Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 6 - Top of Europe

Alarm went off at 7am. Neither of us slept well for some reason. Matt's back was bothering him and I felt like I was going to throw up. Wondering if it was the water we decided to drink before we went to bed, haha. We're both so thirsty still but I don't think we're going to chance the tap anymore. At least not until we ask someone if it's safe here. :)

We wanted to get up and moving earlier, maybe to catch the first cable car down at 6:06am, but realized we had to let Denise know last night if we didn't want breakfast this morning. Which we didn't do. She makes breakfast for everyone at 7:30am, so we had to be down there for that. The first way down from Murren after that was 8:06am.

So we drug ourselves out of bed, opened the window, and had an amazing view...with not a cloud in the sky!! perfect day for a little trip to Top of Europe! We showered quickly (I didn't even touch my hair - hope Matt doesn't mind me looking like a hobo today), and were downstairs for food at 7:31! It was toast /jam and several kinds of cereal. Coffee and orange juice. It was all good. And she said everyone drinks the tap water here! I guess we will, too.

After breakfast, we ran back up to our little room (it seriously is just too cute), brushed our teeth, grabbed our stuff, and hit the road - or path, I guess - down to the mini-train and cable cars down to Lauterbrunnen.

There was absolutely no one out yet. We didn't see one person until we got to the train depot! It was pretty chilly out, but not too bad. It's just so quiet and peaceful here! We stopped and took more pics on the way. Such a cute little village. I just love it here!

We took the little train down, then the giant cable car down to Lauterbrunnen. Took maybe 20 minutes total. When we got down there, we were looking for signs for our next train to Kleine Scheidegg. I started to go, and Matt said, "Wait! I thought we had to get to Lauterbrunnen first!" Ha, he must not of been awake yet. That's where we were!

We found our little train up to Jungfraujoch, and hopped on. It was already pretty packed! Denise warned us of that. We did find two seats together though, thank goodness!

Once we started moving, a guy came around to check our tickets...which apparently we didn't have! I thought our Swiss pass would get us up to the Kleine Scheidegg. That's sure what it looked like on the map. And from there we had to buy a ticket, but it was going to be 50% off with our Swiss pass. That's what it said all over the Internet and that's what everyone had told us. But when the grumpy old man came along to check our ticket, he said we had to buy one from him and it was 180 CHF. Ummmm, no. We have the Swiss pass. We want half off. He said it was only 25% off. That we had "old information."  I kindly disagreed and said we would get off at the next stop in Wengen and buy a ticket there. Fine.  He moved on.

So we hopped off Wengen (which might be even more beautiful than Murren, if that is possible) and went in to wait in line for a ticket. Matt went back out to ask how much time we had, and grumpy old man said ONE MINUTE and to just buy it from him on the train. Siggghh... We really didn't have any options. Except to miss the train and catch the next one in 30 minutes, which we really didn't want to do. So we reluctantly got back on, and paid the guy 129 CHF each. And I was NOT happy about it. We kept our receipts and I'm going to do some more research. He better not of screwed us over! That's a pretty pricey round trip ticket, but we had to do it. I mean, who knows when we'll be back here. It's a gorgeous day. We're going to The Top of Europe! :)

The train kept going up and up. It was just amazing views the whole way. We stopped again in some little...not even a village...just a few houses (Wengernalp) and several people, I'm assuming locals, got off with these giant cow bells! (I mean GIANT.) We had perfect views on the trip up of mountains there: Eiger, Monch, and Jungfraujoch.

Next stop was Kleine Scheidegg. Here we hopped off our train and walked to the next platform over to get on the train that would take us all the way up to Jungfraujoch (Top of Europe). It was a 50 minute train ride up, with three stops at viewpoints to get off and take pictures. Other than the viewpoints, we were inside the mountain glacier the whole time, so it was dark. Pretty wild to think how high we were going up...through a mountain!

This is the 100 year anniversary of Jungfraujoch. It's been open since 1912! It took them 16 years to dig the hole and build the track up! Crazy! So we learned that to celebrate the 100 year anniversary, they gave discounts to certain nationalities. USA's was the week of 4th of July. And this week was...China. Of course. THAT's why the train was overrun with pushy little Chinese people running around, ha. I about elbowed a few in the face at one of the viewpoints. They literally were running (no exaggeration) and taking out anyone in the way. So annoying. Why do you have to run?  We're all going to get our chance to see out be giant window, haha.

We finally made it all the way to the top (elevation: 11,333feet) at 10:25am. Denise was right! She said it would be 2.5 hours to the top and it would be packed with tourists. Spot on.

When we got off the train...nothing but clouds. I honestly couldn't believe it. It was clear the whole way up. I mean we could see it the whole time we were on the train. And now, nothing. You couldn't see 20 feet in front of you! I don't know how it happened. I guess some time in the last 45 mi uses of our trip up, the swirling clouds moved in. We got nothing and spent all that money.  Unbelievable.

Determined not to let the COMPLETE lack of view ruin everything (even though that is the whole reason you go there), we somehow avoided the sea of running Asians and ended up in the Alpine Sensation, which was just weird. And cold. So cold! Matt and I both brought winter coats all the way to Europe specifically for this day...and neither one of us brought them this morning. For some reason, we decided last night we would be fine in a glacier with a long sleeve tshirt and fleece jacket. Not true. Not true at all. We literally were running just trying to stay warm. Thank God we at least brought beanies and scarves!!

After Alpine Sensation, when we were already miserably cold, we came up on the Ice Palace. Which is the one thing I was originally really looking forward to, but not so much now, haha. We ventured in anyways, and it was just solid ice - floor, ceilings, walls, etc. It was cold, but actually awesome. Easily my favorite part of the whole Top of Europe experience. And we were one of like 4 people in there! We have some really awesome pictures from it.

Next we decided to be brave and try and make it outside in the swirling cloud for a picture. This was no easy feat! Trying to walk on solid ice on the top of a mountain with winds blowing ice in your face at 50 mph turned out to be very interesting - and hilarious. The pictures are just great. We didn't last very long. We had to hold on to ropes just to make it out there! It was painfully cold, along with the ice pelting you, haha. The pics are worth it and its definitely a story we will always remember. Our "view" from Top of Europe was nothing but a cloud. Awesome. ;)

I remembered how we were just freezing inside a few minutes before that, but after actually freezing to death in the 2 minutes we were outside, we suddenly felt warm inside now! That was a nice change! We decided to head over to Sphinx, holding on to a slight hope that just maybe there would be a better view from there. We fought our way on to an elevator (we literally got pushed out of the way) and...no such luck there either. Same thing. Swirling brutal winds and nothing but clouds. Bleh. Oh we'll - I was still glad we went up there. Ice Palace alone was worth it!

Lunch was next. My stomach was growling, and I didn't think I could make it all the way back down to Wengen without food. So we paid $50 for some ridiculous food at a giant tourist trap, and $6 for a bottle of water. It about killed me. And to make matters worse, my food was horrible. I couldn't even eat it, Matt had to trade me, ha.

With full bellies, we decided to head it back down the mountain. Another British couple we talked to had been there since like 7am and only got a glimpse of blue skies. That made me feel a little better. And the fact that thousands of other people were up there too with no success. Anyways, we decided to not take the chance of waiting it out to see if it cleared up, and got on the noon train back down to Kleine Scheidegg. On the way, there was a video playing about the Eiger marathon. Talk about brutal! I can't even run up a flight of stairs up here!! Those people are nuts! Also saw clips from some speed climber who climbed the north face of Eiger in 2008 in under 3 hours. He was literally running up the mountain with ice picks. It was the craziest thing ever!

It didn't take long to reach Kleine Scheidegg heading down (and not stopping at the view points), where OF COURSE it was nice and sunny!! (Still dark clouds swirling over Top of Europe though). We got off and hopped over to the next platform for the train down to Wengen and Lauterbrunnen. We decided to hop off in Wengen for a little bit to check it out. It looked amazing on the way up, and we heard there was some sort of festival there today to bring all the cows down from the mountain. We discovered we were too late for that when we got there, but we saw plenty of their remnants (cow poop!) all over the main street there! We walked around, looked in a couple shops, and bought an adaptor in the COOP there. We decided if we come back, we might stay in Wengen. It's seriously amazing. (Oh, and there are dogs all over Switzerland too! Everyone takes their dogs everywhere. I found the cutest little golden retriever puppy to play with while we waited for the train!)

Hopped on the next train (30 minutes) down to Lauterbrunnen. And from there, straight over to the cable car and up to Murren. We have lucked out today so far (and broken the Swiss honor code). Our 2 for 1 Swiss Pass we bought is good for 4 days of travel. You are supposed to write the dates down on the pass as you use it. Weeelllll...we haven't written today down yet. We actually need our pass for all 5 days this week. We'll see if it works...

Oh, and as soon as we got off the train, we saw some advertisement for the Swiss pass and Jungfraujoch and how you get 50% off. Ugghh! So mad at that old guy. And of course I forgot to ask in Wengen about it to see if we could get a discount or some money back. 

Back in Murren, we debated going for a hike down to Stechelberg, or heading over to the cable cars on the other side of town that to up to the top of Schilthorn to the Piz Gloria Restaurant. That is the place I found in the book and how we ended up in this area in the first place. It really was gorgeous outside, not many clouds on this side of the mountain, so we hiked on over to see what the scoop was - how much it was and when the cable cars head up. Aaaand no luck there either. Today is not our day, ha. ;) Apparently there are storm force winds up there (that explains the ice blast in our face at Top of Europe), so it was closed. Better luck tomorrow. When the forecast is calling for clouds all day!

We made our way back to the Chalet to figure out what to do, but made quick stops at an electronics store for an adaptor. Why can't Switzerland have the same plug ins as the rest of Europe?! We bought one in Germany, but it doesn't fit here! We had to borrow Denise's last night!

After that, we stopped at a COOP again to buy more water and some snacks. We found the water, and Matt picked up two bottles. I shook them and thought they looked a little fizzy, but Matt said they were good. I didn't argue - even though there was Evian, which we knew was flat, right next to it. I was a lite hungry and wanted a snack, so we picked up a little bag of cookies, too, and went back to the room.

The room was steamy when we got inside!! We got cold last night and cranked the heat, but forgot to turn it off when we left early this morning! Woops! We quickly turned it way down and opened all three of our windows to the little "road" below. This has to be the most quiet village ever. We hardly ever see people!

Anyways, as soon as we got to the room and dealt with the heat thing, Matt sat down on the bed, took a drink, dropped his head, and said, "God bless it." Haha, it WAS sparkling water, and we now had two giant liter bottles of it. The cookies, however, were amazing. Like, maybe our favorite cookies ever. We actually ate the entire bag in one sitting. We just couldn't put them down!

With nothing else to do, since Piz Gloria was closed, we decided to get a map out and go for a hike. Somewhere. We had a couple of options, and had one in mind, but we just set off following some signs to Almendhuble (which also said "Inferno" underneath it.) It was straight up from Murren. I mean, we weren't even out of Murren yet and I was already dying! The trail we originally wanted to take was roped off and looked closed, but after some talking, we decided to go anyways. We had to squeeze through one fence, then hopped over another rope not much farther. The views were pretty cool. We were on the other side of the mountain from Murren. We came across a little stream, and literally spent 10 minutes trying to get a good pic with the self timer on my camera. And we both got muddy laying on the ground trying to get the angle just right. Worth it, I guess. We hardly have any pics of the two of us together!

We continued on - and up. We actually debated turning around a couple times because storm clouds were moving in and it started to sprinkle. But we're both too stubborn and determined, so we kept going. We eventually ran in to a British guy who told us we were about half way up to the train back down, last one left at 5, and it was "quite steep" the rest of the way. (Hence the trail name: Inferno!) Ha, I though it was "quite steep" already!! The info was nice, and he even took a picture of the two of us! :)

We kept going. And it did get much more "quite steep." We had to stop for numerous breaks, but the views were pretty awesome.

As we made it to another fork in the paths, we ran in to some more hikers who confirmed which way we needed to go (there wasn't a sign), and that the last train down did indeed leave at 5. We had like 5 minutes or something until 5, and the trains here leave on the dot. We had originally talked about just walking back down, but the sun was going down and the storm clouds were moving in. It was about as windy as Top of Europe! So we literally took off running. Up a mountain path high above Murren, which is already really high! It was crazy - and not a good idea (we about died from lack of oxygen). ;)  We finally found the fernicular place, just over the next hill, and were walking down when Matt thought he saw something else that might of been it down a different hill. So I paused while he looked, but then he came walking, saying it was nothing. Time was ticking away. It was 4:59 when we got to the little restaurant where the train was. As we got close, we heard it start beeping, like it was leaving. We took off sprinting, hollering...and it pulled away literally less than 2 seconds after we got there. We stood there and took a picture as it left. Well, I took a picture, while Matt went stomping back outside yelling profanity, haha. I didn't really care at all that we had missed it. (Today was definitely not our day luck wise!) It wasn't TOO bad out yet, the sun was trying to peek out again, and we didn't really have anything else to do! I actually think its a great story, but he was SO not happy about it. :)

So we walked around up there for a little bit, let Matt cool down, and then started heading back down to Murren. We were going to go down a different way than how we came up, but it was on the other side of the mountain and it was so windy over there it about blew you over! So we went back down the way we came. Ran in to some more hikers from Cleveland, and they took a picture of us, too! It really was just beautiful up there!

The hike down was much faster than the way up, but not that much easier! Going straight down is about as hard on your legs! We actually started running at one point, and had a hard time stopping. It was hilarious, but probably not one of our best decisions. ;)

We made it back to Murren unscathed. All in all, I thought it was an awesome day. An awesome hike, and I was glad we did it. Might be paying for it tomorrow though. We might not be in as good as shape as we thought, either. Both our legs were sore today just from our easy little 30 minute downhill walk to Gimmelwald yesterday!

We were pretty hungry by that point, so we went back to the room to figure out where we wanted to go for dinner. When Denise, my Lonely Planet book, and Trip Advisor all recommended the same place, we set off to try it:  Eiger Guesthouse. Everyone raves about it, and it wasn't anymore unreasonably priced than the rest of the place here. (Everything is expensive!) We got right in, and they lit a little candle on our table for us. They did last night, too. So cute! Matt got the Rosti - which all the reviews talked about. It's kind of like hash browns with egg and bacon and onions all mixed together. I got the tortellini - and it was amazing! I really REALLY enjoyed it. Not sure if it was really that good, or if I was just that hungry after a crappy lunch and long hike! Either way, it was a great dinner.

When we got up to walk back to the chalet, we both groaned. We were sore already! Tomorrow is definitely going to be rough - and we have more hiking planned!

It was a very chilly walk back to the room. It gets so cold here at night! And again, I don't think we saw one person. It was echoing as we walked and talked.

So, we're both a little short on clothes. Well, I'm not short on clothes in general, I always pack more than I need. But I am short on jeans and leggings, which I've worn every day. And I got my jeans muddy today. (Matt got his muddy going down a slide yesterday in Gimmelwald.) And I only brought a couple of t-shirts, which I could use more of. Oh, and not enough socks. Matt is short on boxers, too. You get the picture. We needed to do laundry. Denise said there was a laundromat just around the corner (her chalet has the best location ever), so we loaded up a bag with what we wanted washed and took off. I am so over walking up hill, which is where this place was. Two washers and two dryers, 5 CHF each. Soap is already in the washing machine. Perfect. We tossed our clothes in, and after 4 tries of Matt trying to get the coin in the machine, I worked for me on the first try, ha. No idea why, but it just kept spitting them back out when he put them in! We were going to sit the and wait on it until we saw the timer on it. 57 minutes to wash a load of clothes?! Jeez - they better be clean!

So back to the room we went, to figure out our plan for tomorrow. It's looking like an attempt at Piz Gloria at the top of Schilthorn again if its open and not cloudy. Then a hike back down to Gimmelwald (where we went yesterday) and then down farther to Stechelberg, and over to Trummelbach Falls. I'm pretty pumped about seeing that one! However, the forecast is calling for not so nice weather tomorrow. Cold, windy, and rainy. If that's the case, I'm actually not sure what we will do! We'll cross that bridge if we have to, I guess.

Anyways, back to switch our laundry to the dryer at 9:15pm, but the one working dryer was busy for 10 more minutes. So back to the room we went! Once we finally got the clothes switched, we showered and relaxed while we waited for it to dry. For another hour and 15 minutes! Laundry takes forever over here! (And we did see some lightning on the walk. Not good for tomorrow!)

I actually didn't make it back out in the cold and up the hill to get our laundry from the dryer. Matt (aka: best boyfriend ever) ventured out and let me stay in bed. :)

Plan is to get up early and check the weather. We'll probably sleep in if its bad. That's all for today! Will update again tomorrow hopefully! (Moving down to a Chalet in Lauterbrunnen then. Hoping they have wifi, too.)

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