Lauterbrunnen – To the Top of Europe

We we’re staying in the valley for our second night in the Swiss alps.

We left our high altitude mountain hostel in Gimmelwald and paid the 8 franks to take the tram to the valley floor.  We walked around the town trying to locate our hostel and were surprised to find it smack, right in the middle, a 5 minutes walk from the train station. Upon check in, the receptionist mentioned he had a private double room available for an additional 16 franks. We quickly reserved that puppy and we’re able to check in to the room immediately, even though it was only 10am.

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Our room was in a separate little cottage, with four bedrooms and a shared kitchen and bathroom. The room was like a hotel room. Amazing, clean and had a view of the he valley floor, train route and largest waterfall.

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I quickly, ran back downstairs to see if they had availability for one additional night. They said it was reserved but they had bunk rooms available. Loving the hostel and location, we decided to stay one more night and enjoy the Swiss alps for another day. After traveling nonstop and taking trains day after day, we needed to stop, catch up on life, write blog posts and just chill before moving on again.

It was about noon when we decided to finally get moving. We purchased tickets to the top of Europe – an expensive attraction to visit the highest train station/railroad in Europe and explore the tippy top of thee Swiss alps. It was worth every penny.

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Our train chugged up the steep mountain hillside, in a Disneyland attraction sort of way. We had purchased a six pack of Swiss beer prior to departure and popped one open for the ride.

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The top of Europe is nearly 12,000  feet up, so the train ride took about 2 hours to reach the top, stopping in small alpine towns where we would pick up more tourists, the most from Wengen. The views were insanely beautiful. We were seeing things we’ve always imagined and we were finally there, taking a train to the top, having a beer. It was one of those travel moments we’ll always remember.

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Upon arriving at the last and final alpine town, we left the train and boarded another headed for the top. The route to the top is an engineering miracle and many tourists come just to see the tunnel. It took 16 years to build and 16 million franks to finish. The tunnel was blasted through the Eiger and Jungfrsu mountains and arrives at the top, where the visitor center and observation viewpoints are. The center is huge and has a self guided tour for visitors to follow and explore.

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In addition to viewing the top of Europe, the mountains and glaciers, you can actually go outside and walk on top of the the glaciers. They have a very clear route and multiple signs warning not to veer off the path or else you’ll be walking on snow bridges and in danger of falling into massive crevasses. We could feel the altitude change with our breathes, but we didn’t have headaches and all around felt pretty good.

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We noticed multiple mountaineers coming and going, hiking to some massive peaks around us, so we curiously followed their route. The route ended with a Muir-style hut that mountaineers stay in prior starting their summit attempts. It was amazing to see little footprints across massive glaciers and up giant mountains.

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It was about 4:30, when we walked back to the visitor center and realized that we had missed our train to the bottom and had to wait until the last one of the night, which was a hour or so away. We decided to tour again, this time goofing off and taking funny pictures, buying snacks, etc.  DSC02279

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DSC02268The red picture above shows Toni Kurz, who froze to death 500 meters above rescuers in his 1936 attempted of the Eiger north face with three others. All three other men died en route to the summit of the Eiger. When Kurz began to his solo descent of the mountain his ropes jammed and he froze to death.

Not wanting to miss the train, we sat at the waiting area wanting to desperately be back in our comfy, amazing room for a pasta dinner. All aboard and we headed back to Lauterbrunnen.

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DSC02339We slept in and enjoyed a leisurely next day, planning our route through the south of France en route to Spain, it would be a 12-hour day of riding trains. There is not an easy way out of Switzerland but we were prepped to do it, knowing we were headed to the land of tapas and sunshine.

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