The train screeched to a stop at Lauterbrunnen, the village nestled in a valley in which we were lodging, triggering the mad rush to retrieve baggage. My family and I waited, taking our time to drink in the different sights of Switzerland. The lilting tones of Schweizerdeutsch were like a beautiful song to me, unfamiliar to my ears. Outside our window, the Alps towered, still capped with snow in July. We disembarked from the train and left the station. As we strolled up a small hill to the village, I noticed the vivid colors in the little cottages and hotels and delectable smells of food emanating from roadside cafÃ©s. All the new features in this wonderful place overwhelmed my senses. Our hotel was especially quaint, with flowers in the window boxes, bright red shutters, and alpine views of craggy peaks and waterfalls.
Rising early the next morning, I watched the sun staining the Alps golden and pink. It was going to be a day of wonder and adventure, for we would be riding a train up the Alps to the highest accessible point in Europe: Jungfraujoch. The little red train we were in, part of the system with the highest railway station in Europe, pulled itself up the mountain through alpine forests. The air gradually grew colder as we passed alpine meadows full of wildflowers and happy cows that lay far above tiny villages, dots of color on the slopes below. After the train climbed past the tree line, the views changed. We could see the bare grey stone faces of the three tallest mountains in Switzerland: Eiger (Ogre), Mainch (Monk), and Jangfrau (Young Woman). Legend says that the ogre was chasing the maiden when a monk stepped between them. The ogre could not harm the holy man, so the young woman could escape unharmed, though all three are now immortalized in stone.
A short while later, the train halted inside a tunnel cut through the heart of Jungfrau. Everyone moved to a small glass window on one side of the tunnel to get their first glimpse of the spectacular view. Thrilled, I stepped into an elevator that would take us out of the tunnel into the tourist area. We would go out to the peak from there. As we stepped out of the tourist area into the blinding white snow, my cheeks burned from the sheer frigidity of the clean, crisp air. Once my eyes were adjusted, I was startled to see the Alps practically next to me. I crept cautiously to the railing that formed a barrier from the steep slopes, setting eyes upon the magnificent Aletsch glacier below. My fear of heights had magically melted away at that moment, replaced with awe and a sense of being very small. Deep down below, experienced climbers who looked like ants appeared to be hiking up the glacier.
My brother and I then took an exhilarating ride down part of the slope on a snow disk. Tired and soaked, we went to the mountaintop restaurant to sample some delicious Swiss specialties, such as rosti, a fried potato dish, and sausage. On the train journey back to Lauterbrunnen, stuffed with food and beautiful memories, I watched the silhouette of bleak and rugged mountains against lush green meadows. The sun shone brightly and I felt hot and stifled in my winter wear. My first trip to Jungfraujoch was over, but I knew I would have to come back one day, just to feel like I was on top of the world once more.
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