Travel Postcard: 48 hours at the top of Europe

Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:51am EST
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By Barbara Lewis

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - The Virgin, the Monk, and the Ogre - in German, the Jungfrau, the Moench and the Eiger - are three classic Swiss mountains that for centuries have drawn artists, thrill-seekers and tourists.

For a weekend tripper, the big lure is the railway to Europe's highest railway station at Jungfraujoch (3,454 meters above sea level), which in 2012 celebrated its centenary. It means that even the unfit can make it through walls of rock and ice to extreme mountain terrain and year-round snow with the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You won't resent the nearly 200 Swiss francs ($220) fare for a standard class return - provided the weather is clear.

Upfront investment in a rail pass gives free travel on some routes and discounts on others, including on the section to the Jungfraujoch. It's worth it if you're a dedicated train traveler, willing to stretch your weekend and travel by rail all the way.

From Paris, it's a roughly five-hour rail journey to Bern and then just under an hour's connection to Interlaken, recommended as a base for your stay.

From London, you have to add on the Eurostar journey to Paris (just over two hours). Otherwise, the nearest airports are Bern and Zurich.

Accommodation includes the five-star Victoria-Jungfrau, formerly frequented by the likes of the writer Mark Twain and the Emperor of Brazil. With equally good views - of the Jungfrau, Moench and Eiger - at a fraction of the price, Lazy Rancho, a bus-ride away from Interlaken town, offers five-star camping - if you've packed your light-weight tent.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge suggests how visitors can get the most out of a 48-hour visit.   Continued...

A train of the Jungfraubahn railways drives down to the Kleine Scheidegg station (altitude 2061 metres/6762 feet) near the Swiss mountain resort of Grindelwald July 25, 2012. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann