Retreat on Swiss Alps

The Interlaken trip to Switzerland is the most mesmerizing vacation ever taken by us. The trip was planned hastily but it still came out quite well. Interlaken is a small city in the Bernese highlands region of central Switzerland located between the alpine lakes of Brienz and Thun. The best time to go to Interlaken is in April-May as we did as there would still be enough snow around and would also be nice and warm for a comfortable trip.

We started from Dublin and reached Basel in Switzerland after a short flight of one and a half hours. The Euro Airport at Basel serves three countries of Switzerland, Germany and France. The Basel City Centre can be reached by a dedicated bus service from the Euro Airport. Taking the bus ticket from the automated machine was a challenge as everything was in German. The bus driver was kind enough to help and helped up punch out the tickets. It was a pleasant drive of 20 minutes to reach Basel City Centre. As the airport is on French territory, the bus goes through the dedicated fenced corridor within French territory and reaches Basel on the Swiss side.

The bus stops just in front of Basel railway station and fortunately all the tellers at the ticket counter speak English so there was no problem there. We took the group ticket for Interlaken West that cost around CHF 60, the child ticket is free. For children up to 13 years in age a year long pass can be purchased for 20 CHF. The train ride to Interlaken is a pleasant journey as it passes through the plains and green stretches of land to keep one immersed for hours. When one has become accustomed to the green beauty, the snow laden Alps come up over the landscape. The first thing you notice is the blissful magnificence of the Alps, the snow covered peaks just takes your breath away. The resounding heights just fill your heart with a longing for the eternal bliss. We kept on looking awestruck at the divine splendor before our eyes when the landscape became even prettier with the lakes and meadows passing by as we neared Interlaken.

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The train finally moved to Interlaken West railway station and left us yearning for more of the beauty we had just witnessed. Interlaken has two railway stations West and East on the opposite sides of the town. It’s a small town and it can be covered on foot, the station is located quite near to the City Centre. We came out of the railway station and went looking for our hotel; a nice old couple helped us locating it. It was a small hotel situated right on the banks of the river and was named Hotel Swiss Goldey. We checked into our room that had a very enticing view of Alps. We rested out for a while and had a quick lunch and moved out. It was so boring to stay in the hotel with so much beauty around.

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The hotel reception guided us to a nearby hill resort of Harden Klum that had an excellent view of the Alps. There was a train trolley that is pulled up the hill on steel ropes and the ride in inclined at 45 degree angle. It takes around 15 minutes to the reach the restaurant situated at 1310 meters. At the top is the most captivating view of the mountains and lakes that eyes could ever witness. On the north side one can seen the excellent view of Jungfrau massif and on the other is grand view of the Alpine lakes. We stayed at the top for over four hours and enjoyed the blissful scenery around. The snaps taken that day still fill my heart with the reverence for Creator.  

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After we came down from Harden Klum, we strolled on Hoheweg which is the Interlaken’s main street and runs between Interlaken Ost and West Stations. The Hoheweg has a beautiful park in the backdrop of Jungfrau Mountain on one side and exquisite hotels and shops on the other side. As Interlaken is a tourist destination so it is full of hotels, the most famous is Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel which is 150 years old. There is sky gliding club in Interlaken and on evenings you can see hundreds of sky gliders in the sky. It’s a real pleasure to watch these gliders slowly glide down in the central park while you are sipping a cup of coffee across the road. We bought some souvenirs from the shops and searched for a place to eat. We found a good Indian restaurant and had a sumptuous meal there. After dinner we headed towards the hotel and the tiring day did end up in a sound sleep.

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Next day as planned we woke up early morning for a trip to Jungfrau which is the highest peak in Europe. The name Jungfrau in German stands for ‘maiden’ or ‘virgin’. We reached Interlaken Ost station before 8:00 AM to catch our train for Jungfrau. The ticket is pretty expensive about CHF 180 per person and is strictly checked at every leg of the journey. It shows how important this train is for the local economy.

The peak is located in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps and overlooks the town of Wengen. The summit of Jungfrau was first reached by the Meyer brothers of Aarau in 1811. The Jungfrau peak is now accessible by train which is quite an engineering feat. The Jungfraubahn cog railway now runs inside the mountain, up to the Jungfraujoch railway station at 3454 meters.

The train from Interlaken Ost took us to the Kleine Scheidegg via Lauterbrunnen and from there we had to switch to the cog rail. The train enters the tunnel running eastwards through Eiger shortly after leaving Kleine Scheidegg. It runs close behind Eiger’s north face, stopping at Eigerwand where passengers can take a good view of the scenery through the holes cut in the mountain rocks. The train stops for the second time to stop at a window looking out at Eismeer (“Sea Of Ice”) before the train moves on to Jungfrau.

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The tunnel was constructed between 1898 and 1912 and is 7 km long with gradients up to 25%. We got down at the final stop of the train at the Jungfraujoch station. A large complex of tunnels and buildings has been created at Jungfraujoch mostly on the south side of Monch. There is a hotel, a number of restaurants, an observatory, a research station, a small cinema, a ski school, an Ice Palace and a number of shops at the top. The view around is enchanting and the snow covered neighboring peaks makes up for an inviting sight. There is a lift to reach the summit and we went up the lift and stood in the absolute chill to admire the striking view of the mountains around us. We went to the Ice palace also and admired the lovely snow carved structures though it is struggle to walk around in it. After the walk in Ice palace we decided to venture out in the snow. It was cold outside but to walk and play in the abundant snow more than makes up for it. A separate tunnel leads outside to a flat snow covered area where one can walk around and look down to the Konkordiaplatz and the Aletsh Glacier, as well as the surrounding mountains.

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After all these excursions, we felt very tired and hungry. We had a lavish lunch in the buffet restaurant at the resort. We were totally spell bound with the sheer beauty around but as all good things have to come to an end and soon it was the time to ride back on the train.

We reached Interlaken late evening and again strolled down on Hoheweg. It was again time for shopping; we bought a nice cuckoo clock from the souvenir shop. We had a quick dinner in a Mac D nearby. After dinner we decided to sit back on the banks of river and watch the time pass by.

It was a nice short trip, the memories of which would remain in our hearts for a long time to come.

Tarun Rattan

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