19 – 20 July 2010
Between heaven and earth
Having made quick stops at Lichtenstein and Lucerne we made our way through magnificent mountain ranges to the picturesque town of Lauterbrunnen in time for dinner, a quick walk and sleep.
For our full day in Switzerland most of us took the optional excursion up the Jungfraubahnen mountain railway to the highest cogwheel railway station in all of Europe (First finished in 1912). Just the idea of climbing to 3,500 metres above sea level on a train is impressive, however it got even more impressive when I realised how many kilometres of tunnels the rail line passes through, and lastly there is the view and buildings at the top; it’s pretty cool.
At the top of the railway they had the usual tourist bullshit; cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, but they also had something called the ‘ice cave’. You know you’re close to the ‘ice cave’ when you feel the temperature drop a few degrees, proceed through a long ice tunnel and you find various caverns with various ice sculptures. It’s very cool.
From the station there is a lift which takes you up a further hundred metres or so to an observation deck called the Sphinx lookout which provides more stunning views and also houses scientific equipment which makes use of the particularly clean air in Switzerland at this height. I saw a ‘spark chamber’ which was used in an experiment to prove Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity (1905).
Having ‘done’ the ice cave, and the Sphinx observatory it was time for some fun in the snow. Outside the Jungfrau station complex there is a sledding slope and tubing course making use of the permanent snow. But before ‘playing around’ I settled down on the snow and downed a beer and some whiskey accompanied by Swiss Chocolate. For the loyal followers of my blog I even wrote a few words – at three and a half thousand metres above sea level!
A little while later I started feeling adventurous again so Katherine and I decided to see where a snowy trail went. Wow, it didn’t look like a hard path when we set off but with the soft snow and thin air it turned out to be bloody hard going. The thin air mixed with alcohol certainly wasn’t helping and all my supplies (I only ever carry essentials) were starting to feel heavier: 1.5L water, bottle of Whiskey, laptop computer, clothing and chocolate. We were under time pressure to get back for dinner and the difficulty surprised me, I actually needed to stop frequently to catch my breath. We made it up [to the top], took some photos and rushed back down to catch the train in time for dinner. Well worth it even with freezing wet feet.
Later that night we had a ‘Ken & Barbie’ themed party. Enough with the themed parties already.