Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe
As I sit at the cafeteria with a panoramic view out onto the Aletsch Glacier, I am totally awe-struck by the majesty of this mountain and the engineering of the mountain railway that brought me up to over 11,000 ft above sea level and the complex of facilities that are ready to explore as part of the “Top of Europe” experience.
Part 1 – Interlaken Ost to Grindelwald
There are two routes to ascend and descend the Jungfrau Railway – you can either ascend via the villages of Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen, which then take you up to the “base camp” of Kleine Scheidegg before you make the final ascent to the top. Having ascended via Lauterbrunnen in the past, I decided to mix things up a little and go up via Grindelwald. The train from Interlaken is in two parts – the first half goes to Lauterbrunnen and the rear half goes to Grindelwald – the train uncouples at a station along the way.
Part 2 – Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg
The train to Kleine Scheidegg leaves from the platform right next where you arrive from Interlaken (there are only two platforms so its not hard to navigate!). The train first goes downhill to a small station called Grund, then goes back on itself for the steep ascent along the bottom of the north face of the Eiger, where you truly get an appreciation of its fearsome reputation. On the other side, views begin to develop of the Grindelwald Valley.
Part 3 – Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch
Much of this journey goes right through the rock of the Eiger Mountain, but there are a couple of stops along the way. The first of these stops is at Eigerwand (literally “Eiger Wall”) which in the middle of the formidable north face. The train stops for 5 minutes to allow all passengers to alight from the train and take pictures in the viewing gallery. A further stop at Eismeer allows for further photo opportunities around the other side of the mountain, and also helps break the journey up to high altitude, which your body will thank you for when you’re at the top.
Part 4 – Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe
On arriving at the railway station after such an impressive ascent, it’s easy in all the excitement to rush to the first of the many attractions, which renders you quickly out of breath and light-headed, such is the thinness of the air at this altitude. I first headed for the viewing platform where you can see right across the Alps towards the Black Forest in Germany and the Vosges mountains in France. I then ventured into the Ice Palace and into the various restaurants and gift shops that keep you occupied at the highest station in Europe.
Part 5 – Jungfraujoch to Kleine Scheidegg
On the way back down to “Base Camp” at Kleine Scheidegg, the train doesn’t stop at the same places as you did on the way up, it just makes its way straight down to Kleine Scheidegg, where you then choose your option for the onward descent to Interlaken.
Part 6 – Kleine Scheidegg to Lauterbrunnen
If you have come up via Lauterbrunnen, then it makes sense to return via Grindelwald, but conversely, as I had done, if you have ascended via Grindelwald then take the Lauterbrunnen route on the way down for some variety. The train goes down to the well-known resort of Wengen, before swinging around the mountainside and down into the village of Lauterbrunnen.
Part 7 – Lauterbrunnen back to Interlaken Ost
The final instalment is the regional train from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken Ost. This couples up with the train from Grindelwald at a place called Zweilütschinen, and you then continue across the flatter terrain into Interlaken, where you can of course connect with trains to a multitude of major destinations within Switzerland and Germany.