Saturday, April 07, 2018

Just Read: Slow Train to Switzerland

Slow Train to Switzerland
By Diccon Bewes
Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2015

A chance encounter with a book's footnote detailing the published journal of a young British girl who visited Switzerland 150 years ago on a mountain climbing trip led Diccon Bewes to track down a copy of her journal. Fascinated, he then developed a plan to take his mother with him as they attempt to recreate the journey of Miss Jemima Morrell on the first ever Thomas Cook "Tour of Switzerland".

They use public transport, following the route as exactly as possible and attempting to stay in the same hotels, visit the same tourist sites, climb the same mountains and visit the same glacier. It isn't always possible to follow the itinerary slavishly, but they do their best and the differences between the oft-desperately poor and isolated inhabitants of the rural Switzerland of 150 years ago stand in stark contrast to the prosperous, healthy and health-giving tourist destination it is today.

Lots of old photographs of places Miss Jemima visited and excerpts from her journal give a lovely picture of this enterprising and rather brave young lady as she travels with her Junior United Alpine Club across some really quite dangerous terrain even for the modern well-equipped climber, let alone a lady wearing full Victorian dress.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I savoured slowly over a period of weeks and was very sad to reach the end, though there is a most interesting twist there too!

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