The Top of Europe

Some things never change. When I was growing up and we lived in upstate New York every time we had out-of-state visitors we would go see the sights: Niagara Falls or dash down to see the Statue of Liberty. Now, when people visit us we still go see the sights: the Jungfraujoch for example. I’ve been there so many times and it is always amazingly beautiful, majestic and fascinates me. It is basically a glacier between two mountains: the Jungfrau and the Mönch. It’s pretty high up, 3’466 meters (that would be 11’371 ft) above sea level. The train, built in the beginning of the 20th century that goes from the Kleine Scheidegg station to the top of the mountain is the highest in Europe.

The first time I was up there I was the guest and unfortunately there wasn’t much of a view, in fact you couldn’t see your hand on the end of your outstretched arm. Despite it being foggy, cold and windy I was impressed.

One very memorable time was when my parents were here visiting one January. The train station was packed with tourists from all over the world and my mother and I got shoved into the very front car while my husband and father were herded into a different car. We were all going to the same place so that wasn’t a problem. I thought being in the front car was cool, you had a fantastic view of the tracks, the mountains and where you were going. Mom didn’t think it was so cool, after all, we were going up the side of a mountain and there were some pretty steep inclines on the way, not quite her definition of fun. Her face lost some color when it started to snow and the winds picked up covering the train tracks in front of us but she braved through it. But gosh, we were in Switzerland, if it can’t snow in January, when should it?

Amidst all the happy chattering in the car in different languages my antenna picked up some Bernese (that’s the Swiss-German the people from Berne speak). I turned and saw I was standing right next to the conductor of the train. He was wearing a poker face and looked like this was just another boring day at work but what he was muttering told a completely different story. The storm had picked up some and he was not a happy camper. I didn’t say anything to him and kept talking to Mom. But I must admit I learned a couple of spicy new words that day unfortunately they’re not words a nice girl like me would ever use. We finally got to the top with no one the wiser that this wasn’t the norm except me. Everyone spilled out of the train and we were reunited with Ben and my father.

We slowly started to make our way up to the ice sculpture cave. I say slowly because, remember, we were at 11’371 ft above sea level and at that height you don’t want to do anything quickly. But not everyone knows that. When we were about half way there a hysterical woman who had been in the train with us came running towards us waving her arms and screaming at the top of her lungs. Ear-piercing sharp. It seems her husband had fainted in the cave from the altitude. She and her husband got the aid they needed from the ever ready and helpful employees and learned about walking slowly the hard way.

By this time the weather had changed to beautiful. We decided to skip the caves, go outside, sit somewhere, enjoy the beautiful view and wait until the color returned to Mom’s face.

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