Skip navigation

Tag Archives: interlaken

This is the last post on this wonderful one-day tour of the Jungfrau area. From Interlaken Ost station to Jungfraujoch, one way, it took about 2.5 hours and two changes of trains.

grindelwald-1

We came back down the mountain using a slightly different route. The trip from Jungfraujoch to Kleine Scheidegg is the same except it took a few minutes less than the ascent. From Kleine Scheidegg (elevation 2,061 m, 6,762 ft), we went downhill via Grindelwald (1,034 m, 3,392 ft) instead of Lauterbrunnen where we started. See the first of five posts here.

grindelwald-2

For the whole circuit, in total, that is 5 hours of train journeys divided into 6 segments in one day.

grindelwald-3

A one way, second class fare was CHF50, first class fare is doubled that. Except for hang-gliders or some extreme skiers or hikers, there are no other way down. Considering the comfort, convenience and vertical distance traveled, not to mention views, it was worth it.

grindelwald-4

There were two stations before reaching Grindelwald: Alpiglen and Brandegg.

grindelwald-5

Grindelwald is a village/ski resort that has been inhabited since Roman times and was first mentioned in print in the 1100’s.

grindelwald-7

The tourism industry began in Grindelwald in the late 18th century. Many English came to the village to climb the alpine peaks around the valley. It is the only decent size resort in the area that can be reached by car.

grindelwald-8

We walked around Grindelwald a bit to stretch our legs. The village is full of hotels, shops and restaurants, and many tour buses too.

grindelwald-10

From the village, looking back, one can see the way the train comes down the mountain.

grindelwald-11

Zoomed in.

Can you see the narrow railway cutting through the alpine pastures in the middle ?

grindelwald-31

We got a different train and continued our way back to Interlaken.

grindelwald-14

The success of this trip depended critically on the weather which apparently changes constantly and abruptly. It was wise to follow the advice of the tourist information center to wait until it is clear. We were in Interlaken for three days – this was our last day. Those tour groups from abroad do not have the flexibility and may have to miss the Jungfrau altogether.

grindelwald-13

Now that we have an idea of what the area looks like, planning becomes easier. It would be great if we can spend a week in any one of these villages – Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg or the nearby Murren and explore the alps and the alpine meadow and woods on foot.

grindelwald-15

 

*

 

Advertisements

This is part 2 of our trip to the Top of Europe … continuing with our train journey from Interlaken up to Jungfraujoch … see our earlier post here.

klein s-16

Located at Kleine Scheidegg is the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes (building behind the souvenir store). Built in 1840, the Bellevue des Alpes was last extended and renovated in 1948. All the great mountaineers of the 20th century as well as celebrities from society, skiing and the film industry have stayed in this hotel.

klein s-2

The Kleine Scheidegg railway station, which serves the two rack railways, the Wengernalpbahn (since 1893) and the Jungfraubahn (since 1896).

klein s-3

The Wengernalpbahn has two branches: one begins at Grindelwald; the other commences at Lauterbrunnen and climbs to the pass via Wengen.

Click this map to get a bigger image. You will better appreciate what the mountains and the area offer in terms of activities and vistas. Can you find Kleine Scheidegg ?

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.44.14 AM

The Jungfraubahn runs 9 kilometres from Kleine Scheidegg almost entirely within a tunnel built into the Eiger and Mönch mountains and contains three stations, while two are in the middle of the tunnel.

klein s-4

An earlier train that departed Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch (see photo below).  The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops at Eigerwand and Eismeer; the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.

klein s-5

The first stop is at Eigergletscher at 2,320 m (7,612 ft). There is hardly anything here except the entrance of the tunnel and mountain fresh air.

klein s-8

Mountain air.

klein s-7

Fallbodensee, along the way up, a small pond that is clearly visible from the top.

klein s-9In case you are wondering, our trip was taken in early September.

klein s-10We think that is Wengen in the distance – the resort village we passed through a little while ago.  Then we entered the long tunnel.

klein s-11

Eigerwand is an underground (or more aptly under-mountain) railway station situated at 2,864 m (9,396 ft). The only access to the station, other than by train, is a door in the sheer face of the mountain. This has, on occasion, been used to rescue mountaineers stranded on the mountain.

klein s-12

The station is situated just behind the famous north wall of the Eiger, and its principal purpose is to allow passengers to observe the view through a series of windows carved into the rock face. The holes were used to remove excavated rock from the tunnel during construction. The photos below were taken from the giant windows through thick glass.

klein s-13

Uphill trains stop at the station for five minutes. One can see Fallbodensee and Kleine Scheidegg in the pictures above and below.

klein s-14

That’s how much we climbed in only a short while. The uphill journey continues in the next post.

 

 

One of the main attractions of Switzerland is located near Interlaken. The Jungfrau (4158 m, 13642 feet; in German meaning “maiden/virgin”) is one of the main summits in the Bernese Alps. Together with the Eiger and Mönch, the Jungfrau forms a massive wall overlooking the area. There is a height difference of 3,600 m between the summit and the town of Interlaken where the photo below is taken from our hotel room.

lauterbrunnen-1

We are calling this the Jungfrau circuit because we went by rail up to Jungfraujoch (3454 m, 11333 feet) via Lauterbrunnen and came down via Grindelwald (it can also be done in the other direction). There will be at least two more posts in this series. Click the map for a bigger image of the area.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.44.14 AM

We did this tour in the summer of 2013. The train for Lauterbrunnen departed from the Interlaken Ost station. My Swiss annual train ticket (general abonnement) got me as far as Lauterbrunnen and a discount for the rest of the train journey from that point up to Jungfraujoch. It is quite an expensive train ride but considering the elevation and the sights, it is well worth it.

lauterbrunnen-2

The train snaked its way from Interlaken alongside a river up to Lauterbrunnen which is situated in a very impressive trough valleys in the Alps, between gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks.

lauterbrunnen-3

The name ‘Lauter Brunnen’ (‘many fountains’) came from the numerous waterfalls (apparently there are 72) in the valley, the most famous being the Staubbach Falls. As we did not stop here except to change train, we did not really visit the valley and have to come back to do some hiking.

At the bottom of the valley (792m, 2608 feet).

lauterbrunnen-4

We changed train and continued our climb. Looking back into the valley.

lauterbrunnen-5

The next stop was Wengen (1274m, 4180 feet).

lauterbrunnen-6

Wengen is a car-free resort village. We imagine it to be very tranquil except when the train rolls in. It looked quite busy when we got there.

lauterbrunnen-7

Lots of hiking trails, and cows, all over the mountain.

lauterbrunnen-12Wengen would be another good place to stay for hiking.

lauterbrunnen-8Looking back at Wengen.

lauterbrunnen-9The climb continued. The next stop is Kleine Scheidegg at 2061 m, 6762 feet.

lauterbrunnen-10There were fewer and fewer trees. This is genuine alpine landscape.

lauterbrunnen-11

Kleine Scheidegg meaning “minor watershed”  is a high mountain pass below Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks.

lauterbrunnen-13

Kleine Scheidegg connects Grindelwald with Lauterbrunnen.

lauterbrunnen-15We changed to another rack railway train and continued our climb to Jungfraujoch. Rack railway is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails (see third rail in the middle in photo above). The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels that mesh with this rack rail.

lauterbrunnen-14The circuit is in our opinion a must-do for visitors of Switzerland as it brings many of the popular elements of this country together in a one-day trip. See our next post for the trip up to the top of Europe.

While we were visiting Interlaken, we went on a cruise around Thunersee and posted about it here and here. We have so many pictures to post because the cruise took about two hours each way, a total of four hours  round trip. We sat lazily on the top deck, Sue staring into the distance and me snapping these pictures. Quite a carefree way to spend an afternoon.

thunersee-29

The boat has a restaurant that seats 100’s – dinner cruise must be popular here …  but at night, I suspect there is hardly anything around the lake that is lit enough to be seen from the boat.

thunersee-32

The views around Thunersee during the day are stunning – sky, mountain, boats, and water. The boat shown below is powered by steam. Ours run by diesel, I think.

thunersee-40

There were many lake houses – all size and shapes – from huge modern homes to quaint little shacks. This is a beautiful home – lots of glass but no curtains, even the bathroom on the top floor!  It looked more like a furniture showroom. But the boat and canoe launches underneath the house are neat.

thunersee-16

We wondered if some of these houses are only reachable by boat.

thunersee-7

Just imagine spending a stretch of summer days here with a vineyard behind and the lake out in the front.

thunersee-13

A shuttered lakefront hotel – the Hirschen – near one of the cruise stops.  The perfect haunted house – must be spooky at night … a party space for Halloween?

thunersee-27

This is strictly speaking not a lake house because it sits next to the canal in Thun.

thunersee-23

Some looked like toy houses.

thunersee-26

Others are just traditional-looking.

thunersee-17

Heading back home. We moved to the bow to see the entrance into the Interlaken canal. The wind picked up a bit and dark clouds appeared.

thunersee-33

Back in Interlaken – end of cruise. The building on the left has something to do with hydroelectric power.

thunersee-34

Now we want to try cruising on the other lake – Brienzersee. Next time in Interlaken.

Continuing with our long weekend in Interlaken …

Interlaken’s hotels are expensive and they are often fully booked. Our hotel is BeauSite located in the next town – Unterseen.

interlaken-16

It is a family-owned hotel which has a nice little seating area in front and ample parking spaces. It was impossible to find parking in Interlaken … we tried.

interlaken-17

Unterseen is really about 5-10 minutes walk from Interlaken’s main drag – Höheweg – and just because it is situated across the river Aare – there is hardly any tourists.

interlaken-28

The River Aare connects Lake Thun and Lake Brienz – the “inter” part of Interlaken.

interlaken-27

We joined a free walking tour and the guide took us treking across the river and up onto a trail just above the town. Poor Sue, her feet suffered for not having the right shoes.

interlaken-22

The trail offered wonderful views of Interlaken – it was not so far up where everything appears tiny. One can just see Lake Thun in a distance
in the above photo – looking west – just when sun was setting.

Looking just across town – the backs of the old grand hotels on Höheweg are visible in the middle.

interlaken-23

And looking east,  Höhematte (the big lawn in the center of town) is in the foreground (of the photo below).

interlaken-24

Our little tour looped into Unterseen via a riverside walk before crossing the Aare and then turning back into the town center.


interlaken-26

So peaceful.

interlaken-25

Our walk around town took us near the funicular that connects Interlaken with the nearest summit – Harderkulm at 1323 meters (4341 feet) – which affords one a bird’s eye view of the town. Didn’t go there, we were quite happy with what we saw already.

interlaken-29Near the funicular station is a small zoo – better described as a fenced-off area – where a few mountain sheep/goat is kept.  What puzzled me was the height of the huts – are there two floors inside ?

interlaken-30

As expected, the town is full of restaurants including many ethnic restaurants – for the home-sick tourists who cannot deal with daily European meals.  Well, we had a Korean dinner one night (Sue cannot resist it) and a generic “middle-eastern” on another. The best dinner we had was Italian at Citta Vecchia just down the street from our hotel – simple risotto con porcini and pasta alla vongole – it tasted great!  It is one of those mythical little Italian restaurants which every couple knows at least one.

interlaken-20 Another restaurant that was recommended to us by our guide was the “Bear” which serves traditional Swiss fare and is also just down the street. We did not have a chance to try it and we avoided all the steak places and continental restaurants in the town center.

interlaken-21

Our hotel room has a direct view of the famous Jungfrau – 4158 meters (13,641 feet).  But on the first day, visibility is zero.

interlaken-18

On the last day – the day we went up there, the weather was cooperating.

interlaken-19

More pictures on our trip up Jungfrau to come …

We spent a long weekend in Interlaken at the end of August. Without having consulted any official statistics, Interlaken is I think the most visited place in Switzerland. Lucern is a close second. It is situated between two mountain lakes.

interlaken-8

The city is built for tourism. Its name was originally Aarmühle but it was changed in 1891.  Tourism started in the early 1800’s and the place never looked back.

interlaken-9

With increasing rail and boat links, hotels developed along the route to the Jungfrau. In late 1800’s several luxury hotels were built with views of the Jungfrau and surrounding mountains.

interlaken-3

This casino is one of the reasons why this place became popular.

interlaken-2

The main promenade – Höheweg –  links the east and west side of town.  It is lined on one side with hotels – the grandest of which is the Victoria-Jungfrau. The street is really busy – tour buses dropping off hordes of tourists to buy souvenirs and watches, horse-drawn carriages pick up and drop off passengers.

interlaken-4

The Victoria-Jungfrau has a very nice garden/sidewalk cafe. We were very thirsty and glad to find place to rest our feet. The cafe is across from a large open lawn known as the Höhematte.

interlaken-1

This is taken from the other side of the Höhematte – from left to right – the Metropole, the Victoria-Jungfrau.

interlaken-6

As if there is not enough going on in front of the hotel – the hotel provided a girl playing guitar to serenade the patrons. She was singing Bésame Mucho when we sat down.

interlaken-5Along Höheweg, beside hotels, there were jewelers, boutiques, and eateries, including a Hooters !  The waitress were wearing orange uniform, like in the US, and the ambiance appears to be that of a family restaurant.

interlaken-7Paragliding is very popular and relatively cheap compared to everything else in this town. Lots of tandem paragliding. There are cliffs just behind the town for launches. We saw 8-10 of them all up there at the same time.

interlaken-10

Höhematte offers the perfect landing space in the middle of town. The open space even allows several to land more or less one after the other.  It is a huge lawn – you cannot miss it. We did it once in Rio de Janeiro and the paragliders there land on the open beach.

interlaken-11So we spent a half hour sipping ice tea under an umbrella, listening to brazilian songs, and watching the paragliders land in front of the hotel. Nice!

interlaken-12Interlaken is very commercial – crawling with tourists, mostly changing trains heading for the mountains. It serves as the hub for the entire region.

interlaken-13It has two train stations (Ost and West) – the former serving mostly trains that go to Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald – very popular villages half way up the mountain. See later posts. The West station serves the main lines and international trains (German mostly).

interlaken-14Our first day was not suitable to go up to Jungfrau due to cloud coverage. If you look carefully at the picture below, in the middle, you can see Jungfrau.

interlaken-15

More to come … but here is a map to help orientation. Click to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 11.49.13 PM

Continuing with our cruise from Interlaken to Thun … after Merligen, the boat headed to the south shore.

On the south shore is the town of Spiez. Behind it are three mountains, each having a nick near the top (see photo below). They looked almost artificial ! I bet you can only see the alignment of the three gaps from the lake.  As I am writing this … an explanation came up.  Could they all be a path cut through the forest on the hiiltop (i.e., a fire lane) to prevent forest fire ?

thunersee-10

Spiez is clearly a bigger town.

thunersee-42

Next to Spiez on a headland are a few vineyards on a slope. Very pretty but not as pretty as Lavaux near us – a future post, promised.

thunersee-12

Upon leaving Spiez, the cruise crossed the lake again to Gunten on the North shore.

thunersee-43

Somewhere near the middle of the photo – you will see a grayish sloping straight line. It is the Sigriswil panoramic bridge –  a pedestrian bridge that crosses a valley. There must be quite a few sights –  both the bridge itself as well as the views.

thunersee-14

Near the middle of the lake, a bunch of sail boats quietly slipped past us.

thunersee-30

The rest of the stops are all on the north shore at picture perfect lakeside villages. Oberhofen is next – it has a cute little castle and what looked like a hotel by the lakefront.

thunersee-15

Oberhofen pier.

thunersee-41

Many of the stops are right next to hotels on the lakefront. The guests can stay there and drive/sail into Thun or Interlaken for dinner.

thunersee-25

There is a magnificent house near the entrance of the Thun canal.

thunersee-19

It is probably a hotel or museum as there were lots of public space, including a pier for mooring boats, and swans.

thunersee-20

The Thun canal splits into two channels.

thunersee-21

We took the left one.  The Thun canal is not as green as the canal on the Interlaken end. There is an industrial site for loading sand or rocks by the canal – very unsightly when it is so pristine every where. There is a park on the other bank – kind of compensating for it.

thunersee-22

We spent about 2 hours in Thun and return by the same boat.

thunersee-46

More photo on this boat crusie to come !

If you missed part 1, here it is again.

We spent a long weekend in Interlaken towards the end of summer. The plan was to visit the world famous Jungfrau but for that altitude, it requires a clear and cloudless sky. Otherwise, the visibility is effectively zero. At the tourist office, they told us the weather on the first two days were not good but the last day would be fine. They recommended taking a cruise on Lake Thun on the cloudy days.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 11.52.53 PM

That’s the reason Interlaken is such a popular resort – even if the weather  is not cooperating, the city provides an attractive alternative.

thunersee-1

A ferry service has been operating since 1835. We were on one of their larger and newer ship – MS Bernese Oberland – see pictures of their fleet here. The cruise runs back and forth between Interlaken and Thun.

thunersee-2

We embarked the ship at Interlaken port – right next to the Interlaken West railway station (an international train station – we saw many German trains). A ship canal connects the port to the lake.

thunersee-3

Thunersee (in native Swiss German) takes its name from the town of Thun on its Northern shore. Thunersee was a part of Brienzersee (Lake Brienz) until the deposited silt piled up so much that split the lake into two.

thunersee-4

The cruise made 10 stops on both sides of the lake, before reaching Thun. The first stop was Neuhaus.

thunersee-5

There are sheer cliffs on the north side of the lake near Interlaken. See the road that is really a “bridge” built onto the side of the cliff.

thunersee-6

At a few spots, the winding road becomes a short tunnel.

thunersee-28

There are lots to do (hiking, water-sports) along the rim of the lake, But it is definitely wilder on the Interlaken end of the lake. This stop – Beatenbucht – next to the station of a funicular – Beatenberg – Niederhorn – takes one from the lake shore to the start of many hiking trails at around 2000 m.

thunersee-8It was windy in the afternoon – perfect for this water sport.

thunersee-31

Merligen

thunersee-9

After stopping at Merligen which is half way on the North shore, the cruise crossed the lake and stopped at Faulensee on the South shore. Looking back at Merligen, one can see the steep meadows just behind the town and the mountains on both sides. It might be too small to see it on the photo – next to the clouds, there is a communication tower at the peak of the mountain on the right.

thunersee-11To be continued …