Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interlaken and the Top of Europe

Interlaken is about 1 hour SE of our house. It is an area between two lakes (this lake and that lake) and north of the Bernese Alps and in particular the Jungfraujoch and its triple peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. We can see these peaks from our patio in Neuchâtel. Interlaken is a popular year-round tourist location for locals and foreigners alike.
We stayed at Hotel Bellevue located on the Aare river between the lakes. We found it a very quaint European hotel. From here we had pleasant views all around and especially of parasailors sailing down from the mountains above landing in the town center.

After checking in and catching our breath we headed out to see a bit of the town. We left the car parked all 3 days and instead either walked, took a bus or hopped a train. Between the two rail stations - Interlaken West (very near our hotel) and Interlaken Ost (east) is about a 25 minute walk. We stayed near this west-east stretch and didn't venture south into the surrounding area. The walk helped build our appetites for our evening dinner cruise on the Brienzersee (that lake). It was a nice day, but rained at night. Our next two days were nice as well, but without any rain.

Tuesday was the day for going to the Top of Europe. We were looking forward to this. The trip by train up the mountain took about 2½ hours with 4 train changes. We missed one change and had to double back. The ride up the mountains (and down) were spectacular. The mountain valleys were very green with the ever present snow capped Alps in the background. Normal trains could only go so high. Cogged trains were required on the last two legs. The last leg to the top actually went inside the Eiger and by way of a 7 km tunnel took us to the top. This tunnel allows year round access. In summer its nice on top of the world. It has to be really cold in January!

At the top is the Sphinx - an observatory for both tourists and scientists. It provides 360° views of mountains, glaciers and the valleys and lakes below. It is also a base camp for all sorts of high altitude fun; such as glacier hiking, skiing and snowboarding, disk sledding, zip lines, dog sledding and other things. The ladies even bought watches in what must have been the highest watch shop in the world. We stayed up there an hour or so, but could have easily stayed longer had we chose to see everything there. We caught the train back down and a few zzz's as well. The ride through the mountain takes about 50 minutes. I'm glad we live here because you really need a week just check to whole area out. This is a trip I think we'll do again.

The next day - and our last - was a short one. We strolled around town while Kathleen pondered going parasailing. In the end she decided to save this for another time. We headed home to ready ourselves for our next road trip - the Chateau-de-Chillon - a castle on Lake Lehman (Geneva).

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