Photo Story: Nearly 50 Years Ago I Was In Switzerland

Today I'm going back about 50 years, to the first time I borrowed my dad’s “good” camera. I was on my way to a summer in Europe.  The camera was a German made Kodak Retina iiiC rangefinder with a 50 mm F2 Schneider lens.  By today’s standards that would be a fairly limited kit; but back then it was all I had and I really enjoyed it.  

The main venue was Switzerland in 1968, during a college summer break.  I had a job at the Hotel Berghaus atop Switzerland’s Jungfraujoch.  This hotel was carved into the rock and was at the head of the Aletsch Glacier.  It was located in the "saddle" (joch) between two mountains, both of which are climbing destinations: the Jungfrau and the Mönch.  The Eiger is also nearby. 

The hotel has since burned down; but at the time it was the highest hotel in Europe.  The elevation of the hotel was 11,000 feet.

Access to the hotel by tourists (and there were many every day) was by an electric powered train that traveled through a winding tunnel inside the mountain. The entrance to the tunnel is at the base of the Eiger, in Kleine Scheidegg, and it winds for six miles inside the Eiger and Monch mountains to the Jungfrau terminal, the highest train station in Europe.

Along the tunnel there are two stops.  Passengers can get out at these stops and see through windows cut into the north wall of the famous Eiger.    

What did I do in the hotel?  I worked in the kitchen. My specialty was pommes frites (French fries). Seriously! I made them by hand, using a hand operated machine that drove a whole potato lengthwise through a grid of blades. 

Lunch was a madhouse as hundreds were served daily (unless we were in the middle of a cloud or snow storm, conditions which usually meant very few would invest in the long and expensive train ride to the hotel).  Generally this was a day-trip destination, with very few visitors spending the night or staying for dinner.  As I recall, the best views were in the middle of the day.  In the afternoon, the clouds often rolled in and visibility could go to zero. 

I took the photo below after skiing down to the glacier from the hotel. There is an exit to the mountain just out of sight to the far right. Notice the roof to the hotel in the background.  It's barely noticeable because it blends so well into the rock. 

Seen in this picture is single-engine plane which crashed while flying low and slow so that photographers could take some photos.  All aboard were killed.

Kodak Retina iiiC
Schneider 50mm F2
Kodachrome slide film (ASA 25 or 64)

1 comment:

Manohar and Kim said...

what a description of such a long time ago, and a photo to accompany it. i love it.
Travel is a wonderful thing!