Grindelwald: 4 days in the Alps

we arrived at our chalet around noon.  The day was cloudy, so we could see that there was a mountain above us (Eiger), but not much more.  There had been snow in the mountains the day before.  So all of the rivers were roaring with snowmelt.  Our chalet overlooked a field of cows across the river.IMG_20160524_144100533_HDRIMG_20160524_142536545_HDR

The forecast was not very optimistic.  One day of sun, and the 2 rainy days.  We were going to make the most of our trip though! So we hopped on the train up to Grindelwald (we were one stop before the town (the stop called Schwendi).

The clouds parted a bit, and we could see some pretty incredible peaks:

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We sis some shopping and saw a bit of the town before heading back to our chalet.  That evening, I had a conference all, so I idaled in, and started walking around the village.  I was speaking, and I attracted the attention of a small herd of cows.  Now, these cows also had Swiss cowbells on their necks, so they made quite a clattering as they ran up to me.  I think the wanted food.

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I was a disappointment in that regard 🙂

The next morning started early – we were headed to Jungfraujoch. Jungfrau is a mountain (Actually picking up some German – it means young woman in english)  Joch is Yoke (I had to Google translate that one :)).  so we were in the yoke (shoulder) of Jungfrau.

We needed to catch the 7:17 train in Grindelwald, which meant we were out of the house, and at our station by 7Am.  Probably our earliest morning yet!

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We got our train, and in Grindelwald, we caught a cog rail train (there is a gear on the train that rolls up a 3rd track with teeth – to help the climbing). We switched trains to a 2nd cog train, and continued up the mountain (mostly in a tunnel).

First cog train – getting to the (rapidly receding) snow line:

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Heading up in the 2nd train – we saw the first train heading back down:

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This railway was built in the 1910-1920s, and they blasted a few stations on the way, where we exited the train for 5 minutes to take in the view as we went higher and higher. The views were spectacular – and really showed how high we had gone.

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I think these are ice boulders.  But I’m not sure.

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After about 2 hours on the trains, we arrived at Jungfraujoch. Mom and Dad grabbed a coffee as we soaked in the views.  We were at 11,400 feet, and we could feel the difference. Harder to walk fast, shortness of breath.  The landing area is floor to ceiling windows – for a VERY good reason.

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yeah….

The tour begins through a few tunnels, and there are a bunch of fun touristy things to see – in addition to the views. The first real event was the ‘sphinx.’  There is a research lab atop Jungfraujoch (solar studies, an observatory, and also airbourne aerosol and CO2 measurements).  The observatory is the head/body of the sphinx, and the deck for tourists to take photos are the outstretched paws.  Here was our first chance to be outside.  Being on the early train – it was not crowded, and we could get around and see the sights. There were plows clearing the new snow at a few experiment sites on the mountain.

And the windswept peaks were just sparkling in the early light

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There was an ice palace – caves full of ice with carved creatures – bears, pengiuns, wolves. We loved ‘skating’ along the ice floor.

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there was another outside area to explore. It was below freezing, but sunny and not windy.  By the end – we had removed all our jackets and were just in sweaters.

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we explored a few of the outside areas later in the day – more sun – warmer -and a lot more people.

However, soon it was time to leave, so we hopped on the trains back down.. The peaks seemed to be hanging over the train as we descended back into Grindelwald:

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we were home by 4 PM, utterly exhausted.  However, the weather forecast had held for the day.. The rain never really arrived.

On day 2 – the rain was supposed to come by early afternoon, so we again decided to start early.  We were headed up to Pfingstegg, a short cable car from Grindelwald.  Why you might ask?

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Thats right! Toboggan run! Little carts on metal tracks that race down the mountain like a roller coaster.  We all went a bunch of times – so fast and exciting.  After a picnic lunch at the top, we took the cable car back down. The weather had held yet again! It may have been cloudy, but it was still gorgeous:

Lilacs in bloom – and fields being mowed.  Some of my favorite spring smells.

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Snow falling off teh mountain like a waterfall:

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We raced home for 2nd lunch, and when we got back to Grindelwald to take the gondola to First – we realised we were out of time – we could not explore the top before the gonodolas stopped running.  This was a bummer, as the next day was supposed to be rainy and crummy. So, we went to a yarn store. G and A now have some nice yarn for their next projects 🙂

It was our last day – the gondola to First.  So, the weatherperson said rain today.  But we got up, and beautiful sun!

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The trip to First was not all lost!  At the top, there are a bunch of activities to undertake.  We first went to the cliff walk.

Whats a cliff walk? you might ask?

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Yeah.  Its a walk on a bridge suspended over the cliff.

Seems legit.

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oh and the floor is grating – so you cant just watch your feet:

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and – the suspension bridge.. DId I mention that?

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G had a hard time here.  She stopped and decided to draw for a bit, but in the end – she did the bridge by herself! I am so proud of how these kids are finding their strengths and persevering! Nad her art is really great.  We will need to display some of her pencil drawings she comes up with!

Now, while it was a bit scary, the views were tremendous:

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The end of the cliff walk had a long bridge to nowhere.  Great views.. Glass floor. You can see it at the right of this panorama:

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It was time for some selfies.  I wasn’t the only one 🙂

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As you can see – the weather is holding out for us!

After a nice lunch on the deck, we wandered a bit more before starting to descend back to Grindelwald.  K decided to take the zip line down the first third of the mountain.  The kids and I opted for the cable car.  But, as we watched Mom prepare and go down, I saw these young spring crocuses emerging from the snow:

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There was a LONG line for the zip line.  But they needed a single (everyone else was in pairs), so they called K from the back of the line, and she went almost right away.  It was one of those days where everything was going right!

We met at the first cable car station down the mountain.  And we rode one more.  We got off to walk the rest of the way. There was a nice playground, and baby K played in the stream for a minute.  The sound of cow (and goat) bells, water rushing, and the smell of cut grass was everywhere.

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You might say that the hills were alive….IMG_20160527_161844354

These cows were on our trail – heading up to home…

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IMG_20160527_164904821_HDRgoats!

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After a nice walk down the last bit of First, we got back to the train. Hopped down to our station, and walked around the corner to our chalet.  As we unlocked the door, we heard thunder.  The expected rain WAS coming after all, but it held out until we finished our epic adventures in First.  That’s just how exact our day was.. Everything ran like clockwork, all the way to the opening of our house.

What fun we had.  We kept saying how all our photos looked like they were Photoshopped.  We are so used to seeing effects run by computers that are realistic, it is hard to imagine that these places really exist in real life.  There is a reason that Swiss countryside is used in the movies, in train layouts, in describing how snow capped mountains are.  This area is alive with scents, sounds and sights that we were very lucky to experience!

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