Train to the Top of Europe

by Nancy Bestor

Our Swiss train starts chugging its way up from Interlaken to the “Top of Europe”, the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station (11,333 feet). We leave green fields, wildflowers and balmy 80-plus degree weather and as we climb, the temperature continues to drop, and the terrain begins to look more and more rugged. What were once tiny patches of snow in the distance become large snow fields, then snow covered mountains and glaciers. It’s about then that I realize that advising my daughter Emily to change out of pants and into shorts before heading out of the hotel that morning may not have been my best parenting moment ever.

We arrive at the Jungfraujoch, where people are sledding and skiing, and the temperature is a “balmy” 35 degrees. Emily and Sarah are ready to award me mother of the year when they see people changing into snow pants and parkas, and we all come to the conclusion that our shorts, t-shirts and windbreakers will keep us from hiking the one mile across the glacier to the snow hut, seeing the sled dogs that live on the mountain, and tobogganing down the short snow packed slopes.


Magestic Snowy Peaks

The quick trip to high altitude necessitates a snack and after feeding the girls (and ourselves!) some much needed protein, their moods improve, and we are able to enjoy the majesty of Switzerland’s famous and fabulous peaks and glaciers. The Jungfraujoch is a fascinating site. The railway was completed in 1912 and runs right through the mountain. It took a crew of 3,000 sixteen years to build the tunnel, railway and station, and the work was well worth it.

Luckily even if you are underdressed and don’t spend too much time outside there is still quite a bit to see. We thoroughly enjoyed a cold but fun visit to the Ice Cavern inside the Jungfrau mountain. The cavern houses an array of ice sculptures inside walls and ceilings made entirely of ice and with a floor that, if you had your skates, is ready for a triple lutz. There is a high-end watch shop and several restaurants at the “Top of Europe” as well. Most interesting to us was the Bollywood restaurant. Turns out Indian tourists flock to the Jungfraujoch. Apparently if a Bollywood film is set in a snow covered mountainous region it’s likely it was filmed in the Swiss Alps.

While we didn’t sample any tandoori chicken and we didn’t shell out for any luxury timepieces, I can guarantee that my girls will grow old and remember this trip, not of course for its stunning beauty and amazing feats of engineering, but for the time they almost got hypothermia in Switzerland.