Well, not really. Switzerland’s Jungfraujoch region calls itself “The Top of Europe” but Mount Blanc, in France, is the highest point in Europe at 4,810 m (15,781 ft). Jungfrau clocks in at a relatively measly 3,471 m (11,388 ft), but there is publicly accessible transport up to it. Basically it’s the highest point in Europe you can buy a ticket for.
But first, Switzerland in general: This is a country that works, in pretty much every sense of the word. It has Europe’s lowest unemployment, highest income per capita for a non-trivial economy, arguably its best transport network and related infrastructure, and, perversely, Europe’s highest suicide rate. There’s something going on here that warrants a closer look.
We landed in Zürich, and headed for Basel, one of the oldest and richest parts of the Swiss Confederacy (apropos of nothing, I suppose, but you expect factual reporting from blinkingewoks.com, and that’s what you’ll get). From there it’s a quick jaunt on Switzerland’s famously efficient and reliable train system to the Berner Oberland area, home of the Jungfraujoch, Gimmelwald, Murren, and much else besides. This requires trains that connect to cable cars that climb seventy-degree slopes to more trains, etc. The vertiginous amongst us (yours truly included) just have to keep repeating the mantra “It’s Swiss Engineering, it’s Swiss Engineering…”
And so! Finally we end up in Murren, our home base for the next few days. Not a bad place, really. Here’s the view our hotel apologized for (since it’s not the ‘best they had to offer’):
Anyhoo. Like I said it’s just a jumping-off point. Several drinks later, it’s high time to buzz up the Schilthornbahn to, well, the Schilthorn, which at a mere 2,970 m (9,744ft) seems pretty unimpressive at first. But then you get to the rotating restaurant at the top and realize it took some monumental heuvos to build the place. It even has a clear-acrylic skywalk for those who always wanted the experience of a heart attack without all the bother of an ambulance ride.
The star attraction here is the afore-mentioned Jungfraujoch, the three peaks seen below. Local legend has it that the Monch (monk, in the middle) protects the Jungfrau (the young lady–the highest peak, to the right) from the insidious Eiger (ogre, on the left).
After letting the abrupt altitude change fog your thinking, you’re just about crazy enough to ride the cable car back down.
There’s too many insane views to cover in a single post, so I’ll leave Gimmelwald, the Lauterbrunnen valley, and Trummelbach Fällen for the next post. Until then, happy travels and SWISS ENGINEERING.