I have always been fascinated with all things snow: glaciers, ice, extremely cold weather…. it all tickles my pickle. So when I had the opportunity to climb to the top of Jungfrau, one of the highest peaks in Europe, I jumped on it! ( Editor’s note: The Roaming Bean didn’t actually “climb” the mountain, rather she took two trains up the snow-filled beauty and almost passed out due to the high altitude. She is in no way shape or form physically or mentally fit enough to even ascend a fraction of the mountain on foot.
Switzerland is and will always be one of my favorite countries. From the impeccable chocolatiers to the astounding views, there’s something incredibly special about this place. Everywhere you turn there are waterfalls and never-ending greenery. Cows and sheep wear bells, and with every movement, they provide a magical soundtrack to your adventures. The fields are littered with a rainbow of wild flowers and the homes are visions out of a fairytale.
After a quick stop in Lucerne, I headed over to Lauterbrunnen which is located in the valley near the bottom of Jungfrau. I spent a few nights at the glorious Camping Jungfrau campsite. I had all intentions of camping in my tiny tent while I was there, but quickly took up the opportunity to snag an upgrade at one of the cabins that were available for a few extra Swiss Francs per night. On a budget and want to rough it out a bit? No problem, the campsite is immaculate and there’s no better place I would want to pitch a tent and sleep under the stars then there in Lauterbrunnen. The backdrop, aside from the Swiss Alps, is a stunning waterfall that you can actually hike under. A river runs through the site, and I was lucky enough to snatch a cabin right on the water’s edge. Falling asleep to the sound of the running river in the middle of the Swiss Alps is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!
The first train takes you about half way up the mountain and you must transfer to the Jungfrau Railway at the Kleine Scheidegg stop . Both trains stop numerous times during the journey, where you can jump off and enjoy different hiking paths and scenery. It was a few stops after the transfer when I noticed myself feeling out of breath and slightly drugged…. yep, I was feelin’ the effects of the change in altitude…. Suddenly an overwhelming fear came over me, consuming my inner thoughts ” for the love of all that’s mighty, I’m gonna pass out from the altitude, fall face-first into a solid chunk of ice, violently knock my teeth out in the land of Swiss and have to find emergency dental implants…..” Things were about to get interesting.
Jungfrau, also known as the “Top of Europe,” sits 11,333 feet (3454 metres) above sea level. The view is so amazing that on clear days you can see the Vosges mountains in France and Germany’s Black Forest from the viewing station. Here, you can marvel at the Aletsch Glacier and have your lungs sting from the fresh, crisp, icy air. Aghhhh… that’s the good stuff!
The most dramatic views are from the Sphinx, which sits 3,571 metres above sea level. Also at the top of Jungfrau is an Ice Palace, carved inside the glacier, which houses ice sculptures of penguins, bears, igloos and more inside its walls of ice.
During winter, skiing and other snow sports are available to adventure seekers, although it is quite a walk from the viewing platforms of the Sphinx. I felt incredibly light-headed just walking outside; those with no experience or training in high-altitude, such as sporadic pork eaters who don’t exercise like myself, might want to highly consider outdoor activities before setting on the major trek it takes to get there! I suggest building a snowman or having a picnic on the ice, like several other visitors were partaking in.
After a few hours at the Top of Europe, my little lungs and respiratory system had sadly had enough. After fearing that my brain might suffer damage from the apparent lack of oxygen available that high up, it was time to make my descent back into civilization. As hard as it was to pull myself away from the most phenomenal landscape nature has ever created, I made my buns move towards the Jungfrau Railway one last time.
Upon changing trains again at the Kleine Scheidegg stop, which is located beneath the Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau mountains, my friend and I took the chance to eat a delicious meal with incredible views at one of the restaurants situated near the railway.
We had a spectacular view of the north slope of Eiger, and much warmer weather than that of Jungfrau. We hit the jackpot with the restaurant we chose: friendly service, huge portions and delicious ingredients for an impressive price. I enjoyed the best soup I have ever devoured; potatoes with sausage and seasoned with love and happiness.
Once we arrived back in the town of Lauterbrunnen, we checked out a cute little coffee shop named Airtime. This place is a must; it is packed with books, computers (it is also an internet cafe, perfect for us travelers!), food, hand-crafted coffee and even tour booking! It’s a one-stop-shop with a great setting, location and view!
The food was great; we indulged in a super tasty brownie and giant cappuccino on the patio. Again we had the staggering view of the mighty Swiss Alps right in front of us…. just thinking about it makes me want to jump on a plane and go back this very second!
Switzerland amazed me. A large chunk of my heart was left there when I departed. Wether or not it was left at the top of the glacier on Jungfrau or at the bottom of the alps in Lauterbrunnen I am not sure. All I do know is that I will return one day, and when I do, I might just find it floating down the river I so madly fell in love with…. (if it hasn’t been frozen solid in a chunk of glacier ice, that is.)