Visiting Jungfraujoch

End of May I did a trip in Switzerland I had been thinking of doing for some time now. I took the train to Jungfraujoch which houses the highest located railway station in Europe at 3450 meters above the sea level. The trip from my home to there took four and a half one hours in one direction, so most of the day I spent on the train, but it was definitely worth it, thanks to the beautiful weather, the breathtaking scenery and the reliable service of the Swiss national railways.

I first took the train to Zürich and from there over Bern and Interlaken Ost to Kleine Scheidegg, where the final leg on the Jungfrau train started.

At Kleine Scheidegg I had one and a half hours to spare, since I wanted to have enough buffer, had any of the previous trains been delayed. Additionally, due to its high popularity, I had a reserved seat on a specific train to the Jungfraujoch,

The North face of the Eiger on the left in the picture, seen from Kleine Scheidegg.
A valley east of Kleine Scheidegg.

so instead of trying to get on an earlier train with free seats I instead climbed on a nearby hill to enjoy my lunch while observing the surrounding scenery; the North face of the Eiger and the valley spreading out in front of me in the East.

 

A view from the Eismeer station.

When I finally got to Jungfraujoch, after a 30-minute train ride and a five minute stop at station Eismeer, I noticed that many people were not really equipped for the winter conditions. Some were wearing sneakers, or even flip-flops, and others had only summer clothes with them. Granted, in the Sun you could be wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, but any walking in the snow without proper shoes makes you quickly get literally cold feet.

A corridor in the ice cave.
Somebody still hasn’t found his acorn.

The Jungfraujoch station and its facilities form a large underground of kitschy exhibitions, displays and activities, something you could expect to be set up for masses of tourists; a superficial exhibition on the construction of the railway, a Lindt world of chocolate, and so on. An ice cave, as part of the complex, was an interesting work of art with small halls decorated with ice sculptures, although it doesn’t quite compare to the ice hotels you can find in other locations.

The Jungfrau summit in the middle of the picture.

Leaving the complex and taking a walk to the nearby hut Mönchjochhütte gives you more air to breath and the number of people you meet reduces dramatically. Being at east mentally alone in the middle of the sea of ice makes you humble. I actually asked myself, how I might get back down without the train and in my current equipment and with the food I was carrying in my back pack; in places like these I tend to think and appreciate the simple things, being in and breathing the moment, eating my sandwiches and sinking into a feeling of fulfillment and calm.

As a travel goal the whole Jungfraujoch region is surely very interesting for someone who likes to do and is well equipped for trekking on glaciers. Without the proper training, or a guide, and equipment no one should leave the marked path between Jungfraujoch train station and the Mönchjochhütte. The glacier can be very dangerous, especially if you do not know the risks and how to act when they realize. There are organized tours that have you trek over part of the glacier and include and over night stay in a hut.

Even to someone without any intention to do hiking, visiting the Jungfraujoch and feeling the towering summits around, above and below you is calming. Also, feeling the effect of thinner air is interesting and makes you appreciate all the more the feats of mountaineers and those who built the Jungfrau railway.

The trip back

I had booked for myself two and a half hours on Jungfraujoch for my little hike, for admiring the view and for taking some pictures. But my trip back home turned out to be an adventure, and also a good example on how well the Swiss national railways operate.

The Jungfrau train took me back to Kleine Scheidegg and from there I travelled to Grindelwald. Unfortunately, the departure at Grindelwald was delayed by five minutes, leaving me one minute to change to the next train in Interlaken Ost. During the trip, the delay accumulated and before the last station before Interlaken Ost the delay was already estimated to be 10 minutes. This would have meant, due to missing the planned connection, that I would be arriving one hour later at home than planned.

However, when we departed from the last station before Interlaken Ost, the estimated delay suddenly dropped to 6 minutes. The driver also asked passengers changing for the train to Bern in Interlaken Ost, including me of course, to change quickly. This gave me new hope that Swiss railways would actually be as good as I had previously experienced, being able to make up the lost time and enabling passengers travel according to their original plans. On arrival at Interlaken Ost I dashed to the platform for the Bern train, just reaching the train when it was scheduled to depart. On the platform I see the conductor standing calmly and waving his hand casually to tell me that “no hurry, you’ll make it”. And we did, me and the other passengers.

After changing to the next train at Interlaken Ost, our departure there would be delayed by ten minutes, announced the driver. Now I was obviously thinking, whether the nine-minute change in Bern to the Zürich train would be doable. We arrived in Bern in time, so all was well. Except that before exiting the train I checked my trouser pocket for my ticket and found nothing. Checking my other trouser pocket and my wallet, I still found no ticket, and we would be arriving in Bern in about one minute. I mentally traced back my steps and actions during the trip from Interlaken Ost to Bern and ended up finding my ticket: The whole day I had been keeping my train ticket in my wallet, where I usually keep them. However, on the Bern train I decided to stick it into my other trouser pocket, where I also had my mobile phone, to keep it better available for the coming ticket inspections.

During the trip, after having put my ticket in the same pocket with my mobile phone, I had taken my mobile phone out of my pocket a couple of times. It dawned to me during that one remaining minute before arriving at Bern that the ticket may, without me noticing it, have slipped out of my pocket. Or maybe I had missed the pocket in the first place when putting the ticket in it. Either way, I crouched to look under my seat, expecting to find my ticket. But I saw nothing. Still, keeping my head calm, I looked a bit higher, at the metal rods beneath the chair supporting it, carefully looking for any piece of paper, and there it was. My ticket was lying on a metal rod under my chair, surely having slipped between the seat and the armrest. I was relieved and felt like Sherlock Holmes, having solved the mystery. The next connections went without any hassle, and finally I was home on time, in my bed, still thinking about the simple and raw beauty of the Alps.

The lesson of all this is that you should always check that you have all your belongings when leaving your place and to keep a cool head if something is missing. Another lesson was that delays can be thought of as your schedule becoming more flexible and loose. When I was still on the train from Grindelwald to Interlaken Ost and thought I would miss my connection, I looked for the next one. It would have been 30 minutes later, and that one I would have caught easily, even with some time to spare at Interlaken Ost. So, had I missed my original connection, my schedule would have become more loose and I would have been no more in a hurry to catch the next train. Changing the perspective may change you from being late or delayed to having ample time at your hands.

Hiking in a mediterranean atmosphere

Last Thursday was a holiday and the weather was nice with the temperature rising to over 25 degrees centigrade during the day, so I did some hiking. I had earlier decided to visit the Scheerenbachfälle, over 550 meter high falls by lake Walensee. Early in the morning I took the train to the town of Weesen and hiked from there to the town of Walenstadt at the other end of the lake.

The roughly 20 kilometer hike included some sub-tropical flora with palm trees near the lake shore. Higher up it was also very green, warm and humid, which surprised me. I thought that such flora in Switzerland, palm trees as an example of that, could only be seen in the canton of Tessin and maybe also in the Western Switzerland around Lake Geneva. This hike also reminded me how much can be found just around the corner, when you just keep an open mind, get out of the door and take a look around the next corner.

Along the hiking trail I met a lot of Swiss families taking the same route or part of it. It’s always encouraging to see different kinds of people hiking even on some more demanding trails with decent elevations: young and old, athletic and not very fit, alone and in groups. Being an avid walker also during the work week, it somehow makes me happy to see that people walk to relax and to experience the nature. Walking is such an easy and inexpensive way to get around and not just see, but also feel, smell, hear and feel the nature.

Below are some of the better pictures I managed to take along my hike.

 

The town of Weesen on the right at the bottom of the bay.
Water at the end of the tunnel.
Strahlegg ruins, belonging to a chain of previous Roman forts.
At the Scheerenbachfälle falls.
Waters from the Scheerenbachfälle falls.
Lake Walensee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the shore in the town of Quinten.
Midway from Weesen to Walenstadt.
Finally reaching the town of Walenstadt.

After nine years back in New York

A week ago, I took a vacation in New York, my first visit since nine years. As much as I can recall, the city hadn’t changed much, but I had. The city felt much more hectic, demanding and energy draining. Mind you, I was staying and spending most of my time on Manhattan, but even the more populated areas of Brooklyn, outside the quieter residential areas, were full of action. I only stayed for a week, unlike my friends living there who were kind enough to accommodate me. Their opinion was also that New York is a demanding, difficult city to live in. In addition to the omnipresent restlessness you also have other problems like homeless, pests, excess garbage and so on. But all in all I liked my visit and am happy that I did it.

My friends said that living in New York is mentally very consuming: having impulses, information and sensory stimulus constantly and everywhere takes the juices out of you quickly. The fact that untouched nature is not in arms reach also makes life on Manhattan more demanding. The constant presence of people, no matter where you go outside of your apartment, demands your attention and keeps you alert, adding up to the mental load. I am not sure if some people can get used to it or develop some mechanisms to cope with the constant unfiltered information flow. Maybe some learn to ignore parts of it, so that they can be more on their own, even when there are lots of people around and things happening.

For me the trip showed that I wouldn’t like living in such a big city. I appreciate quietness and untouched nature so much that an urban environment would feel suffocating on the long term. Visits to places like New York are nevertheless in their own way refreshing and stimulating. Experiencing and breathing the relentless pace of a metropolis, taking in the sounds, smells, views and feelings, is invigorating, although sometimes exhausting. And after such a visit, I value the greenery and the gentler soundscape of the woods so much more.

Below I have gathered some pictures from my trip nine years ago and the one I made this year. At least I have grown more hair between the visits. When two pictures are side by side, the leftmost is from 2008 and the rightmost from 2017. Otherwise the picture is from 2008 and 2017, which one, I’ll leave to you for guessing.

My first glimpse at New York after getting our of the subway

A first glimpse at New York

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the Amish Village (yeah, this is not in New York)

The Amish Village

 

 

 

 

Manufacturing of wheel spokes

 

 

 

 

 

An amish coach. It takes you to places

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel mass in Harlem

I also visited a gospel mass in Harlem on Easter Sunday. It was a great experience, but I have no pictures from it. It to place in Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, lasted for nearly three hours and was just as full of joy and happiness as I had imagined it would be. Quite a contrast to what Iäm used to seeing in a Lutheran church. If you want to visit a mass in this church, I would recommend getting an hour before start in line to ensure you get in.

 

Taking a walk on the High Line and back

Looking eastwards from the High Line

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. president, the writing’s on the wall

 

 

 

 

 

A view at the downtown in the evening

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Liberty and the former immigration center on Ellis Island

Lady Liberty in 2008, and a statue in the background
The statue in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Entrance hall to the US until the 1950s.

 

 

 

 

 

Ellis Island: immigrants never were that welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

A view from Brooklyn Bridge

I took a stroll over the Williamsburg bridge to Brooklyn, then walked south and west, taking the Brooklyn bridge back to Manhattan.

A view from Brooklyn Bridge in 2008
A view from Brooklyn Bridge in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Since 2007 the NYSE has improved its visibility

Wall Street was kind of a must-see, just to get a feel of the finance district, although I could not smell the money present.

Is this the NYSE?
Yes, this is the NYSE.

 

 

 

 


Eating Ethiopian

The food tasted a lot better than it looks in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

On and inside the Intrepid

Intrepid, a decommissioned air craft carrier, serves as a museum on the West Side. There are a lot of planes the Enterprise and even a Concorde on display.

F-14 Tomcat

 

 

 

 

My own enterprise

 

 

 

 

One of Intrepid’s two anchor chains

 

 

 

 

 

Intrepid’s anchor chain in comparison to my size 10 foot

 

 

 

 

 

The Intrepid’s propeller.

 

 

 

 

 

The Empire State Building from street level and my bedroom window

EST by night.

 

 

 

 

Bedroom lights are on

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Lehmann Brothers, but to no avail

The card from Lehmann said 1271 6th Avenue…?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UN General Assembly had no speaker in 2008 and some random guy ranting in 2017

General Assembly on recess?
What are you saying? The UN should what?

 

 

 

 

 

UN delegate lunch in 2008

 

 

 

 

 

My consumable souvenirs from America

My cherished  souvenirs