Monday, March 25, 2013

Europe 2012 day 4 Part 2: Swiss Alps hiking

After spending the morning (Sept. 7, 2012) at the Top Of Europe (previous blog post), we headed back down via the train to the small town of Kleine Scheidegg.

An afternoon of hiking in the Swiss Alps

We found a restaurant for lunch and enjoyed the beautiful views from the deck.

Not a bad view

Beer + beautiful views

Right above the restaurant there was also a little lookout area...

This was the first time we really got a great view of the three famous peaks of this area - the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (from left to right).

Panorama of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau - click to enlarge

After lunch we hit the trail from the restaurant at Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen (point A to B on the map).

Larger map of the Berner Oberland

Zoomed in - our day

It was a highly recommended hike and lots of pictures were taken...

Panorama of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau - click to enlarge

Pointing out the famous North Face of the Eiger - people actually climb up that

We met lots of nice people on this trail (I love talking to fellow travelers, hearing their stories and politely asking them to take a picture of Nick and me) - the fresh air always seems to bring the best out in people!

A couple of hours (and many pictures later) we reached Männlichen, and it gave us beautiful views of the three peaks and down into the Lauterbrunnen Valley and where we were heading next - Wengen.

enjoying the view from the lookout

panorama of the lookout - click to enlarge

Looking down onto Wengen
From there we bought gondola tickets ad made a STEEP decent down to the town of Wengen, another cute little Swiss resort town.

A very, very steep gondola ride down, my stomach turned a little

What the gondolas look like from outside

We loved staying in Lauterbrunnen but Wengen would be another option for our next trip back, whenever that may be :)

In all the towns in the area (Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg, etc...) were decorations for a HUGE marathon going on the next day - the Jungfrau Marathon.  I don't know much about marathons, but this is (apparently) one of the most famous in the world.  3,500 runners from all around the world participate and there is a huge wait list of people wanting to be a part of it.

The streets of Wengen decorated for the marathoners - it's a hard
marathon (big elevation gains) but they get great views!

After wandering around Wengen and grabbing a snack we bought tickets for a train back down to Lauterbrunnen (point D).

Train back down to Lauterbrunnen

Once we got back down to our hotel we sat on the balcony, had dinner and even watched a BASE jumped land really close to us!  There was a pretty view of the valley, Staubbach Falls and enjoyed a nice sunset too.  We just spent the evening talking, enjoying each-others company and getting excited for the next day!

View from the balcony

A BASE jumper that landed really close to our balcony, I took a video after this picture

Next stop: another day in the Swiss Alps and a meetup with our friend Nicole and Eric from Seattle!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Europe 2012 day 4 Part 1: Swiss Alps - Jungfraujoch

Day 4 (Sept. 7, 2012) was one of the highlights of our trip and an experience we'll never forget. We rode a train to the highest train station in Europe, the top of the Swiss Alps to the Jungfraujoch - Top Of Europe - 11,782 feet!

Sphinx observatory - this was our Christmas card pic

Background: in November 2011 I was watching the Today Show and saw Matt Lauer broadcast from here (I did a blog post about it too!) I sent the link to Nick and we agreed we had to go there.

We were up bright and early on the first train up

tickets purchased - on our wait to the mountains right behind me

Sit on the right side of the train - the best views are on that side

From Lauterbrunnen we took the first leg of our train journey to Kleine Scheidegg (point A to B). From there it was another hour on the Jungfraubahn train up to the top (point B to C).  The railway has been called the "train to heaven" and it is easy to see why

Sunrise over the alps

Up and up we go
Beautiful  sunrise views on the way up

You can see from my fancy homemade map above that the trek from B to C is a tunnel IN the mountain! Very impressive engineering and the train tracks are 100 years old! While you are on the B to C leg of the journey the train makes two stop for you to get out to look at the view of the glaciers right outside.

inside the train, a video plays about your journey

We're inside the Eiger

All aboard!

midway viewpoint

Once we got to the Jungfraujoch train station we made a b-line to the Sphinx Obersation deck.  Here is a little map and you can see how big the actual area is.

An elevator takes you to the top and this is the view we got to see...

panorama view - click to enlarge

another panorama - click to enlarge

The Sphinx Observatory - lots of climate research is done here
Europe's longest glacier - Aletsch Glacier- 14 miles long

The Mönch mountain

The Monch - I'll just enjoy the view from here :)

panorama of the Mönch - click to enlarge

the viewing platform overlooking thMönch

Speaking of climbing, this is also a starting point for people who are going to climb the mountains - they come from all over the world to take on the Swiss peaks

Our new friends from Germany getting ready to take on a climb

Couple of things about the top - it was about 30 degrees and cloudless and the sun is very intense at that high of an altitude - even though we were bundled up we layered on a lot sunscreen on our faces.  And sunglasses are absolutely necessary - intense sun + lots of white snow = bad for the eyes!

There are also signs everywhere reminding you to take it easy - the air up there had about 20-30% less oxygen then what we we breathe down here at sea level. We did a little walking on the glacier and even though we are in pretty good shape we were noticeably a little slower with our steps.   If you're pregnant, not in the best of health or elderly probably best to skip the trip. They give advise on the high altitude on their website too.

Walking paths for those who want to hike in the snow
(we just went a little ways - didn't have the best shoes on)

How they built the Sphinx on that rock I will never know...
Zoomed in picture - impressive engineering 

There are tons of activities you can do at the Jungfrau - zip-lining  sledding, they have inside exhibits and a neat ice cave area!

surrounded by ice

photo op!

the Top Of Europe


A cow wearing a watch - Classic Switzerland

A beautiful morning Nick and I will never forget!

We love you Switzerland

Next stop - part 2 of our day, an afternoon of hiking in the Swiss Alps

where we were heading down to hike


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