A great white expanse of pristine, white snow greets me as I step off the train. Snow in May? My used-to-Mumbai’s-muggy-weather-in-May mind wonders if I am dreaming or hallucinating or both. I bend down and touch the snow and rub a little onto my face. It is snow and I am not dreaming or hallucinating.
And I am not in Mumbai, I am in Switzerland.
From as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to experience the Alps via a rail journey. My wish came true on 13th May 2009, when I made a day trip from Geneva to Kleine Scheidegg in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. I love train travel, and this was one of the most scenic journeys I have ever undertaken. The clean and fresh mountain air was invigorating as was the super efficient and punctual train journey. It was a trip that took me 5 hours one way with train changes at Bern, Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen / Grindelwald, and a trip that I am going to take you on here.
So hop on abroad the train with me at Interlaken Ost and leave behind the muggy, sticky hot Indian summer behind to journey to the cool climes of Switzerland.
10.30 am: Interlaken Ost. We change to the Jungfrau Bahnen or the mountain railway here. Interlaken itself is a big tourist attraction, but we give this place a miss as we have a date with the Alps, don’t we?
This is the diamond-shaped route we will taking to Kleine Schedigg from Interlaken and back. We ascend via Lauterbrunen and return via Grindelwald.
And this is the train we will be travelling in from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunen…
… on these special train tracks meant for mountainous regions.
We pass the Brienzersee Lake, one of two lakes of Interlaken, the other being Thunersee. Even with the overcast skies, the lake is still a calming pale blue. We try to imagine what the lake would look like with clear blue skies…
11.10 am: The mountains are getting nearer ! The train passes these little hamlets and all we can think of is Heidi and Peter and Clara and Alm Uncle and the goats.
12.00 pm: The train rounds a curve and suddenly the snowy mountains are there… they feel almost at arm’s reach.
12.30: Kleine Scheidegg at last. This place has the railway station, two restaurants, two souvenir shops and a small lodge, which is closed. That’s it! We spend the next hour or so frolicking in the snow, taking photographs, having lunch and avoiding boisterous and noisy Indian tourists.
Flags outside one of the souvenir shops. One can make a good guess as to where the tourists here come from !
2.05 pm: The return journey to Interlaken via Grindelwald begins. The route for the descent is even more beautiful than the ascent. Charming little stations, hiking trails and curving tracks, wildflowers, etc… We sigh over each one in delight.
Even 3 years after this trip, I can recall every detail from the fresh, clean, green air, to the punctual trains (at one station the driver announced for a delay of 46 seconds) to the thrilling experience of snow in May to much, much more. This was one of those trips where the journey was more memorable than the destination; in fact the journey was the destination. I hope that you enjoyed this journey too.
PS: Most of the photographs were taken from a moving train, so please do excuse the double reflections / refractions and blurred images.