Following Dad in Alps

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

A Memorable PlaceBy Marylane...

January 31, 1999

Following Dad in Alps; A Memorable Place

By Marylane Yingling Soeffing, Special to the Sun

The train climbs steadily through the long, steep tunnel. Windows frame images of dark rock. Cold, damp air penetrates the car. The tunnel, constructed from 1896 to 1912, bores through the Eiger and Monch mountains in Switzerland's Bernese Alps. The terminus is Europe's highest railway station, Jungfraujoch, 11,333 feet above sea level.

Seventy-one years ago, my dad, as a young man, rode through this tunnel to the "top of Europe." I am filled with nostalgia, longing and warm memories as I retrace his steps.

The tunnel is a marvel of Swiss engineering. A second such marvel is the Sphinx -- Junfraujoch's unique observation station reached by a 90-second elevator ride that ascends 367 feet through the mountain. The observation platforms and walkways provide unlimited vistas in every direction.

Constructed of metal grating, the platforms and walkways enable the daring to look straight down hundreds of feet to the craggy sides of the mountain below. Aletsch Glacier, the largest of Europe, spreads downward between the mountain ridges. Standing on the observation platform, I am almost at eye level with the peak of Monch and the twin peaks of Jungfrau. Smaller ones punctuate the ridge -- proud, silent sentinels standing over the valley far below.

In 1927, Dad wrote about Jungfrau in his travel journal, "The scenes were magnificent, too wonderful for the pen or brush of man to portray." Now, a lifetime later, I gaze at these high, majestic peaks and feel Dad's sense of wonder and awe. How I wish we could still share our travel adventures.

In his journal, Dad also described walking through an ice grotto carved out of the glacier, hiking over a path along the precipice to a huge snow and ice field, and watching people riding over the snowfield on dog sleds.

Seventy-one years later, inside the Ice Palace, I walk carefully on the wet, slick ice to view ice sculptures of bears, eagles and penguins. Outside, on the snowfield, I stroll through the snow, still incredulous that I am at the top of the Alps and marveling at the panoramic vistas that change with my every step. Signs warn me not to stray off the pathway, because there are unseen crevasses beneath the snow.

Twelve husky dogs, guided by a driver, pull riders on a dog sled through the snow. It is an exciting ride. The dogs' feet kick up snow while they pull the sled so fast that I am forced to hold on tightly. What fun!

Dad closed his journal entry about Jungfraujoch by summing up his experiences as "a most enjoyable day." His enjoyable day and his beautifully written passages added a poignancy to my adventures there. Dad's heirloom journal is a gift that keeps us close and enhances treasured memories.

Marylane Yingling Soeffing lives in Severna Park.

A rainy day, a Mayan fantasy; My Best Shot

By Adrian Stackhouse, Baltimore

I wanted to give my mom a special gift for Mother's Day, so I took her to Cancun, Mexico. The first two days, it rained off and on, but we didn't let that spoil our fun. This picture was taken on one of the rainy days. This was taken on a sightseeing tour within walking distance of Mayan ruins. I fell in love with the view. Every time I look at this picture, I feel so relaxed and at peace. I enjoyed the time spent on "fantasy island."

Where is your favorite place to ski?; Readers Respond ...

Italy

Csaba Hanyi, Towson

"The upper Badia valley in the Italian Dolomites. We have gone there 10 of the last 13 years. Three were missed due to one each: unemployment, knee injury, bypass. From our hotel we can ski in or ski out. Incomparable scenery, mostly sunny, good snow, lots of lifts, pretty villages, good food, friendly natives."

Wolf Creek, Colo.

Jeffrey S. Shepard, Baltimore

"Here in southwestern Colorado, there is endless powder but no lines. Also, no attitudes, fur coats or latte to be seen. When hiking the summit, you feel on top of the world!"

Grand Targhee, Wyo.

Rick Blankman, Lochearn

"The mountain range behind the Grand Tetons. A new high-speed lift and healthy amounts of dry, powdery snow dumped from clouds stalled by the Teton range. Groomed and ungroomed terrain for all skill levels, fabulous views of the Tetons and a vibrant, rich sky color I call Wyoming Blue."

Our Next Question

What is your favorite bed and breakfast? And why?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 01/31/99

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