How high have you been? I’ve been to the top of Switzerland’s Jungfrau Mountain, a total of 11,388 feet. This blog originally appeared on my website back in 2011. It works as well now as it did then since I haven’t climbed any higher. By train or otherwise.
Some years ago during the month of May I found myself in Switzerland with a group of meeting planners, we fortunate guests of the Swiss Government, along with its hospitable tourism bureau and efficient railway system. What better way to travel up the Jungfrau than via a train like none I’d ever ridden before, a cogwheel with cars of polished wood once used by royalty and later for special occasions and special guests. As our train climbed higher and higher, the landscape shifted from fields of alpine wildflowers and chalets perched on the edge of sloping terrain to snow here and there to eventually snow everywhere. Along the way our cogwheel stopped several times, allowing us passengers to disembark and walk around in order to acclimate to the changing altitude known for instigating dizzy spells and debilitating headaches. Near the top of the Jungfrau we stopped again and toured The Ice Palace, a series of glacial rooms filled with elaborate ice sculptures—plants, animals, birds, and furniture—some created by a group of Japanese so impressed with a single ice display area, they were granted permission to add even more.
Back in the resort town of Interlaken, we returned to the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel, one of the grandest properties I’ve ever stayed in. As I recall, it had been built in the 19th century to honor a visit by Queen Victoria, and during our visit the hotel was probably handing out those same original guest room keys. As with many European hotels of that time, and still today, the room keys were fashioned on the order of skeleton keys, the kind that needed to be locked in the hallway when leaving and on returning, inside the room. Oversized and decorated with tassels, the keys were meant for guests to leave at the front desk, whether they planned on staying away for a few hours or the entire day.
Exhausted from the long day I took the elevator to my super deluxe room and once inside, flopped into the nearest chair, one facing a magnificent stone-faced fireplace. I could’ve stayed there all evening but duty called: another wine and dine event sure to equal or exceed the previous four or five. The Swiss do know how to entertain. What better way to get me in the mood than an invigorating shower. The bathroom was large and well-appointed, with heated towel racks and a tub big enough to float Moby Dick. Fortunately for me, it was also equipped with a powerful shower head, my choice for scrub-a-rub-dub. The shower spray had been pelting me for a few minutes and I’d just finished lathering shampoo into my hair when I heard a noise no showering woman ever wants to hear: the unfamiliar voice of a man only a few feet away. My intruder was calling out a name that sounded nothing like mine. And even if it had, I was still in for trouble since I wasn’t sharing my accommodations with anyone. Did I forget to lock my door from the inside? Too late now.
Holy Psycho! No way was I going down like Janet Leigh’s character in that 1960 black and white horror film. Hitchcock splashed chocolate all over the bathtub enclosure, his way of imitating poor Janet’s bloody demise. Stay calm became my immediate mantra. I stuck my lathered head through one end of the shower curtain. There in the doorway stood an elderly gentleman, one I recognized from the meeting planner group. Doing what comes naturally, I addressed him in my most professional demeanor, one adapted from years of customer service. “Can I help you?”
Never have I seen such fear. The poor man’s face turned several shades of red before turning white. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I must be in the wrong room,” he muttered, backing over the threshold.
As soon as I heard the hallway door close, I stepped out of the tub and grabbed my towel. Forget the lathered hair, another surprise I didn’t need. Within seconds I located my key and locked the door.
Later that evening when I joined my group for dinner, Mr. Intruder was there with his wife. Neither he nor I spoke of the incident, which leads me to believe he was too shocked to realize the lady with the shampoo-lathered hair was none other than me.
What do you think: Did I ever forget to lock a hotel door again?