M.Reza Amirinia takes a look at what the summer offers in the mountains
Many people see the Swiss Alps as an attractive destination for playing in the snow, snowboarding and skiing over several marked ski runs down a mountain. However the three charming peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau attract visitors all year round. The beauty of the Alps is a challenge for ski lovers and climbers on one hand as well as a major attraction for those nature lovers, many over 50, who admire some of the loveliest scenery in the world. Why not think about going to the mountains in the summer once the winter snows have melted away and the Alpine landscape turns green?
A three-hour journey from Zurich Airport took me to Grindelwald in the heart of the Jungfrau region, thanks to Swiss Railways’ good services and two changes in Bern and Interlaken. It is a village at 1034 meters above sea level yet located in a valley on the foot of Eiger’s North Face. The village is a major tourist attraction in the Alps as it is surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is a major gateway to the Jungfrau-Aletsch conservation area and the main terminal for Jungfrau Railway from where you can reach the Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald First and the Mannlichen.
I stayed at the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof which is located only 5 minutes walking distance from the centre of the village and the Grindelwald train station. My stay was an unforgettable experience in luxurious surroundings and waking up every morning, opening the window and looking at the amazing mountain views.
Up to Eigergletscher
After a good buffet breakfast at Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof, I headed to the Grindelwald Terminal, only three minutes train journey from Grindelwald Train station. You can also take a bus to the terminal, with shops and restaurants, which is a modern Gondola station ready to hoist you to the ski slopes around Eigergletscher. I took a 26-seater gondola called the Eiger Express to get there. I bought a three day Jungfrau Travel Pass which allowed me to use the Eiger Express as many times as I wanted besides travelling on other cable cars and the Jungfrau Railway.
The tri-cable gondola is state-of-the-art technology with exceptional safety features, taking you to the top of the Alps in just 15 minutes. The Eiger Express came into operation in 2020 reducing the traveltime by 47 minutes. My short journey was through a breathtaking panorama with views of mountains overlooking green landscapes and lush alpine sceneries. Looking at the wooden traditional cottages and hearing the sounds of the cowbells ring is a cinematic experience.
The Eigergletscher station is a summit at the foot of the Eiger North Face with options to reach the Jungfraujoch at 3454 meters or enjoy downhill hiking along tracks and footpaths. The sloping trails are fascinating to hike in the summer and to ski in the winter. You have the valley of Grindelwald under your feet sloping away to see velvet green lands carpeted with colourful flowers before reaching Alpiglen station.
I spent some time around Eigergletscher, enjoying the scenery before going further up the mighty mountains via the Jungfrau Railway to Jungfraujoch, the so-called Top of Europe. Jungfraujoch means the “Jungfrau saddle”, which connects the peaks of the mountains of Jungfrau and Monch. The fascinating train journey goes into a 7-kilometre long tunnel cutting through the Eiger and Monch mountains. It’s a 35-minute historical experience in a train which has been in operation since 1912. We had a short 5 minute stop in the tunnel at the Aletsch glacier before reaching the Jungfraujoch. The viewing platform behind large windows was an opportunity to get a glance at the glacier.
Jungfraujoch and beyond
I arrived at Jungfraujoch station and entered theJungfrau Panorama hall to get a 360 Degree panoramic experience of the area on a large screen. From here, you have three options going up to the Sphinx, passing through the Alpine Sensation with the Eispalast experience or having snow fun at Aletschgletscher. I took a high-speed lift taking me 108 metres higher to reach the Sphinx Observation Deck at 3571 metres.
The Sphinx Observatory is one of the highest astronomical stations in the world housing the Global Atmosphere Research centre. The Jungfrau-Aletsch is a UNESCO World Heritage Site including the Jungfraujoch. We stepped outside, but it was very windy and foggy, however we could see snow on the mountains around us. It was amazing to see snow on 24th June at the beginning of the summer season. I enjoyed the fresh cold breeze on my face. Unfortunately, the wind became stormy and the authorities decided to close the deck and asked everyone to leave. The Sphinx Observation Deck is an experience beyond words. You must try it yourself to feel the incredible world of Alpine icy air streams.
I took the lift down and headed through a tunnel to Aletschgletscher. I stepped outside on the snowy ground with the white carpeted rocky Monch mountain overhead. On your right, you can look down the Aletsch glacier. On the other side, you see Jungfrau and Eiger. I walked a few hundred metres along the track but didn’t want to go too far as the fog and wind was increasing. The track at 3500 metres is a route for casual hikers and skiers taking them to Monchsjochhutte, 1.90 kilometres away. I wish I had had time to extend this dramatic experience by walking on the glacier to the site of Monchsjochhutte at 3650 metres.
I continued my indoor tour of Jungfraujoch by entering a long corridor to see the Alpine Sensation, an interactive exhibition depicting the process of the construction of the Jungfrau Railway. The intense engineering history of cutting through the mountain is displayed on walls, honouring all the workers, especially those who lost their lives. I ended my tour by entering the Eispalast (the Ice Palace), an amazing ice tunnel under the offshoot of the Aletsch Glacier. The winding halls of ice were created in 1930 and house several ice sculptures.
I returned to Eigergletscher station from where I had planned to hike for two to three hours to Alpiglen, but it was late, the weather wasn’t good and it started to rain, so I decided against it. In the Alps, the weather conditions change so quickly. I hope to come back another time to experience more of the Alps and hike all the trails. I returned to Grindelwald and spent time in the village.
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