Switzerland, Jungfrau and into Italy
Day 9 Thursday 30th September 2010
Took 7-30am rack rail through the Eiger to Jungfrau. Drove to Stresa in the afternoon to meet up with 2 of our group. Stayed at the hotel Brisino on Lake Maggiore.
Chatter – he says
Once again we started the day early. The first train up Jungfrau left the Grindalwald station at 7:25am. Not only was this cheaper than other trains later in the day, but it was also necessary to give us time in the afternoon to drive to Stresa in Italy. The hotel prepared a breakfast for us the night before, and allowed us to settle our accommodation bill on our return from the Jungfrau excursion. We left the car parked at the hotel, rather than taking it to the station and running the risk of having it broken into. More importantly the parking was free.
The rack rail train climbed steadily upwards under the shadow of the Eiger to the middle station. Along the route the train passed through tunnels, and under the avalanche chutes which sit on the side of the cliffs like some sort of front porch that has yet to be glassed in. There are 2 trains to the middle station – ours from Grindalwald, and another from Interlarken. At the middle station all passengers alight to another train for the final push to Jungfrau Joch. Much of this leg spirals in tunnels through the Eiger, emerging at the station within Jungfrau Joch.
The complex at Jungfrau Joch is one to be marvelled at. This huge hunk of rock is riddled with passageways, lifts, observation decks at all sorts of seemingly inaccessible vantage points, an ice palace comprising a series of tunnels snaking into the upper reaches of the glacier, observation decks, restaurants and other touristy type shops, and of course access out onto the snow. The day was a little cloudy, but when the skirts lifted we did get a view of Jungfrau itself. The 3 peaks, Eiger, Jungfrau and Moench were all visible at various stages of the day. Once again the altitude of near 4000m affected our stair climbing ability. Jenny’s cold was building while mine was receding so we were good company together as climbing buddies.
Once out on the snow I tried to use the solace and remoteness of the glacier to catch up on some correspondence, which by now was the best part of a week or more behind. The light was too bright so I gave up and checked the GPS. I knew we were in the right place, because the GPS showed nothing on the screen except the little pointer, and a message to turn left in 6.2km.
For photography in this light, a view finder (which I don’t have) would be helpful. The screen on the digital camera is useless in the harsh light, so aim shoot and hope is as good as you can ask for without a viewfinder.
The temperature was around minus 5 degrees Celsius, and I suspect it was even colder in the Ice Palace. Outside and out of the breeze it was very pleasant in the sun, and by the time we were about to leave we could see clouds starting to roll in over the ridge. We had been treated to the best part of a stunning day.
Once back in the valley, we set our course for Italy. Not the straightforward course, but one which took us over St Gotthard’s Pass. To get to this we first crossed Sud Passe. This road wound its way up into the mist, and in the upper reaches, road crews were clearing small avalanches of snow using hi-abs with snatch buckets, then snow blowers to clear the road once the snatch work was completed. We moved quickly to ensure we were off the road before it froze over. The outside air temperature, according to Victor the Renault, was closing in on zero.
The passes zigzag endlessly. Many of the turns are so tight Paul thought we had reversed our direction of travel, and commanded that we turn around when safe to do so. The poor chap was confused, so we ignored him until he got his act together.
St Gotthard’s Pass follows the Sud Passe. At this site there is a famous bridge (teufelsbruecke) where a battle raged between Napoleon and the Russians. What these armies were doing battling on Swiss turf is beyond me. Perhaps they were both lost and their early GPS equivalents were equally confused. Who can understand the minds of warmongerers?
The old bridges and parts of the old roads still exist and their graceful arches are framed by the graceful arches of the modern bridges. When I get time to work out how to load the photos into the blog, I will put some up.
Our drive into Italy on the motorways was quick and efficient. We found our way easily into Stresa, stopped and put the hotel address into Paul, and followed his authoritative instructions to the hotel. The carpark where we stopped was going to prove to be a place we visited a further 3 or 4 times in the coming days where we could sort out a confused Paul and get back (via drivable routes) to our hotel.
At the hotel, we met up with Gavin and Maura, 2 more of our party of 9 that we would meet up with in Italy. The evening meal was good, the hotel everything we expected of the Italian Lakes District and a great place for both of us to catch up on rest in our enduring battles with our Parisian colds.
Chatter – she will say