The largest waterfall in Europe are the Rhine Falls near Schauffhausen a little over an hour north from Zurich and the canoeist in me had to see it.
This felt a far grittier tour than the Zurich City Tour I had done the previous day as we all climbed into a minibus & there were concerns about ice on the early morning local roads we were going to need to take because of a crash on the motorway.
This actually turned out to be good news as it meant we could see more of the northern Swiss villages & countryside.
Forest road on the way to Schaffhausen
A Swiss Village on the way to Schaffhausen
The Munot Medieval Fortress above Schaffhausen
The Falls themselves are spectacular, they are 150 metres (450 feet) wide by 23 metres (75 feet) high & the flow over them during summer averages 700 m3 per second. Apparently they are at their best during the summer because of all the snow melt but with all the snow the Alps have had in the last fortnight & the bright sunshine I don't think we could have done much better!
Jungfraujoch is a vantage point 11,782 feet (3,571 metres) up in the Swiss Alps & is about a 2 hour drive South West of Zurich.
Sign at the Sphinx Vantage Terrace at Jungfraujoch
Jungfraujoch was always going to be a highlight of my few days visiting Zurich and I had been monitoring the weather forecast for the previous week trying to identify the best day to go. It is marketed as the "Top of Europe" and on the way up we were warned to be wary of altitude sickness by taking it slowly and keeping ourselves well hydrated & fed.
First stop was Interlaken where we were dropped for a 40 minute comfort break by some high value tourist shops (Swiss watches, designer handbags, etc); I was expecting blatant selling like that later in Thailand but not on the Swiss leg of my trip! Interlaken has some lovely Victorian hotels but is very touristy if thankfully quiet (like most of Switzerland) on a Sunday. The best bit of Interlaken was watching the paragliding down onto the Hohe-Matte Park in the centre of town from a ridge high above.
Paraglider about to land in the centre of Interlaken
We then began our epic trip up the mountain on the historic cog railway (100 years old in 2012) to the highest railway station in Europe.
View from the train back towards Lauterbrunnen
Trackside house on the way up from Lauterbrunnen
Sun on the High Alps
We had to change trains at Kleine Scheidegg which was a hive of activity with skiers scurrying everywhere carrying their skis and trying to get to the slopes. As our train continued up the Mountain the already spectacular views seemed to get better around every bend in the track.
Skiers de-train at Kleine Scheidegg Station
Cable Cars and Skiers near Kleine Scheidegg
Classic view from Kleine Scheidegg
Once we reached the top the views were awesome! Apparently on a clear day such as the one we were there you can see as far as Italy, France and Germany.
Me at the Sphinx Vantage Point at Jungfraujoch
The Sphinx Vantage Point at Jungfraujoch
The view from the Sphinx Vantage Point
From the vantage point it was backdown into the mountain to make our way to the Glacier Plateau passing through ice tunnels and carvings of ice.
Me inside an Ice Tunnel
Yvonne and Mary, a couple of new friends I met on my trip to Jungfraujoch
Ice Carvings in the Ice Palace
Venturing out onto the Glacier Ice Plateau it was bitterly cold, the gauge read minus 22 degrees Centigrade but the views of the mountains (Eiger - 13,026ft, Monch - 13,475ft and Jungfrau - 13,642ft) and the Glacier can only be described as awesome. The Aletsch Glacier that flows from Jungfraujoch is 14 miles (23 kilometres) long making it the longest glacier in Europe.
The Glacier Ice Plateau
Me out on the Plateau - minus 23 degrees Centigrade!
View of the Aletsch Glacier from Jungfraujoch
Having survived going out on the glacier ice plateau all that remained to do was to return to the train and make our way back down; 45 minutes mainly underground to Kleine Scheidegg and then to change trains to get down to Grund where our coach back to Zurich was waiting for us.
Getting back on the train at the highest railway station in Europe
By coincidence my stay in Switzerland coincided with the annual four day Lucerne Carnival culminating in a big parade on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. A major feature of the parade are the "Guggemuusige" or improvised (masked) bands and we began our visit by joining the crowds watching them lining the Seebrucke Bridge.
A Band crossing the Seebrucke Bridge during Luzern Carnival
Amongst the bands there were also many elaborate floats, most of which had very dark themes.
One of the many floats at Luzern Carnival
And it wasn't just the parade members that dress up but about 90% of the spectators as well! We couldn't get fancy dress at short notice (apparently dour reformist Zurich doesn't go in for that sort of thing and leaves the partying to Catholic Lucerne) but nobody seemed to care and we had a great time.
Carnival goer at Luzern Carnival
Me at Luzern Carnival
When the parade was over we sampled some of the history of this beautiful medieval city with its famous 14th century covered wooden pedestrian bridge (seriously damaged by fire in 1993 but now restored) and narrow streets.
The Kapelbrucke Bridge in Luzern
Rathausquai during the Carnival with the Jesuit Church on the other side of the river
Meanwhile the partying was set to continue right through the night. The bands were now making impromptu performances around Lucerne including on some steps by the river.