Europe’s highest altitude railway station at 3454m, the Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland has attracted world travellers. From the top you do get a spectacular close up view of the glaciers and the mountains range of Eiger, Monch and of course the great lady Jungfrau at her majestic height of 4158m. The lovely train ride to the top may be taken from Interlaken or the surrounding villages of Lauterbrunnen, Wengen or Grindelwald. Once arriving in Lauterbrunnen, the yellow and green coloured cogwheel train that runs on the Wengernalp railway takes you to Kleine Scheidegg the high mountain pass at 2061m via the villages of Wengen and Wengeralp. Arriving at Kleine Scheidegg the train heads for the tunnels towards Jungfraujoch. But prior to entering the tunnels the train stops at Eigergletscher at an altitude of 2320m, first opened in 1898 and one of the world’s highest open air station. From here begins the memorable journey into tunnels up the snowy peaks to the Jungfraujoch.
It is amazing to think that what first began simply by pencil sketching work of Adolf Guyer-Zeller was finally going to become one of the world fabulous train journey into Europe most beautiful Alps. It all began when he was hiking along the mountains when an idea came to build a cogwheel railway to the top of the Jungfrau by creating tunnels through the mountain rocks of Eiger and Monch. Backed by the locals who see the potential of tourism, the first construction began in 1896 with only using dynamites and the workers bare hands. The work carried on even after the death of the founder and by 1903 Eigerwand station opens followed by Eismeer station in 1905 and finally after sixteen years of construction the Jungfraujoch station opens in 1912. Passing through narrow tunnels from the open air Eigergletscher station, the train continues till Eigerwald where it stops a few minutes for visitors to glimpse through glass windows at the glaciers and the formation of crevasses and seracs. The next station is Eismeer (sea of ice) at nearly 3160m for another stop and a quick look through the glass windows. Unfortunately the view was rather hazy due to the cloudy weather with low visibility. After a few minutes stop in Eismeer the train continues its journey to Jungfraujoch.
Jungfraujoch train station at an altitude of 3454m – the highest in Europe
Arriving at the summit are hallways taking you to several attractions among those is the Ice Palace. Getting there is quite an adventure, passing through ice passages till you reach the main hall home to the ice sculptures. The ice rock cavern was an original idea created in 1934 by two mountain guides from Grindelwald and Wengen. The ice itself apparently can move up to 15cm per year and with the heat generated from many visitors, cooling it down to minus three degrees is constantly maintained as well as regular re cutting of the ice cavern. The Ice Palace is certainly one of the most enjoyable attractions where you can wander along a labyrinth of icy passages (no you won’t slip and certainly not on high heels) and glimpse at the many artful figures carved from ice – a must visit when in Jungfraujoch !
Here is another gigantic ice sculpture depicting the figure of Sherlock Holmes.
Time to unwind and lunch at Crystal restaurant while enjoying the superb panoramic view.
Half or whole day is probably needed to really enjoy this once in a life time visit to one of the world most beautiful Alps. After a wonderful treat at Crystal, time to continue the journey exploring more attractions. Head for the tunnels and watch the sound and light show … Here it is the alpine sensation with the first hall displaying an exquisite snow globe presenting sketches of “Little dreams of Switzerland”. Continue the Alpine journey through more tunnels along which are painted images of the early days of tourism in the Jungfrau region. In one section a wall painting inspired by Caspar David Friedrich the German romantic artist depicts a man looking at the wonder of the Alps.
The second hall presents the story of Jungfraujoch and its construction with a sculpture of Guyer Zeller founder of Jungfrau Railway. The tunnel construction did not go without tragic incidents when in 1899 a deadly explosion took the lives of 6 workers. Names of these workers are seen engraved on wooden bars along the tunnels – a tribute to their bravery.
Spectacular views of the surrounding mountains can be seen by walking along the snowy glacier plateau where there is a vantage view point – truly breathtaking especially in good weather.
But a more fabulous view is to be seen from the Sphinx Observatory at an altitude of 3571m, formerly a research station opened in 1931, later used for astronomical studies and opened as vantage deck in 1996. Attainable through one of Switzerland fastest lift (25 seconds) that takes you up the rocky summit, the Sphinx is now part of the Jungfraujoch experience into the heart of the Swiss Alps.
From the panoramic observatory deck there is a spectacular view of the Alps and the world famous Aletsch glacier, longest alpine glacier (23 km) and part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arriving on the deck you will be greeted by these wonderful black plumage yellow-billed alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus)