|On top of Jungfrau -
13,000 feet up
|Lulu in the Ice Castle -
everything is ice even the floor
Today Lulu and I made the trek up one of Europes highest mountain - Jungfrau. We went from 4200 feet in our town of Wengen to 13,400 feet. It took 3 different cog railroads - all trains in Switzerland operate on electricity only. On the way down the mountain you can hear electric motors spinning and making electricity from the train "falling" down the mountain.
The trains ride on tracks that are only 30 inches wide. There is a middle rail that has teeth. Normal trains can only go up a 10% grade because they start slipping. Cog railroads can go up a much steeper track. On the way up are a few stations where skiers - sledders - hikers - can get on and off. the trains have racks for their gear. We stopped at 2 stations to change trains on the way to the top. Although there were plenty of skiers - the season does not start until next week - so there was plenty of empty seats going up - and even more empty going down. They were very strict about checking your train passes.
At 4200 feet where we got on - the temperature was about 38 degrees at 11 am. At the top a couple hours later - it was down to 20 and we had more wind - but not enough to stand the flag out at the top. There is a wonderful modern building at the top with restaurants - shops that sell gifts - and some historic things. They even had an Ice Castle there that you explored.
There was a wooden hotel at the top that burned down in 1972. They did not replace that. the highest pointing the saddle area was on top of the observatory - which is shared with a giant telescope. Telescopes worked better high up in the mountains because you are far away from light pollution of the cities. Also you are high above most weather. At 13,000 were - we were both - dizzy - groggy - and very slow due to lack of oxygen.
The adventure was simply one of the highlights of my life.
I taught Earth and Space Science 33 years. I had it divided into 4 quarters - astronomy - geology - meteorology - oceanography. All 4 were represented here.
1. Astronomy - at night you have one of the clearest skies to see the distant stars - planets - galaxies.
2. Geology - the Alps were formed from diastrophism pushing rock layers from the slide - similar to you sliding your foot on a carpet and making folds that pile higher and higher. Then the forces of weathering and erosion wear it down. During the Ice Ages - this area was covered by glaciers that were miles high. their weight drug along surface carving out the valleys and leaving the high Alps in between.
3. Meteorology - as you go up a mountain - the air gets colder - about 4 degrees per 1000 feet. This bring big changes in the weather - making rain - wind - snow.
4. Oceanography - at one times these layers of rocks were at the bottom of the ocean - you can find fossils of sea animals - miles above any oceans.
This all is smack dab in the middle of Europe.
Things you do not see up here - snowmobiles - SUV cars and trucks - RV's. You see people walking with walking sticks - sledders - skiers - snowboarders - skaters. You do not smell a lot of wood burning fireplaces. There are some - maybe they fire them up when it is really cold.
I am surprised to see many many Asian tourists. Lulu says one of the main reasons is Heidi. There is a very popular TV show in Asia. The Swiss have taken advantage of this and have developed a Disney like park - based on Heidi. It is 50 miles from us. It is a favorite Asian Mecca in Europe.
It is not good to make generalizations - but I am not always good. To me - Swiss seem very fit and healthy. You do not see a lot of fat people like me. They keep their homes and public areas very tidy. You are slotted garbage bags that have serial numbers. You must take them from your home to a special corral. Garbage disposals ar not popular here. Everything goes in the bag. All garbage leaves town on the train.
There are several carless communities here. In the cities of Zurich - Bern - Basil - Geneva it is more like back home.
They are a neutral country. Their army stays within its border - except for the guards that guard the Pope in the Vatican. They had an army of 500,000 during WWII - but have whittled it down to 100,000 now. They have the highest standard of living. They're one of the healthiest countries. They have 8 million people today - low crime rate - and their banks are known for hiding money for people throughout the world. They still make tons of precision mechanical watches - although they are more works of art today - since computers are more accurate.
95% of the energy comes from waterfalls - geothermal - or nuclear power. No coal - no oil.
They did copy their constitution from the United States. They have 2 houses of Congress - in one each state has 2 members - in the other members are picked by population. They have an executive council of 7 - they each get a year being the leader. They have a court system.
Women did not get the right to vote until 1971.
We have been lucky so far. We have had snow. It has not been to cold. No rain. Little wind. We stayed healthy.
|Narrow gauge cog railroad
|First stop to leave of skiers
|Safety chalets all up the mountain
|Glacier from high up and
slowly move down mountain
|Our first stop to change trains
was Kleine Scheidegg
|All glass points toward the high peak
|Apple cake and coke
half way up
|This special colored train is
for FSU faculty.
|Beautiful station 2/3 way up
|The last leg of our trip is carved
completely in solid rock.
|This is the longest glacier in
Europe running away from you.
|The last 300 feet up
is an elevator
|From here you can see hundred of miles.
|Christmas inside the mountain museum.
|Christmas tree at the top.
|Limestone cave -
sedimentary rocks uplifted.
|Model of a hotel that burned downing 1972
|Swiss Army knives at the gift store
|Train station 1/3 the way up.
|Skiers ride up and ski down.
|Spacious narrow cog railroad.