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Panoramic of the Alps from the Ice Flyer

Mackenzie Patel

Guten tag World Travelers! Here is another article journaling my amazing time in Europe a few weeks ago (has it already been that long ago?)!On the third day of my excursion into the land of cheese, iconic army knives, and white crosses stamped into rippling waves of red, I stormed the Swiss Alps with adventure and curiosity. This glacial mountain region is one of the most famous in the world, third only to the Himalayas and Rockies. Its song of beauty and icy goodness is definitely not overrated; I only wonder how Hannibal and Napoleon managed to cross this insurmountable range because of its sheer depth and chilly cragginess! The monumental tip of Mount Titlis overshadows the idyllic valley of Engelberg, providing an optimal peak from which to view the whole of the Swiss Alps (or an extremely scenic portion of it). In order to glide to the hilt of the European world at 3,239 meters high (roughly 10627 feet), the sesselbahn will be your best friend. Sesselbahns are the adorable cable cars that trundle up and down the hills of the Alps and fly past grazing cows, bristling evergreen trees, and wooden farmhouses from centuries past. There is even a milk sesselbahn that carts freshly squeezed milk down from the valley farmers up to the beautiful restaurants nestled at the apex of the mountains! If you have a Eurorail pass (a train ticket that allows you to travel on any rail line throughout the countries of your choice), take advantage of the discount to the Mount Titlis tickets that can be purchased at the local Engelberg railway station. After joining the hoards of Indian and Chinese tourists already pushing their way to the top, I hopped onto a free sesselbahn and flew away from the leafy ground into the clear air. Unlike many places in Europe, there was no pollution in my little Swiss hamlet, making the air incredibly clean and the water from the tap refreshing as a mint. After passing through successive levels of the mountain (you could get off at lower levels for biking and walking trails), I made it to the final trip from the land of the manmade to the untamed monstrosity of nature. For this singular journey, I left my humble sesselbahn that was probably made in the 1980s and crowded into a 360 degrees rotating cable car. By this point, I was 100% within the icy jowls of the Alps, the panorama of white unfolding dramatically before my eyes. It’s hard to describe exactly what I saw as my sardine-packed car slowly hummed along in a circle. It’s like trying to accurately depict the Grand Canyon, the cobalt waters of Cinque Terre, or Yellowstone with one dimensional words rather than real life images and memories. The car went higher and higher, my life being held intact by one steel rope and the competence of a bored-looking Swiss driver.  Once the cable car docked, I disengaged myself from a Chinese tour group, and stepped onto the viewing platform near the summit of Titlis.

Sesselbahn going up the Alps.

Sesselbahn going up the Alps.

I. WAS. FLOORED. In all seriousness, the view I beheld was something out of a CGI studio, one that employs hundreds of talented people to create a breath-taking imitation of the real thing. The white peaks, interspersed with hints of the black rock underneath, surrounded me for miles on every side. It was the beginning of June, so most of the snow had abandoned its crystallized form and was flowing down the side of the mountain as frosty drinking water. Because of the aerial perspective and the way the randomly placed peaks seemed to blur to a blob of white/blue at the horizon, I couldn’t help but think the Alps was just the Grand Canyon cloaked in melting ice. From the main viewing station, I trudged my way uphill towards the ice flying port (all the meanwhile being immensely dwarfed by the shadow of a pyramidal glacier!). Although the name sounds extremely radical and something a bungee jumper, drastic hippie, or action-thirsty young man would do, ice flying is actually quite tame. The flyer was a glorified ski lift, with a row of seats being barred in by a piece of metal. I jumped into a moving middle seat, and I was off, gliding down a vertical path into the heart of Hannibal’s greatest natural foe. It was so still. So serene. So unreal. And my favorite part of the whole trip throughout central Europe.

Om the highest suspension bridge in Europe!

Om the highest suspension bridge in Europe!

After disembarking from our somewhat sketchy contraption, I ran to the adjacent suspension bridge that overlooked a plunging valley of razor sharp rocks and glinting white snow. The Titlis Cliff Walk is the highest suspension bridge in Europe, although to be honest, it didn’t seem that dizzyingly high or scary. Yes, the steel-cabled bridge would sway back and forth ominously as the jostling of people disturbed it, but I never doubted my safety or judgment. I was so drunk on beauty, beaming sunshine, and amazing spargel soup that I had just eaten that nothing could have gone awry. I also explored the glacier caves, but seeing as I only brought one flimsy jacket to Europe, I was frozen to my bones after the third step. Overall, seeing the Alps from the height of its glory is a must for anyone traveling in the vicinity. While I was silently gliding into the alpen abyss, the same feeling I had when I gazed upon Las Meninas or emerged from the metro station to first see the Colosseum descended into the pit of my stomach: awe and astonishment.

Tips for seeing the Alps through Mount Titlis

  • Order tickets at the train station or online beforehand to avoid crowds. Also, try to catch your first sesselbahn early in the morning to avoid large tours that crowd up the mountain with digital cameras and rude behavior.
  • Pay the extra money to take the icy flying trip—it’s well worth it!
  • Watch your step walking up from the cable docking station to the top of the summit—it’s extremely slippery and I almost fell five times!!

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