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July 24, 2007 7:39 PM   Subscribe

The Sphinx Observatory atop the Jungfraujoch in the Swiss alps is one of the most amazing man-made objects I've ever seen. A UNESCO world-heritage site, it holds the distinction of being the highest (in altitude) structure in all of Europe. Approachable by a train that runs inside the mountain (via a tunnel dug between 1896 & 1926 at the cost of a small fortune, not to mention many lives), the Observatory rests atop a glacier which has been hollowed out to feature a year round gallery of never-melting ice scultptures (glacial ice is spectacularly pretty), and an elevator up to the research station.
posted by jonson (30 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, I normally don't make posts with tons of links, cause I feel like it detracts from the main thrust, but I really think there are a lot of great images (and some interesting panoramas) that weren't all collected in any one place, so do yourself a favor if the first link intrigues you, and click through the rest.
posted by jonson at 7:40 PM on July 24, 2007


That's amazing, and I want to go there.
posted by Arturus at 7:50 PM on July 24, 2007


Cool / Kewl.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:57 PM on July 24, 2007


Reminds me of the Aiguille du Midi on Mont Blanc.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:23 PM on July 24, 2007


Well, if it's one of the coolest things jonson's ever seen, count me in, too!
posted by humannaire at 8:32 PM on July 24, 2007


I can almost make out Blofeld's bald pate, gleaming in the Alpen gloaming....
posted by rob511 at 8:45 PM on July 24, 2007


Awesome set, thanks. I like how in the cutaway they label all the objects in the picture. Ice palace, scientific station, sphinx...husky dogs!
posted by scalefree at 8:46 PM on July 24, 2007


Glacier ice is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Far more so than the photos can ever portray.

If you ever have a chance to get inside a glacier, do so.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on July 24, 2007


Nicely done post (once more) jonson.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:16 PM on July 24, 2007


Ancient "Observatory" on top of a hollowed out mountain? Dedicated railroad? Glaciers? Penguin ghosts?

Are we absolutely sure this isn't the lair of a Bond villain?
posted by quin at 9:27 PM on July 24, 2007


(via a tunnel dug between 1896 & 1926 at the cost of a small fortune, not to mention many lives)

There's a tunnel between 1896 and 1926? Cool!
posted by Richard Daly at 9:29 PM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, that's goddamn amazing. Another brilliant post, jonson. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 9:47 PM on July 24, 2007


There's a tunnel between 1896 and 1926? Cool!

It's not that cool unless you can get to 1926 to try it out.
posted by grobstein at 10:23 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like how in the cutaway they label all the objects in the picture. Ice palace, scientific station, sphinx...husky dogs!

I personally found that a little cruel. I mean, those dogs aren't husky, they're just big boned.
posted by jonson at 10:52 PM on July 24, 2007


Are we absolutely sure this isn't the lair of a Bond villain?
What coincidence! James Bond was just a few miles away! With a bit of imagination, you can see the Jungfrau observatory on the far left.
posted by Psychnic at 12:39 AM on July 25, 2007


heh, I see my memory is obscured by clouds, unlike rob511's.
posted by Psychnic at 12:48 AM on July 25, 2007


Too few things in this world are perched atop sinuous glaciers, or hewn from the living rock, for that matter. We need more of this.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:52 AM on July 25, 2007


never-melting ice scultptures

...just you wait.

A scientific observatory built on top of a glacier?!? Do any of you watch movies?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:17 AM on July 25, 2007


I was there in 2000. The railway ride up is quite a trip. Once we got there, though, my low altitude New Jersey corpuscles left me pretty debilitated. I could barely walk around for lack of O2. Did make the ice sculptures seem a bit more trippy though.
posted by roue at 6:13 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


/derail

OHMSS is the best Bond film actually based on Fleming's novels. I will not allow this to be disputed.
posted by longbaugh at 6:20 AM on July 25, 2007


Oh man. I want to live there. Seriously. Oxygen starvation and all.
posted by jokeefe at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2007


If you ever have a chance to get inside a glacier, do so.

I've tried, I've tried man. But she's cold as ice.
posted by dhartung at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2007


I was up there in September 1996. The train ride is extremely expensive, but it's worth the trip -- along the way, you pass holes in the face of the Eiger Nordwand overlooking the valley of Grindelwald, and you might encounter climbers starting or ending expeditions from those locations. The day I was up there, they had husky dog-sled rides around a short snow track a short distance from the observatory. If you decide to try a ride, I'd advise waiting until the dogs have gone around 5 times or so, as the first sudden exertion of the morning stimulates the dogs' to defecate on the run.

For less altitude sensitive, you can hike up to the MönchsJochsHütte, which straddles the saddle between the Jungfrau and the Mönch. Great spot for a simple lunch, precariously perched over the abyss.
posted by Araucaria at 3:43 PM on July 25, 2007


I just visited this last summer! I have a postcard of it on my cube wall ... happy memories. Hiking up to Kleine Scheidegg and hearing clinky cowbells along the way, taking the train up through the mountain, finding an Indian restaurant in Jungfraujoch, finding some walkways blocked off due to falling icicle, and seeing the mountaintops just across the way - man, I want to go there again.
posted by cadge at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2007


By the way, for best results, do not visit Jungfraujoch in November.
posted by dmd at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2007


It's not that cool unless you can get to 1926 to try it out.

Alright, I know it's a joke, but there is something fundamentally glitchy about this premise.
posted by humannaire at 5:51 PM on July 27, 2007


wow, jonson, I missed this but just found it in this week's podcast and so glad because you have given me great memories of one of the best days in my life taking the train up the Jungfrau.

The Sphinx wasn't available at that time, drat - I can't remember if it was just being completed, or if it was already completed but just not available that day. I was traveling alone and had planned to just take the train just to Kleine Scheidegg because the cost to go to the top was very pricey. But I ran into a really fun group of Australians and Koreans who sort of adopted me and persuaded me to go to the top. That was providential because it was so well worth it to see that spectacular view and the ice castle was just perfect. It was utterly awesome to be there (despite a bad case of altitude sickness and battling my intense acrophobia).

Now that I have read this great post, I'm jonesing to go back. I would strongly recommend Switzerland and the Jungfrau to everyone at least once. I wrote up some of my Switzerland experiences in a trip report.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:02 PM on July 30, 2007


From he first link:

At an amazing 3.571 metres, the Sphinx observatory at Swiss Alps is the highest-altitude construction in Europe.

That's not really that high in altitude by North American standards. For example, here in Albuquerque, you can take the tramway to the top of the Sandias, where there's a restaurant and such at 3,163 meters in elevation. I'm sure there must be some substantial structures built above 3,571 meters somewhere in the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas. That's not even 12,000 feet.

Of course, what makes the Alps so impressive, beside the fact that they're extraordinarily beautiful mountains, is that the base elevation of the mountains is relatively low compared to, say, the Rocky Mountains. So the vertical rise of the mountains themselves are very large. In contrast, the base elevation at the bottom of much of the Rocky Mountains is usually already around a mile. Albuquerque's at 5,312 feet, or 1,619 meters, for example.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:25 AM on July 31, 2007


Wait. There's a MetaTravel?
posted by humannaire at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2007


Apparently it's TravelFilter, according to the link on the bottom of its page.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:19 PM on July 31, 2007


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