- Angela Louie and Allan de la Plante
The Top of Europe
One of the places that we definitely wanted to see was the Top of Europe in Switzerland. The first part of the trip was the cogwheel train ride to Kleine Sheidegg.
The precisely engineered train tracks worked like the gears of a watch. All the way up the TV monitor gave us information to prepare us for what we were going to see. Coincidentally we met a firefighter from Portland on the way up as well. What a small world.
Kleine Sheidegg was just like I imagined it from Allan’s The Summer of Arnie Trout: the terrace, the coloured umbrellas and the imposing North face of the Eiger.
The tunnels that we passed through were made over a century ago with basic technology (pick axes and dynamite). They were so well thought out. Visitors were led to all the different vantage points with people exiting on one side of the elevator and others entering from the other, going through ice tunnels and rock tunnels.
Of course the whole mountain range was impressive. The Eiger, the Jungfrau and the Monch are the main summits of the Bernese Alps and are the most distinctive sights in Switzerland. At 4158 meters we were at the Top of Europe.
We got little tidbits of information about the mountains on the way down. For instance, the speed record for a solo climber up the North Face of the Eiger is 2 hours and 28 minutes, held by Dani Arnold, a Swiss Alpine climber. That is 3970 meters! Usually the climb takes between 1-3 days and is extremely dangerous due to rock falls, avalanches and falling ice. Ay! He was literally running up that mountain. I was short of breath just standing there at that altitude.
On the way down, we decided to stop at the Wengernalp station. We had a picnic just below the daunting Hundschopf on the Lauberhorn, the longest downhill on the World Cup circuit. Just imagining racers flying off this drop was frightening.
He pointed out another section of the run where the racers would make a sharp turn and go through a small tunnel under the train. Sounded like a death trap to me.
We thought we would walk down to the next station. It was only 45 minutes, the sign said. It forgot to say that it was straight down. Our thighs and knees were shot! Luckily we had cows to keep us company. It was just like you would imagine. All the cows had cowbells and because there were so many flies around their heads, they kept shaking them and the bells would ring. All the way to the next station was a symphony of cowbells.
By the time we returned to Wengen, we were tired and full from the day’s adventures. If you are ever in Switzerland, the Top of Europe tour is a trip not to be missed.