National Geographic : 1950 Aug
The National Geographic Magazine peaks gradually appeared in the background. At Kleine Scheidegg we changed to the Jungfrau Railway and began a steeper, cog wheel climb. This line, highest in Europe, was begun in 1896 and completed in 1912 to Jungfraujoch, at a point 2,328 feet from the summit. Twice the train paused so we could visit en closed galleries for superb views of the valleys below and the peaks above. Then, at the end of a tremendous tunnel, we pulled into the underground station of Jungfraujoch (p. 211). Europe's Highest Observation Terrace Walking at this high altitude was difficult because of the rarefied air, but the view at the end of a stroll to the snow-covered plateau of Jungfraujoch repaid the effort. Then we retraced our steps to an elevator which ascended 364 feet to the summit of the Sphinx, where we emerged upon the highest observation terrace in Europe. Around us, perfectly at home amid the snow and ice, flocks of alpine choughs wheeled and soared in the cold mountain breeze. These birds, related to the crow family, inhabit many mountains of northern Europe. Climbers can ascend from here to the sum mit of the Jungfrau in from three to four hours. The ascent of one sister peak, the Miinch, is harder; but most difficult of all is the near-by Eiger. Though the mountain was climbed as long ago as 1858, the sheer, almost unscalable approach up the north wall, the Eigerwand (Ogre's Wall), was not con quered until 1938 (page 230). The Jungfrau Railway is spectacular, but so is a goodly portion of the entire Swiss Federal Railways. Their electrification, begun in 1907, is 98 percent complete today. When World War II cut off coal supplies to Switzerland, its people were thankful that they had embarked upon this $250,000.000 project. In thrifty Switzerland most passengers travel third class (about 94 percent in 1949); only one percent buy first-class accommoda tions. The Swiss love to tell about a high Government official who once was encountered by a friend in a third-class coach. "Why, sir, how is it that you are riding third class?" the astonished friend inquired. "Come, now," replied the official, "surely you know there is no fourth class." In Lucerne, Switzerland's most frequented tourist resort (page 232), I promenaded with hundreds of other visitors along the quays, looking out over the sparkling waters of the Lake of Lucerne (Vierwaldstatter See) to the Alps beyond. Behind me in a solid row stood the big hotels, famous for their views of the lake and the mountains-the Rigi to the east, Pilatus to the south, and the long ranges in the Can tons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden to the south and east. I rambled through the streets until I came upon the Lion Monument. This commemo rates the Swiss Guards who died defending Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from the attacks of Revolutionary mobs on the Tuileries in Paris in 1792. Hewn in the face of the living rock by a Constance (Konstanz) sculptor, the figure represents a lion of colossal size, mortally wounded but endeavoring to protect to the last a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the Bourbons. The figure is mirrored in a pool at the monument's base. Steamboat trips on the Lake of Lucerne are legion. The boats penetrate deep into the heart of the William Tell country, where spot after spot is associated with the legendary hero of Swiss independence. But I was most interested in the meadow of Riitli. Swiss independence was born there in 1291, and a dramatic event took place there during World War II. This spot on the lake shore now belongs to the State and is a place of pilgrimage, particularly on Sundays. In July, 1940, after Hitler's armies had overrun Belgium and the Netherlands, and had conquered France, the Swiss learned through their excellent Army intelligence serv ice that their turn was about to come. Switzerland had mobilized all its manpower to maintain its neutrality. It was prepared to resist any invader at all costs. But the shattering impact of the blitzkrieg on stronger nations had had a pronounced effect on Swiss morale. In some quarters, both civilian and military, defeatism set in. General Guisan Restores Morale Then Gen. Henri Guisan, commander in chief of the Swiss forces, on the eve of the threatened attack, on July 25, 1940, sum moned every high-ranking officer of the Swiss Army to the Ritli. "I have decided to assemble you in this historical spot, the cradle of our independ ence, to talk with you as soldier to soldier," the General told them. He outlined the military situation, warned his officers against listening to the ill-informed or ill-intentioned, and concluded firmly: "On August 29, 1939, the Federal Council ordered mobilization of frontier troops, then total mobilization. It entrusted the Army with safeguarding our secular independence.