BERNESE OBERLAND, SWITZERLAND, January 6, 2018 — Most travelers to the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland quickly become familiar with the scenic rail journeys to the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthorn, which also includes transfers by cable car.
There is, however, another marvelous train that is frequently overlooked by helter-skelter wanderers. However, for locals, it has been a favorite journey for more than a century.
The Schynige Platte Railway
The Schynige Platte Railway opened in May 1893. The railway was first operated with steam traction. The railway was efore being electrified in 1914. The rack railway the village of Wilderswil, near Interlaken, with the stunning wildflower gardens of the Schynige Platte. From there, the small mountain ridge featuring three major peaks: the Gumihorn (6,886 ft), the Tuba (6,811 ft) and the Geiss (6,781 ft) is visible.
In addition, there are also impressive views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau as well as the town of Interlaken which derives its name because of its geographical setting between the lakes of Thun and Brienz.
When the original Alpenrose Hotel was no longer able to accommodate the influx of Swiss visitors, the Schynige Platte Mountain Hotel was built and opened in 1894. Just four years later, in the early morning hours of July 25, 1898, Hotel Schynige Platte was engulfed in flames and burned to the ground.
The Schynige Platte Railway
Shortly before the turn of the 20th century the new hotel, which remains active today, opened to guests. From the property there are breathtaking vistas of the Bernese Oberland’s big three: the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Turn around to see the views of the Lutschen Valleys and Lake Thun.
Then there is an imposing glacial panorama. it’s an alpine treasure that is difficult to match.
Today, the hotel features alpine antiques that include chests of drawers with marble tops, rustic beds and duvets, charming porcelain basins and water jugs complete with furnishings that create old-world ambiance amid mountainous splendor.
By design, telephones and televisions are not part of the accommodations. Management’s belief that visitors should savor the sensational mountain sunrises and sunsets without the temptation of modern distractions.
When to visit the Schynige Platte
A visit to Schynige Platte is a summertime outing operating from the beginning of June to the middle of October. Heavy snows and occasional avalanches impose seasonal disruption in the upper section of the rail route. Disruption are most common between Breitlauenen and the summit.
Once the last train of the season has ceased its operation, the overhead catenary on the upper section of track is dismantled. The track is reconstructed the following year prior to the first run of the new season.
The construction takes a day to complete, using the lone remaining steam locomotive and six employees to finish the job.
The Schynige Platte Mountain
Four electric engines, as well as the one original steam locomotive, push trains up the mountain or lead them down. During the season trains operate every 40 minutes with a traveling time of 52 minutes.
Arriving at one of the highest mountain railways in Switzerland, visitors disembark near the summit of the Schynige Platte mountain.
The Schynige Platte Alpine Garden
The most popular attraction, other than the magnificent scenery, is the Schynige Platte Alpine Garden. The garden specializes in researching the high altitude flora of Switzerland. There are more than 600 species of plants native to the Swiss Alps in the Alpine garden. Since 1932, an alpine-botanical course by the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern takes place here.
Established in 1928, an area of over 86,000 square feet was fenced off and opened to the public after centuries of use as alpine pasture.
As might be expected, hiking, always a favorite pastime in Switzerland, is a popular activity with several short loop trails extending from the rail station to multiple viewing points that are all within a kilometer of each other.
Beginning at Wilderswil, the train ride itself passes through dense forests that include a loop at Rotenegg. Once you “see the forest for its trees” the woodlands yield to rolling alpine pastures with views of the Bernese Oberland and Interlaken far below.
Also visible are Lake Brienz and Lake Thun which frame Interlaken like a giant water-winged butterfly.
Breitlauenen is the site of another passing loop as well as the rail line’s only intermediate stop at an altitude of just over 5,000 ft.
Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau Mountains.
Saving perhaps the best for last, the final ascent reveals the glistening snow-capped panoramas of the famed Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau Mountains.
The Schynige Platte is well-known to the Swiss, but frequently overlooked by visitors to the country partly because of other better-known destinations. If time permits, it’s an outing that makes for a marvelous day trip filled with a variety of activities.
If time doesn’t permit, it might be a good idea to re-do your itinerary or, at the very least, make plans to visit during your next trip to Switzerland. You won’t be disappointed.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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