Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 5 - Jungfraujoch - top of Europe

Our next stop was Interlaken, the metropolis of the Jungfraujoch region. It lies between lake Thun and lake Brienz and is the economic and cultural center of the region. Interlaken has two stops,the popular one is Interlaken ost (east).

Interlaken is a small train junction town with not much to offer. The only reason people go there is to visit Jungfraujoch and some other neighboring places. It is like a train hub. Plenty of hotels, stores and restaurants all to cater to the visitors. The place is infested with Asians tourists. Groups and groups of Indian and Chinese tours visit Interlaken.

There are about 3 Indian restaurants and a few Asian places. A hooters and tones of pizza and pasta places. The Coop ( grocery store) is the famous hang out place for all visitors wanting to save money on food. People are seen buying food, produce, fruits, water etc anything that will help them save their money from the expensive restaurant. Surprising I found bottles of Indian lassi there. They have it in two flavors, Indian chai and mango rose. They are small bottles and taste good. Something to keep handy while you are traveling in trains etc.

Like everybody else we went to Interlaken to visit Jungfraujoch. From Interlaken you can go up to Jungfraujoch using two routes. One is the Lauterbrunnen route and the other one is Grindelwald. We took the train up the Lauterbrunnen route and came down the other one. Both routes are breath taking. The views all throughout were amazing, lush greenery, waterfalls, houses enroute all painted the perfect picture. The higher you got up the bigger and whiter the mountains looked. The air was crisp and pure. while going up you have two pit stops while passing through the tunnel which have large panoramic glass windows to give you a glimpse of what's coming.

Small villages hung at the corner of mountains and I wanted to jump off the train to visit each one of them. The entire journey takes 2 hours one way. So be mindful that this entire trip could last anywhere between 4:30-5 hours or more if you decide to do lunch at the peak.

Much to my shock once again there were hundreds of Indians. In fact when we reached our final destination it felt like I was in little India. A tiny space packed with 100s of us. People varied from all ages, shapes and sizes. There were so many of us that at one point the revolving door was jammed and refused to operate smoothly. Everybody just wanted to rush out to the viewing deck!!! The biggest surprise of all was to see signs to an Indian restaurant called Bollywood. They were serving buffet for 30 Swiss francs a person ( 15 for children). They also serve hot chai for 4 Swiss francs. It was pretty decent and comforting after the cold outside. I was shocked to see  the restaurant and the chai idea because while coming up I was telling Sid we should have a chai stall up there. It would be nice and cozy in the cold up there, lol lol and here it was. I guess we all think alike ;) Why was I surprised? So many Indians visit this place daily it is a great idea to have a restaurant up there. Though I wonder how many from the 100s would actually shell out 30 francs per person for lunch..

Now for the main vista point, the views are breathtaking. You are standing on this open viewing deck 10,000 feet above sea level surrounded by the snow covered Swiss alps!! What could be more beautiful? Cameras kept clicking, people tried to capture as much possible with their handy cams, iPhones, cameras etc. Everyone wanted to pose and take a picture in every nook and corner of the viewing deck. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining bright, there was little wind and all one needed was a warm sweater. With 30F it was bearable. Soon eager and excited tour groups clicked all they could and were gone. We were now reduced from  a few hundreds to a handful. It became quieter and peaceful. The white snow looked pure and inviting. Nature's beauty was at it's best. We were finally standing on top of Europe enjoying the fresh air and the gorgeous snow capped mountains all around us.

P.S. The Swiss restaurant has a great view and good food. Try that if you are starving. We did think about eating the Indian buffet but the place was all messy and dirty! They could do with better management.

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