We woke at 6:30 AM to begin our greatest adventure yet. On Saturday, May 31st, we traveled to Jungfraujoch – the top of Europe – at 11,745 feet above sea level. Matt Lauer went for “The Today Show” years ago, and you can see the video here: Jungfraujoch Today Show Video. It’s a fantastic 8-minute glance into just what we experienced. Worth a look. Accessing Jungfraujoch required 3 steep, expensive mountain trains and 2.5 hours of travel to reach the peak.
At 6:30 AM one of the friendly staff at the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel called our room and said, “Good morning, Mrs. Fleming.” I croaked back, “Good morning. Thank you,” and hung up the phone to begin the day. Damian was already up, and I knew he’d have ants in his pants to get started on our journey. I resisted the urge to throw a pillow over my head and go back to sleep, and instead I got up and dressed for breakfast.
Breakfast at the hotel was included with the price of the room, and the first seating was at 7:00 AM. Guess what time we got there? I’ll give you a hint: not 7:01 AM. We were the first hotel guests to arrive, and the staff seated us near the window in their atrium, which offered stunning views of the Swiss Alps. The breakfast was served buffet style, and it was the fanciest buffet I’d ever seen. (Those of you who enjoyed the Spices breakfast buffet at the Royal Hideaway may be surprised to hear that.)
We ordered drinks and then picked up our plates. Anything I could imagine was spread out before me. French toast with whipped cream and syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, an enormous assortment of gourmet cheeses arranged on tiered plates, sliced meats, croissants and rolls with butter and 8 different flavors of jam (everything from cherry to orange marmalade), fruit tarts, fresh fruit (including strawberries, blackberries and pineapple), various muffins, coffee, different flavored juices, a full compliment of Japanese fair (miso soup, etc.), and a giant honeycomb with fresh honey dripping down over it. I could have sat there for hours enjoying all the delicious goodies and looking at the Alps.
After breakfast, we were able to purchase our mountain train tickets (at a discount, which was helpful, because they were pricey) from the hotel. The hotel offers no late check-out options, so we had to check out and leave our bags with the concierge. Our first train was set to leave shortly after 8:00 AM from the Interlaken Ost railway station, which was within walking distance of our hotel. Tickets in hand, we struck out for our first train ride. This is a map of the route we took (note that we went up one side of the mountain – the green path – and came down another – the yellow path).
The first leg was a relatively short 25-minute ride up to Lauterbrunnen. While the views were enjoyable, we were still close to the base of the Alps at this stage. In Lauterbrunnen we changed trains and took another mountain train up to Kleine Scheidegg. This train was pretty steep, and it offered some incredible views of the surrounding mountains and Swiss towns. We switched trains once again at the station in Kleine Scheidegg for the final leg of the journey – the train to Jungfraujoch.
The final train chugged slowly up the mountainside, bringing us through dark tunnels to the peak. There were 5-minute stops along the route, allowing riders to exit the train and snap pictures memorializing the journey to the top. At around 10:30 AM, we reached the station at Jungfraujoch and got off the train to begin our tour.
There was a lot more to do and see than I expected. Restaurants, bars, shops, even an ice palace in addition to the unreal views. We came for the views, and we only expected to be up there for an hour, maybe 90 minutes. We stayed for 3 hours.
We began our tour at the Spinx – this was the absolute highest point. From there, we had views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. Since it was a sunny day, we were able to see through the cotton-like cloud cover all the way down to the ground far, far below. People liken the views from the Spinx to the views from Mount Everest. Minus the swag of saying, “I climbed Mount Everest!” I’ll never know if that’s really true, but I must say, standing above the clouds outside of an airplane in the thin air was absolutely majestic. The surrounding snow-capped mountains only added to the magic of the place. This is a shot from the Spinx, and, if you look closely, you can see the ground through the veils of cloud
We continued our tour of the area by visiting the ice palace. Everything was made of ice. The sculptures, the walls, the ceilings, even the floor – all ice. There was a sign depicting a man slipping and falling as we entered the first cave. When you’ve got international guests all speaking different languages, best to go with funny pictures. We did not fall.
The next area was called “snow fun.” Here we found an outdoor area nestled high in the mountain tops which featured hiking, skiing, sledding, and ziplining. Guess which one we picked? For 20 Swiss francs, we chose the ziplining! I’d never done it before, and I thought, “If I don’t do this, I am going to regret it for the rest of my days.” So we did it. We each had to put on a harness and climb a seriously rickety ladder up to a platform where we were given a lesson on detaching from the line at the bottom.
I went first. Mostly so I wouldn’t chicken out. I attached my line, sat down, and I was off! Seeing the white mountains fly past my face, feeling the wind – oh, what an adrenaline rush! And then I wiped out at the bottom and got snow in my pants. Everybody does, though. You just land in the snow, detach yourself from the line, and stumble out of the way of the next crazy zipliner. It was great – we both loved it. Here we are, in our gear, after ziplining.
After that adventure, I needed some refreshment. So we bought some hot coffee from a little bar and sat down to watch the other adventurous people, enjoying the sunshine on the snow. We walked to the plateau afterward, which is a wide flat area (hence the name) that features a web cam. We stood and waved at that webcam like idiots, hoping to get a shot of ourselves up there preserved for all time. In true, “We made it! Check us out!” fashion. There are two stills of us from the webcam, captured by my father-in-law, who got up at 1:30 AM in Las Vegas (there’s a 9-hour time difference between Las Vegas and Jungfraujoch) to find us up there. We are so thankful to him for going above and beyond.
Lunch! There are restaurants in Jungfraujoch, but, as you might imagine, they are pricey. The only way to get supplies up there is via train. But what the hell, right? You’re only there once. We sat down at a table that afforded more great views of the mountains around us and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Personally, I don’t mind paying more if the food is good and the atmosphere is nice. Damian had a lobster bisque and salad, and I had a creamy leek soup with ravioli and shitake mushrooms paired with a salad. The bread basket, which was 3.50 Swiss francs per person, offered pretzel-twisted rolls and butter. It was all fantastic.
Next stop: shopping! I have never seen my husband express so much glee over shopping in my life. He bought all sorts of nick-knacks, including a cow with a bell. Maybe it was the altitude. I bought a gorgeous smoky quartz necklace and matching earrings. That was the first trinket I’d bought for myself on the trip, so I didn’t feel guilty about dropping a wad.
Finally, after 3 hours up in the thin air, we hopped a train and made our way down the other side of the mountain, through Grindelwald. We picked up our bags at the hotel and, just when we felt like resting and enjoying the hotel, we hopped in the car and drove 90 minutes to Zurich. That drive featured the longest tunnel yet – 5,200 meters! Damian said, “Whoa. That’s a 5 K!” Yep.
We eventually made it to our hotel, totally wiped out from our adventures. But I’ll talk about that, and our trip home, another day….