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Author: A Potato in a Rice Field
Wanderlust Travel Blog of the Year ’13
Our visit to Switzerland was part of a road trip where we arrive from lake Como in the Italian Alps before forwarding on to Chamonix and the French Alps. In Switzerland we do rush through other attractions along the way including Titlis and Brunni in Engelberg, but our main attraction was the Jungfrau region where we base our travel from Interlaken Ost station. To make the most of our time there we go with Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass (current prices here) which gives us unlimited use of many trains and cablecars throughout. We do stay slightly out of the way in guesthouses which cost us roughly 50 Euros per night but this is one of the many perks of driving. Otherwise accommodation is significantly more expensive in Interlaken hotels or other Jungfrau hotels.
So our base of travel at Interlaken Ost station is recommended by most where it’s easy to reach and has tons of not-so-expensive parking available. The station is also the main ticketing office for the Jungfrau 3 day travel pass and we are given a whole bumpf of stuff at the ticketing kiosk. The most important pieces are the passes (obviously), and the map which is shown below. This shows the routes included in the Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass where the red line routes are all free whereas the black are not. There is one dashed red line to Jungfrau Top of Europe Route which indicates it comes at half price with the Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass. This is definitely worth taking.
We buy the half price Jungfrau Top of Europe tickets at the kiosk and pay the extra (5 francs per person each way) for seat reservation. It is now around 09:30 and already many of the trains are fully booked for the day. It is best to get in early and get this attraction out of the way first. It is worthwhile. So we jump on the train from Interlaken Ost and travel to Kleine Scheidegg which is the base station for the Jungfrau Top of Europe. Without our reservation we would have been waiting some time… Anyway, for the best views sit at the far side of the train.
Along the way, as the train tunnels through the mountains, there are two intermediate viewpoint stops (Eigerwand and Eismeer) before it reaches the final Jungfraujoch station which is the highest railway station in Europe (hence Top of Europe). So I will write this attraction up in full as there’s a lot to it but to sum it up there are viewpoints, snows to frolic in, and other attractions such as a glacier tunnels to explore. Definitely do it, but do note that it may be hard to breath for some who have not yet acclimatize to these heights (altitude sickness). I was one of these although it may be due to my childhood asthma or general fitness which borders on terrible.
This is one of the easier attractions on the Jungrfrau 3 Day Travel Pass so we squeeze it into the end of the first day where there’s really not much time after Jungrau Top of Europe. Including queueing and travel the Top of Europe does take up a good half day. Anyway, Harder Kulm is a simple viewpoint over Interlaken and the base for the funicular train is found just a short walk from Interlaken Ost station. Just follow the path past the train station, away from the car park, and continue until you find a bridge crossing the adjacent River. Cross the bridge and the funicular station is right in front of you.
The trains to Harder Kulm run every 30 minutes and the best views are found at the back of the train (although they aren’t great to be honest). We rush ahead from the top station and have the viewpoint bridge to ourselves, until the crowds arrive. The views here are over Lake Thun and Lake Brienz found on each side of Interlaken. The same lakes do have boat crossings for tourists but, unlike the 5 day pass, they aren’t included in the Jungfrau 3 travel pass. We don’t stay long here and are on the next train down again.
The next morning we would take on our first hike along the Männlichen Royal Walk which is something I don’t find out until I am there. I am actually clueless to every attraction over the three days and pretty much follow Fanfan around and photograph. I am now accustomed to this style of travel and actually prefer it as every destination is unexpected and I’m not involved in planning or chasing schedules. But I would have liked to know in advance about this hike. Actually this route isn’t shown on the old maps (it’s a black line above) but it’s apparently included now on the Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass.
For it we follow a network of cable cars and viewpoints leaving Wengen, and arriving to Männlichen, later to forward on again to Grund. In between we of course do the Männlichen Royal Walk which would be our first and only “hike” during our time in Jungfrau, and it’s more of an upward stroll than anything. It takes no more than 30 minutes up (with a bunch of breaks between), and 10 minutes back. Arriving back we then take the cablecar to Grund which was by far the better of the two cablecars with fantastic mountain views along the way. Then, from Grund, we take a quick train to Grindelwald.
“First” is actually the name of a minor summit, in case you’re confused. It is reached by a cablecar from Grindelwald, although this cablecar is not found near the main Grindelwald station. Instead we need to trek through the town centre, pretty much in a straight line, following signposts, and it’s really not so far. Roughly eight minutes. The cablecar brings us to the base for entry to the First Cliff walk where I regrettably stay behind while Fanfan goes it alone. Something I hadn’t realised the previous day is that sunburn is a lot worse at higher altitudes because there’s less atmosphere to block the sunlight. The snow and freezing temperatures had fooled me.
So I had been roasted at Jungfrau Top of Europe the previous day and now the sun was trying to finish me off. I was also tired having been up since 5am to watch the Brexit result. Anyway, I wait behind while Fanfan potters off to the First Cliff Walk which is a summit trail with a 40-metre long suspension bridge and 45-metre long observation platform, as shown below. I am left behind for no more than 20 minutes so it’s really not hard to reach and seeing the photos I do regret not following along.
We would start our days from Interlake Ost at around 9am to 10am, then we would return at roughly 6pm. So the days are really quite long, and it’s mostly travel between attractions which takes up the time. On our return journey we find ourselves at Wilderwil station waiting for a connection to Interlaken Ost. With still time to spare we decide to jump on a different train to Schynige Platte which is one of the lesser attractions available on the Jungfrau Three Day Pass. I really didn’t want to go but Fanfan was still eager and it did look more leisurely than most. The train was also quite adorable.
Unfortunately the train climbs the mountainside not much faster than walking speed. A brisk jog at the most and what was meant to be a quick attraction took up a couple of hours. Even the old folk look less than impressed. We were on the second last train of the day and we were two of only five people on the journey. The train could probably fit a hundred so it’s really not the most popular of attractions. I actually spent much of the first half of the upward journey writing this post, but the second half does get better as it opens out to views over the two lakes of Interlaken, and eventually mountains. Reaching the top we just get back into the train and travel back down again. In hindsight it was one of the more enjoyable rides as I don’t really have to do anything.
The third day, as expected, was not a great day. Through the night before there were electrical storms where lightning flashed almost constantly outside our bedroom. It was like nothing I had seen before and I was honestly scared to open the curtains of our top floor hotel room. But bad weather was something we anticipated and it is easy to check weather conditions beforehand through live cams at each attraction. This entire Switzerland trip was in fact delayed due to weather forecasts and we ended up on an impromptu road trip through northern Italy. With only two days of weather forecast through the entire weeks of us being in the region and we had already made the most of them during the first two days of the Jungfrau 3 Day Travel Pass.
Fortunately we covered most of what we had planned and our itinerary for this third day was little more than pottering through the quaint rustic towns of Lauterbrunnen and Murren. Instead we travel away from the bad weather and to the old town of Lucerne with its lakes and bridges. It was a worthwhile substitute and I don’t feel our limited time went to waste. Adding up the individual attraction prices we definitely saved a fair bit.
Mountains and extreme sports do come hand-in-hand and one of the more common sights would be the paragliders who swoop down from the mountains and cliffsides. There are classes and it is possible to be strapped in with instructors for your own flight, but we also saw people merely just turning up and jumping off cliffs. At Männlichen some fella just turned up with this big bag strapped to his back. He empties out a parachute and opens it along the ground. After roughly 10 minutes of clipping and strapping on his safety harness and whatnot, he takes a run up and just jumps off a cliff. It’s ridiculously easy looking.
There’s also a lot cowbells. These are all over Switzerland where you’ll typically hear the cows before you see them. There are also goat bells and sheep bells. Lots of bells.