Monday, August 1, 2016

Trip to Geneva and Jungfraujoch, Switzerland (July 2016)

Switzerland is home to the Alps although it stretches to Italy, France and Austria. I did not know what I was missing about the Alps until I came to visit the Alps.

Switzerland is a mountainous nation located in central Europe. It is famous not only for the Alps but also watches, chocolates, knives and banking. Switch watches and Swiss officer knives are renowned without having to say. Swiss chocolates compete with Belgian Godiva and its friends. Switzerland is well known for offshore and private banking for wealthy individuals around the world. Also famous are fondue, cheese and yodels.

Switzerland is a confederate of cantons. Its currency is CHF (Confederate Helvetica Franc) or Swiss Franc. It has a population of 8.3 million in the land of 41,000 sq. km. It has been maintaining neutrality diplomatically with neighboring nations over centuries. Switzerland is one of the countries that have declared to be neutral internationally and has been able to maintain the state for centuries.

Kristin and I visited Geneva and Jungfraujoch at the top of the Alps. And, the visit was well worthwhile.

Geneva:    Geneva with a population of 200,000 inhabitants is located at the southern tip of Switzerland. It has the headquarters of Red Cross and United Nations' Europe regional office. It has a lake (Geneva Lake) surrounded by the Alps and you could see the Mont Blanc. It is also the birthplace of Geneva Convention.

The Lake Geneva has a fountain that shoots out water up into the air: Jet d'Eau. It is the most famous landmark for Geneva. It is known to shoot up the water up to the altitude of 140 meters. It has been in operation since 2003.

Jungfraujoch:    You cannot say you have experienced Switzerland without climbing the Alps. It would have taken days to climb up, so we chose to take a train.

The scenery passing through the skirts of the Alps was fantastic. As the road turns around the corner of a mountain, a lake popped up. It was one of the twin lakes located at the base of the Alps.

Normally, people stay in Interlaken where the train departs. Interlaken has twin lakes: Lake Thun and Lake Brientz. You could easily find bars, cafes and restaurants in this town. We stayed at a hotel in Wilderswill, one stop closer to the mountain and quieter than Interlaken. It was refreshing to walk around the small town and fascinating to see the Jungfrau peak from the hotel.

We took three legs of train to reach Jungfraujoch or the top of Europe. The first leg was from Interlaken, one stop lower than Wilderswill, to Lauternbrunnen. The second leg was from Lauternbrunnen to Kleine Scheidegg and the third and final leg was from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch at the altitude of 3,454 m. All the trains use cogwheels on the rails so that they do not slip during the ascent and descent.

The third leg was going pretty much through the tunnel as the train was climbing up to the top. Since there is only one rail in the tunnel, the trains stopped three times in the tunnel to let the other direction trains to pass. At each stop, we were allowed to take a 5-minute break while the train was waiting. They built lookout windows in the tunnel so that people may be able to see the changing mountain views. The stop also helped people get acclimatized to the rapidly changing altitude.

Throughout the journey, the scenery was changing and we all were stunned by the beauty that the nature was producing in front of our eyes. Any where you turn you could produce a postcard shot. I lived in Colorado for several years and experienced the Rocky Mountains. When I saw the Alps, I could sense the difference between the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, but I could not tell. After while, I realized that the difference was primarily coming from the fact that the Alps has wide valleys and the mountain scenery was perfectly harmonized with the valley scenery while the Rocky Mountains does not have such wide valleys.

At Jungfraujoch, you could find trio Alpine peaks: Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau. They recommended a tour course that included 9 points of interest. We visited Sphinx Observatory Terrace, Glacier Plateau, Lindt Chocolate Heaven, Alpine Sensation, and Ice Palace,

We did not get to visit, but you could find people who are blowing long horns at Schynige Platte.

On the way down, the three legs of train must be taken in reverse order. We got off the train in Lauternbrunnen (Later we were told that it was against the rule for group ticket.) and explored the town including a waterfall.

Austria was my favorite country until I experienced Switzerland. Now Switzerland is my favorite country. The Alps. Amazing beauty. It will linger in the back of my memory for a long time. - Jeffrey

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