Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Swiss Vacation - Day 2

Day 2

Since we had such a long sleep we were able to get up early and had an awesome continental breakfast (again with amazing coffee) courtesy of Hotel Eiger. The plan for day 2 was to see both the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch. Melanie at the front desk told us that would be pushing it and recommended we do it over two days, but we didn't have the luxury of a second day (unless we totally shuffled everything). Since we already had tickets to Schilthorn (the James Bond rotating restaurant) we decided to do that and see how things worked out from there.

We managed to find a train almost immediately (we have never waited more than 5-10 minutes for a train anywhere!) going to Lauterbrunnen, which was where we wanted to go to get to Murren. Once in Lauterbrunnen, we found our Swiss Pass also gave us free passage on the cable car and short mountain train up to Murren. Murren is a gorgeous alpine village with no roads leading to it. You have to take some sort of train or cable car to get to it. The entire place was a ghost-town however, as it looked like they were in between peak seasons. There was a short walk through Murren to the cable car that would take us up to Schilthorn/Piz Gloria, with one stop in the middle to switch cars at the Riggi station. It was really quite freaky heading up to Schilthorn because the clouds would come out of nowhere and all of a sudden you cannot see two feet in front of the cable car. Sharon had been on cable car lifts in the rockies in British Columbia but I had never really been on one before. The angle at which you are carried up the mountain (and the distance you are off the ground) is insane! I swear we were being lifted (or dropped) at 60 degree angles or more in places!

Once we got to Schilthorn, we immediately headed to the rotating restaurant for lunch while everyone else went outside and to the gift shop. It really was quite entertaining to have lunch there, and we enjoyed it a lot. There isn't a whole lot to see that high in the mountains (at least there wasn't when we were there) because the clouds roll in and all you see is white. But there were areas of clear sky and we managed to get a few really nice pictures.

For lunch we had a soup of the day (cream of vegetable) and a meat and cheese platter which we shared. The food was all very good, and the waitresses were quite friendly. Sharon had a small “shot” of wine and I had a nice beer. After lunch we went outside and snapped some pictures, and stopped into the gift shop. There were areas of cheeziness in terms of Bond memorabilia, but all-in-all we enjoyed this particular attraction very much!

After we came down from Schilthorn, we found that there was a train from Lauterbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg, which was the start of the journey to Jungfraujoch. It looked like it was going to work out quite well and we would have plenty of time to do both attractions. We boarded the train but shortly found out that this was a special cog-wheel train that our Swiss Pass did not cover. But it was no big deal, we simply paid on the train for the entire journey (Lauterbrunnen -> Kleine Scheidegg -> Grindelwald), and stopped in Kleine Scheidegg to see Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch is the “Top of Europe” - a trip up to an observation area that is basically 4000m above sea level. For some reason I was expecting this to be all cable cars, but it turns out it is a 10 km train ride in a tunnel carved into the mountain! There are two observation points where the train stops on the way up for you to get out and look out over the mountains (they have installed huge windows in the caves), and after a lengthy ascent you are at the top. At the top there is much more than a simple observation deck though. There are restaurants, a shopping center, an ice palace, some sort of Bollywood-themed attraction (I don't understand it either), and in the summer you can even take dog sled rides out on the glacier. The bottom line is there is a lot to see and do up there and we suddenly understood why Michele told us to do Jungfraujoch on a separate day. We saw the interesting bits and then we decided to go outside and attempt the 45 minute walk on the glacier (which meant we would have to catch the last possible train down).

This walk looked harmless enough, but the incline combined with the extreme elevation had us gasping for breath fairly quickly. We stuck it out and made it within sight of the end point but decided if we were to catch the last train we had better turn back. Luckily the walk down was much easier and went much faster and we managed to find a seat on the last train down. On the way up we were wondering why everyone was sleeping on the trains coming down the mountain. Now it all made sense.

We made it down just in time to catch the last train to Grindewald, and we got back to our hotel at about 7pm, exhausted, but happy we managed to see both sights. We were thinking about what we were going to do for dinner as we arrived at our room to find the front door wide open, and the balcony door propped open with a chair! WHAT!? We called down to the front desk to find out what the heck was going on and nobody seemed to know. From what we could piece together, it appears that the cleaning staff aired our room out that morning and forgot about it, which meant our room was most likely wide open ALL DAY! Luckily the hotel was virtually empty, and nothing appeared to be missing. We had most of our stuff with us, but there was a small portable printer in Sharon's suitcase and it was still there. I guess we were lucky.

After that bit of excitement, we had a lengthy dinner (we have noticed the service here is much slower, but it seems to be a general trend that the wait staff here just leave you alone) at one of the other hotels in Grindelwald, and headed to bed.


Paulina said...

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the vacation and finding great coffee! That must be a relief to Sharon. We're looking forward to seeing all your photos and hearing more stories when you get home.

Sherri said...

Looking at all of your pictures brings back memories of Alaska to me. It is near impossible to capture the grandeur, scope and beauty of the landscape of the mountains and glaciers on our cameras, though.
I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying your time away together and that things are panning out well. A little scare at the hotel with the doors being opened buth thankfully that was nothing to worry about in the end. Looking forward to seeing You two when you return. MOM

Anonymous said...

Glad to see that you are having a great vacation. I looked through some of the pictures, I am sure the pictures really do the scenery no justice. I am sure it is just beautiful. Have a great rest of your week and I will talk to you when you return. Sharon will have lots of pictures to scrapbook with.

Kathy T