When I was still a little girl I used to savour the unique flavour of Swiss chocolate squares that my aunt and uncle used to send us from Switzerland. Back then I never imagined that one day I would endeavour to stand on top of those beautiful snow-capped mountains pictured on the wrappers. Well earlier this week I did exactly that and my, was it a marvellous feat.
Based in Zurich for a few days I booked a coach that would take us to the base of the esteemed railway on the outskirts of Interlaken, allowing time to marvel at the picturesque surroundings as we drove up and down and round the mountains that encompass this rural haven. There was a short stop in the town en-route, just long enough to admire the view of the Alps in all their glory from afar, before we disembarked for the next stage of our journey by rail.
Jumping aboard our first cog and wheel train in Grindelwald we gradually began to pull our way up the steep mountain side, ascending ever higher into the vast snowy landscape, with expanding scenic views looking back down the tracks. It took approximately half an hour before we pulled in to Kleine Scheidegg, a popular ski resort on the lower slopes of the Eiger. But I wasn’t here to hit the slopes, so it was a quick change over to another train which would help us to climb the steepest gradient through a lengthened tunnel which had been blasted through the rock of Jungfraujoch.
Departing from the alpine station we were treated to a few brief moments of daylight, before plummeting into darkness for the remainder of the trip. As the incline increased I could feel a slight pressure beginning to build in my head, so was grateful for a brief relief as we stepped off the carriage for a few short moments in order to take in a panoramic view of the peaks just below the summit. From this point it was only a short pull to the top, by which point I had gone a little weak at the knees.
Despite this I pushed on and rose in the elevator to the viewing platform suspended at the highest point. Stepping out into the cool air I suddenly found myself surrounded by an all-consuming blanket of white, studded with cragged brown peaks with a sugar dusting. On one side a sheer drop into the bleak unknown, on the other I found myself gazing out at Europe’s longest glacier, with clouds scudding beneath the clear blue skies beyond. I was now stood in the centre of the Alps, breathing in the fresh air at 3454m at the top of Europe, with the Swiss flag flying proudly from above.
It was both beautiful and surreal, a real achievement. This was certainly the highlight of the adventure, but we also had time to explore a few of the other attractions cleverly built into the ‘Sphinx’ structure. We learnt a little of the history before roaming through the slick ice palace and exiting onto a lower plateaux of snow outside. There was also an opportunity to wine and dine, as well as pick up a few souvenirs, which had to be done in order to mark this grand occasion. The site also housed what has to be the highest confectionary store in Europe if not the world, luring us to give into the temptation of leaving with a bag full of delicious Lindt chocolate.
Having splashed out on a glass of wine with enchanting window-side views it was time to say farewell to the remarkable attraction and queue for our train back down the mountain, during which we were kindly gifted a square of Swiss chocolate, which I thought may help to put my body at ease with the sudden change in altitude.
Remerging from the dark we changed carriages and took an alternative route down the other side of the wintery wonderland, passing through the scenic alpine town of Wengen, with striking views of the sheer height we had just traversed possible on our winding descent. In time we eventually finished up in the lush flattened valleys around Lauterbrunnen, out final stop before boarding the coach back towards Interlaken and onwards to Zurich.
All in all it was a fantastic trip, one I would thoroughly recommend. It is a long day however, and the various attractions can be very busy with several tours running simultaneously alongside the viewing public. The experience far outweighs these smaller matters though, and as our guide suggested it really was the best of the best of Switzerland.