They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Ever since I acquired my first digital camera, I have preferred to let my pictures do the talking when sharing my impressions from around the world on this blog! But now, as I stepped out on the terrace of my chalet in the alpine village of Grindelwald, I quickly realized that no camera could capture the breathtaking panorama and scale of the sweeping alpine splendor in front of my eyes. (Click picture below for a larger, high-resolution version of the alpine panorama) Jungfraujoch has the world’s highest post-office, a high altitude weather station, and an advanced research station to measure data on pollution, cosmic rays, and ozone depletion. But most interesting of all, it is also home to Bollywood Café, probably the highest Indian food restaurant in the world! Decorated with film reels, movie posters of Hindi and Tamil hits, the restaurant offers an Indian buffet lunch for CHF26 pax. While they have few items in the buffet and no Indian breads, the food was pretty good, especially the Turkey curry, the Chole, and the Alu-Gobi-Corn subzi. I also noticed Hindi signs (in addition to the usual ones in local languages and English) at cafes in Jungfrau advertising chicken and veggie snacks!
The majestic peaks of the Monch, Schreckhorn, and Eiger provided an imposing backdrop to miles of impossibly picture-perfect landscape. A landscape of beautiful streets winding downhill, of quaint cottages in the distance with brightly colored flower beds, of sweeping alpine forests on mountain-sides that disappeared into the clouds and of the snow-clad peak of Eiger that mightily burst forth from the top of the clouds. The gurgling of a nearby stream and the chimes from the village church added to the feeling of having been transported to a fantasy land from another time.
Earlier in the day, we flew into Switzerland on a bright, sunny morning. The weather Gods had been kind so far to us on this vacation. We enjoyed completely dry and rain-free days in England which has seen some of the most severe rains lately and here we had a bright, sunny day with excellent visibility..
While the Swiss Rail system was every bit as efficient as I had expected, we had to change trains thrice to get to Grindelwald. I had to take change trains at Zurich Central (which is different from Zurich Airport), Bern and Interlaken before I finally made it to Grindelwald. Since we had three suitcases, changing trains was a hassle (especially when one of the connections required me to change platforms). An unfortunate side-effect was that I left my only warm jacket behind on one of the trains. The journey via train to Grindelwald takes about 3:15 hours
We had rented an apartment-in-a-chalet instead of a hotel. This consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, a dining/kitchen area, bathroom, and a large open terrace with flower-beds and a view to die for. The apartment was stocked with everything you needed to cook and eat at home. A bakery just across the street also stocked all essential groceries which was an added bonus (the girl at the bakery had an uncanny resemblance to Phoebe from Friends!)
On our first day in Grindelwald, we strolled down to the delightful Oncle Tom’s Hutte, for freshly made thin-crust pizzas. I remember ordering one with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, broccoli, bell peppers and mushrooms, and the other with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, smoked salmon, leeks, and sour cream. Both were delicious, and the glasses of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene (a type of sparkling wine) nicely complimented our lunch.
Another place I recommend is a small family-owned restaurant called the Riggenberg Tea-Room. The special consisting of grilled pork meat, fries and buttered peas was delicious, as were their freshly made ice-cream desserts.
We did try the cheese fondue during our last evening here; the fondue was served with lots of bread chunks, potatoes in their skin, and shallots. The dish was interesting but not particularly great.
On other days, we lazed around in our little wooden dwelling, made our own breakfast and dinner, and felt like we could be here forever without feeling home-sick. The local breads, wine and cheese were great, and in this setting tasted better than any gourmet fare I have had!
There is a cableway from Grindelwald to a place called First (altitude 2100 m). From the summit station on First, you have a choice of high-Alpine hikes. The easiest one is the 50 min hike to Lake Bachalpsee, one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the Alps. As well as admiring the stunning views of the mountain world reflected in its crystal-clear waters, visitors can also try out their angling skills here.
Switzerland is a treat for nature-lovers. Everywhere will notice the effort that has been taken to promote tourism in a manner that is friendly to the environment. Nowhere more than on the rail journey to the ‘Top of Europe’, Jungfraujoch. The trip takes you via Kleine Scheidegg and through the Eiger North Wall up to the scenic splendors of the Jungfraujoch in the heart of a wonderland of glaciers and eternal ice. Attractions include the Ice Palace, the Sphinx observatory building overlooking the Aletsch Glacier, husky-driven sledge rides and the Snow Disk Run. This is a popular site for skiers, hikers, and trekkers.
The scenic splendor as the train climbs the steep incline is extraordinary. The day was clear and sunny and we could see distant villages, gondolas (as the cable-cars are called) slowing ascending the peaks, tiny figures of trekkers in distant mountain trails, and vast, lush green valleys and hillsides speckled with colorful flowers and cows everywhere.
The Jungfrau railway was built in 1894 by a charismatic man with big dreams called Adolf Guyer-Zeller. The rail system took 16 years to complete, and right from inception was electricity-driven, even though electric-trains were still in their infancy.
During these years, the base camp for construction workers was located on the Eiger Glacier and in the winters, the workforce in the “Sea of Ice” was cutoff from the outside world, making it necessary for the advance delivery of the following provisions before winter set in:
If you are planning a visit here, please remember to get your sunglasses, sun-screen, and warm clothes. When we stepped on the ice and snow on top of Jungfrau the chilly -7 degree temperature coupled with the glare from the ice took some time getting adjusted to. But then we were soon throwing snow at each other and trying to make a snowman. Great fun! Have to do this again some time; maybe during winter :-)
And for those who are planning a trip to Switzerland, here are some tips:
Jungfraujoch has the world’s highest post-office, a high altitude weather station, and an advanced research station to measure data on pollution, cosmic rays, and ozone depletion. But most interesting of all, it is also home to Bollywood Café, probably the highest Indian food restaurant in the world! Decorated with film reels, movie posters of Hindi and Tamil hits, the restaurant offers an Indian buffet lunch for CHF26 pax. While they have few items in the buffet and no Indian breads, the food was pretty good, especially the Turkey curry, the Chole, and the Alu-Gobi-Corn subzi. I also noticed Hindi signs (in addition to the usual ones in local languages and English) at cafes in Jungfrau advertising chicken and veggie snacks!