Originally, we were planning on going to Jungfraujoch, which is this railway station plus associated buildings way, way up (11k+ feet elevation) on the side of the Jungfrau. It sounded like a neat way to see some good vistas of the Alps, and since we have a SwissPass, train rides are free. Well, except for the last stretch or two, but we still get a discount on those. It's 3 hours travel time each way, so it would be a long day, but a lot of the train ride should make for good sight-seeing in itself.
We had picked Monday for this trip based on the weather forecasts at the end of our stay in Annecy. Monday is also the day that most Swiss museums are closed, so that makes it a good day to go someplace other than a city.
Well, by Sunday, the forecast had worsened considerably. 70% chance of snow. Hmm. Not sure it's worth it to go if the weather is bad and you can't see anything, so I started googling around to get some opinions on that. General consensus was that it probably wasn't, especially given how much it costs. Wait, what? The travel planning site I'd been looking at said it was only, like, $30 to get us up to the top...
So I hunted down the official Jungfraujoch website and puzzled out how to read the fare info and discovered that it's a bit more than that. A round-trip ticket from Lauterbrunnen is actually more like $142. Per person. With the SwissPass discount!
Yeah no. Not doing that. We gots some moneys budgeted for activities not covered by the pass, but not that much! (Also, this is the peril of automated data mashups: they're awesome when they work, but if the system misreads a data source, you can get nonsense data in there and there's no way to tell...)
Instead, we decided to head down to the Interlaken region just the same but to go to Grindelwald instead of Lauterbrunnen and have a look at the pretty mountains from down on the bottom instead of up on top.
This turned out to be an excellent decision. We switched trains at Interlaken Ost, and from there up to Grindelwald we had an entire train car all to ourselves. And the views were just amazing. It's all very green green green and damp down in the valleys, and then, right next to you, there are these mountains that just go zooming straight up into the sky. We took lots of pictures, but I don't know whether they really capture it. As you get higher up and closer to Grindelwald, you start to be able to see the really tall mountains that go up past timberline and become snow-covered. It's just spectacular.
Grindelwald itself is a swanky mountain resort town. It also may be the one place in the whole country where both Jerry and I have useful language skills, because it's very popular with Japanese tourists -- we saw quite a few signs written in Japanese. There's not a whole lot there other than hotels and shops that cater to tourists, but the views of the mountains are very nice.
We walked up the main street, taking pictures and getting rained on to greater and lesser degrees, until we mostly ran out of town. We filled our empty water bottles at a fountain (We have discovered: the reason why there are no drinking fountains in Switzerland? Is because all the regular fountains aren't decorative, they're water sources. Oh!) and said hello to a couple kitties in somebody's yard, and then decided that we were sufficiently damp and turned back around.
We stopped and got a late lunch at a very alpine restaurant: chicken curry with rice and fruit salad. Monkey had a very good (and large) beer. I had a bowl of cream of fennel soup with mine that may lead me to try cooking with fennel.
The train ride back down the hill afforded no sightseeing opportunities (full car, fogged windows, lots of rain outside), so I felt like the trip up was really something special and that we were very lucky. As we were leaving, we also saw a HUGE number of people getting on the train in Grindelwald to go up to the Jungfraujoch, and it made me even happier about our change of plans.
I started coming down with a bit of a cold, so didn't do much with the rest of the day after we got back to Bern. Caught up on a few emails, etc. Jerry gave the bar another try in the evening and had a fun time meeting people. But otherwise it was mostly downtime, which was needed.