Millions of tourists have already visited Europe's highest railway station at 3454 metres above sea level, and Mr and Mrs Swiss are now doing the same. The Jungfrau Railway takes you comfortably and within two hours into the mountain world of the Bernese Alps. On the way via Interlaken to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen, you always have an unrestricted view of the world-famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau triumvirate. Halfway up Kleine Scheidegg, there are beautiful hikes, an overnight stay and even a downhill feeling at the Lauberhorn.
"How come you've never been to the Jungfraujoch? But you grew up just around the corner!" I've already had to listen to that. So it's high time to finally change that and visit the - in my opinion - best-marketed mountain. To be honest, the slogan "Top of Europe" misleads the guest a bit. The Klein-Matterhorn, at 3,880 metres above sea level and accessible by cable car from Zermatt, trumps the Jungfraujoch by a whopping 400 metres, for example. Moreover, the Jungfraujoch is not - as the name Top of Europe suggests - on a peak, but in a hollow between the Mönch and Jungfrau. So what exactly lies behind the fascination of the Jungfraujoch and why do countless tourists make the pilgrimage to the mountain every day?
I choose the way there via the village of Lauterbrunnen, which in the morning is still shrouded in a mystical atmosphere of fog. "Hopefully the fog will disappear by the time we reach the top," says a fellow passenger. Even before the train leaves Lauterbrunnen station, she lets me in on the exciting story of the construction of the Jungfrau Railway. A little more than 100 years ago, the Swiss Adolf Guyer-Zeller showed a lot of imagination, courage and entrepreneurial spirit when he realised his vision of building a railway line high up into the Alpine Olympus. The fascination with this extremely daring construction has continued to this day. Nowhere else can you get from 700 metres to over 3,400 metres above sea level so comfortably and in just under two hours; this also seems to be Top of Europe's recipe for success.
With the altitude, we slowly leave the fog behind us and, as ordered, the wall of fog completely dissolves at Wengernalp, revealing an impressive view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Freshly snowed in, they provide the perfect backdrop against the lush green meadow. On Kleine Scheidegg you have to change trains. The second stage from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch is mostly in a tunnel after the Eigergletscher station. There are two stops along the way, where you have about five minutes to marvel at the view. The first stop is directly behind the Eiger North Face. If you are lucky, you may even spot some daring climbers here. The second stop is at the so-called sea of ice and offers a breathtakingly beautiful view of the eternal ice. And then, poof, you reach the final station on the Jungfraujoch, which is also the highest railway station in Europe.
The Jungfraujoch itself offers a wide range of activities for its guests. The latest coup: a Lindt chocolate shop. The panorama of the Aletsch Glacier, the Mönch, the Jungfrau and Kleine Scheidegg is only part of the attraction. Even in bad weather, guests can visit the Ice Palace and the "Alpine Sensation" exhibition. Anyway, you should plan on staying at least two hours. The enthusiasm of the tourists on the viewing platform is infectious. The camera is in constant use and of course the experience is also captured with selfies. An excursion to the world-famous Jungfraujoch can easily be combined with a hike to the Mönchsjochhütte. The hut at 3650m above sea level is accessible not only to alpinists but to everyone, including children. Although the trail leads over the glacier, it is groomed daily by a snow groomer and is well marked. Good shoes and appropriate clothing against wind and cold are indispensable. If you want to enjoy the Mönch and the mountain world almost entirely to yourself, you can book an overnight stay in a dormitory.
After two hours, including a well-deserved snack, it is time for me to return to the valley. Fortunately, the altitude didn't bother me much. Depending on the weather, however, it can happen that my head hums a bit later in the valley. For the way back, I choose the variant to Grindelwald with the new Eiger Express, which shortens the journey time by a whopping 43 minutes.
Kleine Scheidegg offers great trails for hikers. How about an overnight stay in a rustic mountain hotel? After a hearty breakfast in the Berghaus Alpiglen, the following day you set off on foot towards the Lauberhorn. If you like watching ski races in winter, you should definitely check out the Lauberhorn Trail. In just two and a half minutes, the fastest ski racers thunder down the Lauberhorn descent at top speeds of up to 140 km/h. At a more leisurely pace, the trail can be followed by a short walk. At a more leisurely pace, the longest downhill stretch in alpine ski racing can be explored on foot in summer. This leaves enough time to enjoy the wonderful view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, to marvel at how steep the slope actually is, and to take a closer look at the key sections of the World Cup course. From the start house over the Hundschopf and the Brüggli-S to the Hanneggschuss and down to Wengen: Information boards at the most important points provide information about the daring race track. Only those who have once covered this route on foot know how much courage it takes to race down it on skis.