, a ticket for Geneva to Interlaken Ost and another ticket for Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch (later on I learned that it’s possible to buy the ticket on the train too but you have to pay CHF 10 more and importantly not all the services have the facility). The train tickets are quite expensive (especially for student like me). I had to pay CHF 130 for second class return ticket from Geneva to Interlaken Ost and CHF 181.80 for return ticket from Interlaken Ost to Jungfraujoch Region. For comparison, the ticket for the whole journey is even more expensive than my return flight ticket from Glasgow to Geneva!  But in the end I found that it’s really worth it! I won’t regret paying that much money for my extraordinary excursion!

I had a chance to sip a cup of hot chocolate before the train to Bern arrived. It took less than 2 hours to get to Bern. I was a bit sleepy but I wasn’t able to sleep. I was too nervous thinking of the limited time I would have in order to transfer to another train at Bern Station. The train was scheduled to arrive at Bern station at 07.56 am and I had to catch the connecting train which would depart at 08.04 am. First I was afraid that I couldn’t make it. It gave me less than 10 minutes to find my connecting train and more importantly I’ve never been to Bern station before so I had no idea how big or complicated the Bern station was! Fortunately, the sign boards were quite clear and the trains were reliably on schedule so I found no difficulty to get to my connecting train in such a short time.

The scenery from Bern to Interlaken (situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun) reminds me of the view of Highland in Scotland. The lake, the landscape and the mountainous area are almost the same (at least for me, and trust me, don’t believe my judgment because I don’t believe it either!). I just found that the houses are different.  I don’t know how to explain it but the houses along the way to Interlaken are mostly wooden houses and more colorful than the ones in Highland. Moreover, you still easily locate some big or high buildings there (my guess is those are for apartments or offices), while you barely see that kind of things in Highland (again, it’s only based on my unreliable observation). Approaching to Interlaken, I was so grateful to witness a wonderful scene of Lake Brienz especially because the railway is just right next to the lake.

Arriving at the Interlaken Ost (there are two Interlaken Stations, West and Ost; to go to Jungfraujoch you need to get off at Interlaken Ost Station), I was welcomed by a nice atmosphere. There were several train station officers who were ready to help people to find the way to the train for Jungfraujoch (and also, I was not alone, it’s easy to assume that most passengers were going to Jungfraujoch too; just follow the folk and I believe you won’t get lost). From Interlaken Ost, there are two routes that you could take, either via Grindelwald or via Lauterbrunnen. If it’s possible try to take different route on the way up and on the way back just to get the benefit of different scene. When I went up, I took the route via Grindelwald and I took the Lauterbrunnen route on the way back. Either route you take, it will take you to the Kleine Scheidegg Station at the foot of Eiger North Wall where you will be served by the famous Jungfrau Railway to get to Jungfraujoch (as they said it’s the easiest way for you to climb the mountain!).

A breathtaking experience began once I embarked on the Jungfrau Railway. The railway was built in 1893 and it’s the Europe’s highest-altitude cogwheel railway.  It was the moment when I realized that the price that I paid is really worth it after all. The Jungfrau Railway took me to the Eiger tunnels and stopped at Eigerwand Station and Eismeer Station for 5 minutes break at each to let the passengers enjoy the scenery from large observation windows.

After around 45 minutes on board, I finally arrived at Jungfraujoch, the top of Europe, where I could see the superb view of the Alps.  When I got off from the train, I realized that it was a little bit difficult for me to breathe properly; I had to adjust my self for a while. It’s really not surprising since I was at a place of 3454 meters above the sea level and the temperature when I got there was about minus 2° Celsius.

My first destination was the Ice Palace, an ice tunnel with some artistic ice works inside. After I took a tour for a couple of minutes inside the ice tunnel then I continued to the Plateau through the Ice gateway. At the Plateau, where a Swiss flag proudly stands in the middle of the ground, people could get a pleasure from fascinating panorama of the Alps. From the Plateau I continued my journey to the Sphinx Observation Terrace. The Sphinx lift led me to the highest point. From the Sphinx Observation Terrace I could admire the astonishing Aletsch Glacier (the longest ice stream in the Alps) from a distance. Then I continued my trip to the Glacier. Unfortunately, I could only stay at the entrance of the Glacier. To be honest I really didn’t know whether I could actually go to the Monchsjoch Hut or not. I was hoping to do so but there was a clear sign that we couldn’t go further. Even so, the scenery at the entrance was so remarkable. From there, I could spot the summit of the Monch as well as the ski and snowboard park. I spent around 2 hours to explore most of the appealing places there, from the Ice Palace to the Glacier.

In the middle of the Jungraujoch area you could find restaurants and also souvenir shops. Don’t ask me about the price. It’s just unbelievably expensive (to give you an idea, I saw the price for an instant noodle (Korean brand) sold for 7.5 Euros, though it’s said including hot water and chopstick, geez!).  But still I found it so interesting, they sell Korean instant noodle on the top of Europe. Luckily I brought my own food (again it’s really a good idea for student like me but I noticed that it’s also a common practice to do so!).

I took the 13.30 train to go back to Kleine Scheidegg (the train runs every hour until 16.30). From Kleine Scheidegg I took the route via Lauterbrunnen to return to Interlaken Ost. The train stopped at Wengen and gave me a chance to grasp the beauty of the Breithorn, Taschingelhorn and an awesome view of Trummbelbach Falle.  Arriving at Lauterbrunnen, I had to take another train to Interlaken Ost. I was planning to spend some time in Interlaken before heading back to Bern since I heard that Interlaken is famous for traditional Swiss houses. However, there’s nothing much to see. It started to get dark even though it was only 15.54 when I got there. So I decided to take the earliest train to Bern. And by 19.15 I was already at Gare Cornavin. It’s indeed a memorable experience for me and Jungfraujoch definitely is one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever seen, a place what they claim as ‘between heaven and earth’. It’s undeniably a nice treat for my mental health in the middle of a stressful field research in Geneva.

Geneva, 22 November 2009

Updated: 13 Feb 2012