Friday, February 12, 2010

White Christmas: Interlaken

Leaving Bern, we got an early train to Interlaken. The route was very popular with skiers, and about half the train got off at the various ski stops along the way. When we arrived at our accommodation we were greeted by a very enthusiastic host, Ursula. After selecting our pick of the free rooms and enjoying a warming welcome drink, she sold us train tickets for the Jungfraujoch and soon we were on our way.

The trip up to the Jungfrau is the highlight of visiting Interlaken. It's in three stages -- the first takes you up to Grindelwald, the second is a cog railway to Kleine Scheidegg, and the last is the steepest cog railway in the world up to the top of the mountain saddle. The scenery was beautiful on the way up, and it didn't take long before we were amongst the snowy mountains and climbing steadily.

The first change was at Grindelwald which looked to be a nice ski resort type place at the foot of a ski field. We hopped on a cog railway trian and were hauled up the mountain to Kleine Scheidegg, a tourist town in a mountain pass. The mountain views from here were great -- they were covered in snow, and the light made them look really imposing. As we went up, we could see plenty of skiers enjoying themselves, and the chairlifts seemed to go very high up.

When we got to Kleine Scheidegg, we found seats on the train only to remember that we'd left the tripod on the other train, so a frantic few minutes ensued while we tried to find our old carriage and the tripod, then raced back to the other train before it departed for the Jungfrau.

It's pretty coldThe trip up the mountain was not that exciting as it was largely in a tunnel, except for when we stopped at the two viewing points within the mountain. These allowed you to see just how far up you were climbing, and provided great views of the mountains and valleys, as well as the glacier which covers the saddle. Once we made it to the top we headed for the Sphinx which has a viewing platform where you can look back down along a glacier, or out towards Interlaken.

It was a wee bit nippy so after taking a few pictures we headed back inside to warm up and make our way to the real outdoorsy part where you can walk on the snow. Unfortunately they didn't have the button sleds so we contented ourselves with throwing snowballs and jumping in the piles of snow. We were very lucky to have such a nice clear day, and we could see for ages; some people get caught out by clouds at the top and can't see a thing!

On the Jungfrau

On the way down we went the other way back via Lauterbrunnen, stopping at Wengen to see what an alpine town is really like. Turns out, pretty cute. There were Christmas lights up, people playing ice hockey, and golf carts driving people around the little streets. It looked like a really nice place to be based for your holidays, especially if you were into skiing. On the train ride back to town we saw people sledding alongside the train tracks, and they were going nearly as fast as the train in some parts!

We had a quiet night and a quiet day the next day, walking around Interlaken. It's quite a touristy town and there wasn't too much interesting stuff there, so we took a bus to Lake Brienz and ambled through a (very quiet) camping ground to admire the lake. It was a very melancholy day, and it wasn't too appealing. It must have been nice on a sunny day though!


The next day we had a relatively early start, as we were off to Lucerne.

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