Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Roof of Europe

Eiger, Eiger, shining bright...

There has probably been no phrase I’ve repeated so much since my arrival in France, upon encountering some new, old, or particularly Euro thing as “I can’t wait to show my parents this!” Why this is, I’m not sure – I guess you never really get over the desire to impress your folks.

In any case, my parents came for a visit about two weeks ago, thus the blog silence. It was an eye-opening experience. Your parents are always the ones who are on top of things: my Mom’s hyper-organized, my Dad able to navigate his way across the country and in strange cities effortlessly.

It was a little different this time. The only specific goals they had, after the Paris portion of their trip, was the Vimy Ridge memorial near Arras. Everything else was up in the air, other than a caution that they weren’t too interested in churches and castles.

This was awkward - as my parents, historically speaking, they're supposed to be in charge. Also, as anyone who has been paying attention to this blog knows, castles and churches are a bit of a specialty of mine, so I was left at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them for a week before heading north. The answer, as usual, came from my beloved, who suggested we head to the Alps. Where Amynah had been to Basel several times, the inner reaches of Switzerland had thus far eluded us.

Saturday, after a few days of taking them on my usual, top-secret tour of Strasbourg and the highlights of the Alsace region, we piled in the car and headed to the Jungfrau. At 4,158 metres it is probably the highest mountain I’d ever been on.

Fortunately, you don’t have to actually climb the Jungfrau. Instead, you take the Jungfraubahn, a train that goes up incredibly steep slopes with the aid of a third cog-rail, inside the mountain, through a tunnel hewn out the mountain leading to the peak.

Looking back on the cog-train. My Mom admirably resisted the urge to tell me to stop sticking my head out the window.

At the peak is an enormous metal and glass building that wouldn’t look out of place as the setting of the villain’s pad in a James Bond film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed nearby). Since there aren’t exactly any competing businesses in the region, the station was filled with overpriced restaurants and overpriced winterwear.

My elders, wondering what possessed them to leave late-Autumn Canada for a colder locale on their vacation.

Fortunately, we had brought our own and ventured out onto the viewing deck. I was immediately hit with a blast of homesickness, in the form of – 15 degree temperatures, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in nearly two years. Refreshing! The platform was haunted by some very furry-looking black birds. Why they were there and what they ate were a mystery, but they didn’t seem nearly as uncomfortable as the many visitors at the station from India, none of whom, presumably fooled by hundreds of Bollywood movies featuring sari-clad starlets frolicking in Alpine snow, seemed to have brought gloves.

Where the heck am I?

Inside, the station featured an ice-palace, featuring well-crafted polar tableaux. These, for some reason, included a representation of an igloo. Given that this is a structure already normally made of ice, seemed to me to make the Swiss copy somewhat redundant.

Ghost penguins!

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