Friday, August 06, 2010

Top of Europe (or Montreal in January, hard to tell the difference)

As tired as I was last night, a good night’s sleep was not in the cards. I could not keep my eyes open a minute past 9pm so went to bed thinking I’d surely sleep until 5am or so. Not quite. Was wide awake 2:30-4:45am. My plan to get up early and catch one of the first trains up to the Jungfraujoch did not happen. I ended up dozing until the kid in the room next door started slamming the door and screeching at his parents, just before 8am. Isn’t that just what you want to wake up to? No? Well, ME NEITHER!

Had a lovely Continental-style breakfast. Fantastic coffee, orange juice, yummy grainy breads, cheese, jams, yogurt, fresh fruit salad. Everything I needed.

Headed out to the train station in a bit of a drizzle but hoped things would improve weather-wise by the time I got up to the Jungfraujoch. They did and they didn’t (it was rainy and cloudy this morning and has been clearing up since early afternoon). When I met the travel agent yesterday, she explained that instead of taking the same train route there and back, I could do a loop. Go one way through Grindelwald and the other way through Lauterbrunnen. So that’s what I did. On the way up to Grindelwald this morning the clouds were quite low but gave a fantastic dramatic view of trees and mountain tops peeking through. I left Interlaken at 9:05am and got up to the Jungfraujoch at 11:22am. The last couple of kilometers are all done in tunnels and you have no idea where you’re going except up. By this time I had all 5 layers of clothing on and I’m glad I did. I would’ve just about killed for a proper hat (but my hood did great in a pinch) and gloves. The Jungfraujoch was packed with tourists. And according to my very unscientific survey (i.e. people watching) Asian tourists outnumbered Indian, European and North American. First I visited the Sphinx area. One side of that was closed off due to falling ice. There was a tonne of snow up there! It was still very cloudy and extremely windy. But there were a few mountain peaks here and there. As much as I knew you needed a clear day to see the mountains, I decided this was my chance and am glad I did it anyway. Next I wanted to walk through to the glacier but that was closed off due to threat of avalanches. Back through the tunnels and over to the Ice Palace.

Now I have to mention that I have never been at a high enough altitude to experience altitude sickness and I haven’t the slightest idea how high you need to go to experience it, but today I really think I was having some trouble with the altitude. Not long after leaving the Eigerwand station (2865m) I started feeling dizzy, this was still while we were on the train, and my eyes hurt. Thought maybe just a bit of jet lag, being overtired. Right, so start wandering around the Top of Europe (3454m) and the longer I was there, the worse I felt. By the time I got to the Ice Palace section, I felt nauseous as well, could feel my heart beating like crazy, and just felt light-headed. Nothing I’ve ever felt before. Weird. So I slowed down and took my time. After the Ice Palace, went to the Plateau area. But here again, a large part of this was closed. You could go out and walk for maybe 50m on the snow. After that it was closed off. It was sooo windy there! Everybody was surprised by the amount of snow, the wind and how little we could see. Didn’t stay long. Back inside, thankful for some warmth, I bought a few postcards and made my way back to the train. Had originally planned to stay there for lunch, but felt so wrong, I decided I’d be better off heading back sooner rather than later. In all I only spent an hour up there. Yes, it was an expensive hour but I was happy to be heading back down and hoped I would start feeling better soon. I was right. By the time we got back to Kleine Scheidegg, I already felt miles better. My eyes had stopped burning, I wasn’t dizzy and my heart wasn’t racing anymore.

From Kleine Scheidegg, I took the train through Wengen and Lauterbrunnen, and finally back into Interlaken. As promised by the timetable, arrived at 2:54pm. Across the street from the station is a Co-Op(grocery store) so popped in there to pick up a ready-made sandwich, a bit of fruit and then ate that as I walked back into town through Casing and Unterseen, following the walking path along the river. That took nearly an hour and by the time I got back into town it had really cleared up quite a bit. It was warm enough that I was even able to take 3 of my layers off! Was able to take a few of pictures of the city without having to worry about my camera getting wet.

Next big decision … where to eat tonight?

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