12th – 13th May 2015: The Alps part 5 – Interlaken, the Jungfraujoch and Lucerne, Switzerland   Leave a comment

Incidently this blog is four years old today. The first entry was on 17th June 2011, the day I retired. Since then I have uploaded 446 posts, which averages just over two a week and covered many subjects, but have concentrated, of course, on my main interests of birding and travel. In that time my blog has been viewed over 66,000 times.

IMG_7674 Interlaken lakes

Late on the 12th we arrived in Interlaken. As the name suggests the town is situated on land between two large lakes, Thunersee and Brienzersee. This is the view a short distance east of the town over the Brienzersee.

IMG_7679 on route to Jungfraujoch

The main tourist attraction in the area is taking the train all the way to Jungfraujoch, a view-point at 3475m between the Jungfrau and the Eiger. If you start at Interlaken West the almost 3000m climb involves three changes of train and takes about two and half hours.

IMG_7684 on route to Jungfraujoch

A mainline train took us to Interlaken East, where we changed for Lauterbrunnen. From here another train took us steeply through the alpine meadows and coniferous forest ….

IMG_7693 on route to Jungfraujoch

…. until, under the shadow of the Jungfrau, we were above the tree line.

IMG_7805 N face of Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg

At Kleine Scheidegg, with the north face of the Eiger dominating the view, we changed again to a rack and pinion railway

IMG_7699 Jungfraujoch train

…. which then climbed into a tunnel that went right under the Eiger. The terminal was still underground and we had to ascend several floors to reach the observation platforms.

IMG_7748 Jungfraujoch

The view from the top was magnificent. This shot gives a panoramic view of the valley below.

IMG_7735 Jungfraujoch

This is the same view zoomed in.

IMG_7753 Interlaken from Jungfraujoch

To the right Interlaken was visible in the distance.

IMG_7707 Jungfraujoch

In other directions an endless vista of ice and snow was revealed ….

IMG_7741 Jungfraujoch

…. including this wonderful view over the Grosser Aletschgletscher, at 23 Km long, the biggest glacier in the Alps.

IMG_7764 my Taiwanese friend

I had been chatting to some Taiwanese tourists on the way up, and this nice Taiwanese girl wanted to be photographed with me.

IMG_7785 ice eagles

As well as being a viewpoint, the site has been developed into a bit of a theme park with a restaurant, these ice sculptures ….

IMG_7777 ice tunnel

…. and tunnels cut in the ice that you can slip and slide along to your heart’s content.

IMG_7837 Jungfrau

On the way back we changed trains at Klein Scheidegg and then returned via Grindelwald to the east. This gave a different perspective on the mountains ….

IMG_7828 meadows from train

…. and also gave great views of the flower filled Alpine meadows.

IMG_7840 from train

I would highly recommend this journey, it’s not cheap, about 200 Euros pp from Interlaken, but it takes you through a complete cross-section of the Alpine habitats, from lowland valleys to flower filled meadows, coniferous forest, open areas above the tree-line to the land of permanent ice and snow at the top. If you want to see Switzerland and have only a short time available then here it is in a nutshell.

IMG_7865 Lucerne church

We spent the evening in Lucerne. First we visited the impressive church ….

IMG_7873 Lucerne Church

…. arriving in the nick of time just as it was being locked up, there was only the opportunity for this one photo.

IMG_7884 Alpine Swift 2

Apart from Les Alpilles in southern France, Lucerne was the only place we saw the somewhat inappropriately named Alpine Swift.

IMG_7942 Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge and Water Tower were built in the 14th century and are Lucerne’s best known tourist attraction. The bridge served as a rampart and part of the town’s fortification. The Water Tower served as a dungeon, archive and treasury vault.

IMG_7924 medeval paintings

In the 17th century the bridge was adorned with a set of paintings depicting the development of the town and the Republic of Lucerne and the life of two patron saints.

IMG_7919 photo of Lucerne fire

Tragically on the night of 17th August 1993 a fire broke out on the bridge, burning 81 of the 111 bridge paintings, only those at the two ends escaped. The bridge structure was quickly renovated (at a cost of about £1.5 million) and some of the paintings removed in the 19th century (when the bridge was shortened to make way for a new quay) have been hung in the place of those destroyed. Photo taken from an information board by the bridge.

IMG_7960 RC Pochard

The surrounding waters held a healthy population of Red-crested Pochards, some of which were quite tame ….

IMG_7906 GC Grebe

…. as were the Great Crested Grebes.

IMG_7965 pub Lucerne

We ended up in an ‘English Pub’ for dinner. It sounds a bit corny but it must have been ok as it was patronised by many locals.

IMG_7973 Lake at Lucerne

We headed back along the shore of the lake, getting our last view of the high mountains as Lucerne is at the northernmost edge of the Alps.

IMG_7982 river at Root

As hotels were so expensive in the centre of Lucerne we drove to one at Root, some way to the north. The following morning we took a walk along the bank of the nearby river.  We came across some species more typical of the lowlands like Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher. After all the mountain torrents we had checked for Dippers with limited success it was a surprise to see a pair flying over this lowland river.

IMG_7978 Black Kite

We had seen lots of Black Kites in southern France but there had been none in Italy or the mountains of Switzerland so it was nice to start encountering them again. From here we drove to the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein before meeting up with the family in Austria. More of that in the next post.

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