Through His Words: Day Sixteen

16 Apr

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect


Day Sixteen ( no letter written on Saturday)
Hotel Splendide, Interlaken

July 31st, 1938

Darling Modesta,

Yesterday I spent on the train from Paris to Interlaken. This is what is known as the Alsatian country and the scenery is just grand. I had intended to take the afternoon train to Lucerne, but on advice of many people, I stayed all day to go to the top of the Jungfrau mountain peak. It is one of the highest and most majestic snowcapped mountains in the Swiss Alps, and I certainly am glad that I did.

The trip to the peak is something I shall always remember. I left this morning at 6:30 AM on a train which winds around the most beautiful countryside with little villages nestled in the valleys of the Alps. It keeps going up and up and finally we change to another train which goes up a steeper incline, and along the way, more picturesque mountain villages, all as clean as a whistle.

Salamanamanjaro at en.wikipedia

Salamanamanjaro at en.wikipedia

At each stop, we pick up mountain climbers who are dressed as you would see them in the movies. We changed trains again, and this time it is a special train to take steeper inclines. 

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The scenery gets more interesting as we go up, up, up, through gorges, past waterfalls and tunnels carved out of the mountains, and finally we are at the top, over 12,000 feet. This is the closest to heaven I have ever been, imagine nearly 2.5 miles up.

I never realized that it was my grandfather who first uttered this thought, not Deborah Kerr as Terry McKay in An Affair to Remember: “Oh, it’s nobody’s fault but my own! I was looking up… it was the nearest thing to heaven!”

At this point is a small building which is shown on the postal card I sent earlier today.

Postcard sent by Alex to his daughter, Marion.

Postcard sent by Alex to his daughter, Marion.



Then there is a glacier, the largest in Europe. You can see for miles; it is awe inspiring.

Jungfraujoch and the Aletsch Glacier (Photo credit: Ed Coyle)

Jungfraujoch and the Aletsch Glacier (Photo credit: Ed Coyle)

The air is so rare you get sort of a dizzy feeling but soon you get used to it. You look down on numerous little villages in the fertile valleys below, the houses of which look like little specs. There is something about it all that gets in your blood – it is vast and magnificent. Never before have I seen such a site. The temperature is 19°, snow and ice around you, beautiful green trees, and varied colored patches of mountain flowers below.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

A thousand feet below, mountain climbers can be seen on the start of a trek across the glacier and up the mountainsides, parties of three or more, each held to the other by rope for safety. I wouldn’t do it if they paid me, but it is real sport to them. It takes about two days to go up and come back again. We stay at the top about two hours, have lunch, and visit what they call the Ice Palace.



This is actually a large hall carved out of the ice. The walls, roof, floor and colors inside are all one mass of ice and they actually skate in it. It is one of the wonders of the world.

Actually, it’s not really one of the wonders, but apparently pretty wonderful to see. According to,

“Two local mountain guides started to create this masterpiece with saws and chisels in 1934. They turned it into a grandiose hall hewed into the side a glacier. The size of the Ice Palace now is over nine thousand square feet.”

I walked along the  glacier and snowcaps and took some pictures that should be a knockout. We started down again, and again we had to take three separate trains. Coming down by a different route, you pass Swiss chalets, beautiful little hotels, and every now and then, a group of Swiss yodelers, and I am telling you, it is real atmosphere.

© Interlaken Tourismus

New Observation building, Sphinx rock, inaugurated summer 1996 © Interlaken Tourismus

It being the weekend, the trains are quite crowded and a real holiday spirit is in the air. There are quite a few people from the British Isles here, and I have spoken more English today than all the other days since I have been out. The natives, however, speak French or German, mostly German.

Interlaken is a beautiful little town in the valley at the foot of the mountains. It is a resort town,  full of hotels, always with beautiful gardens, and tables outside on verandas, with flowers everywhere.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Lucerne, which is only three hours from here, and Tuesday I go to Como and then to Milan, where I shall anxiously look for your letters.  Other than aching and tired feet, I feel fine, and so far cannot complain much. There are many others from the States I meet on the trains traveling as I am, and this helps to break the monotony of being all alone. However, I don’t seem to mind it much because I have always something to do and travelers are generally pretty sociable, especially if they are Americans and find out that I am one too. 

Well, I don’t know what to ask because I have been writing all this time without hearing from you. I pray everyone at home is feeling fine and that you are missing me as much as I am you, because, believe me my dear, I really am. Loads of love to you and the children.

As ever yours, Al



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