For those who have not yet visited this small but impressive
country just let us say that Switzerland is not all about mountains, alpine
lakes, and farmers wearing leather pants. But who wants to spend effort
showing off the industry and cities when there are such impressively lovely
natural landscapes such as we found on our visit to Grindelwald and the Jungfrau
- Eiger region. This is the heart of Switzerland, the essence of a country
famous for its alpine beauty and tales of adventure.
We arrived by car from Italy but most of Switzerland can be visited using trains and buses. There is probably no match for the Swiss public transportation system anywhere in the world. The center piece of our trip was in fact a ride on the highest railroad in the Alps to the highest rail station in Europe. At 3434 meters (11333 feet) the train reaches the Jungfraujoch which is as high as you can go without climbing. The trip starts in Grindelwald, a small village below the Jungfrau - Eiger massiv. The trip up involves two different two different trains. The first one takes you to the famous climbers village of Kleine Scheidigg where in spite of the numerous tourists and hotels you can still see climbing parties preparing to make accents of the nearby peaks. There you board a special cog train that will take you inside the funicular tunnel that has been carved into the north face of the Eiger. The tunnel is a spiral construction that is entirely contained inside the mountain. At places where the tunnel is nearest to the exterior wall of the rack face, large windows have been carved. From these windows you can look out from the 'Eigernordwand' the Eiger north face upon the impressive Aletsch glacier that only can normally be seen by actual mountain climbers. After an hour inside the Eiger the train reaches the highest railroad station in Europe, at the Jungfraujoch, the saddle between the Monch and Eiger summits. Upon this saddle the Swiss have constructed a self-contained island of warmth and safety in what is otherwise a hostile, frigid environment. Having several outside viewing platforms, two restaurants, a weather station and other facilities, it is not unlike a colony that might eventually be constructed on the moon or other distant planet. After leaving the train one passes through a foot tunnel that has been carved into the solid glacial ice to reach the mountain facility. The ice tunnel has been creatively designed with a number of side chambers containing ice grottos wherein various ice sculptures have been carved. The following link provides some excellent descriptions of the Swiss Alps and the adventures to be found there.
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