Swiss Family Northwestern
by Michele Hogan
It was cloudy and windy and cold up there.”
— From the journal of Allison Davis, age 9
Memories of a trip to the Jungfrau, one of the highest peaks in central Switzerland, are still fresh in the minds of Allie Davis, her brother Brandon and their grandparents, Wendy Miller Davis (SESP61) and Scott. They were among the seven families, including my daughter Claire and me, on the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Alumni Campus Abroad in the Swiss Alps for Families last July.
This alumni travel program combined travel and learning and introduced us to village life in Switzerland. What made this program a hit with our families was that it removed the stress over logistics so we could enjoy our time together.
“We took our children to Europe when they were Allie and Brandon’s age and wanted our grandchildren to have the same experience,” says Wendy Davis. “Because we live in different states, it was a wonderful time for us to get to know them better.”
Our home base, the tiny village of Meiringen, was tourist-friendly but not overly commercial. The Alpin Sherpa Hotel in which we stayed nestles among chalet-style homes, small shops and St. Michael’s Church, parts of which date back to the 10th century. We were only a short bus, boat or train ride away from the cities of Berne, Lucerne and Interlaken.
Sherlock Holmes fans know Meiringen for the Reichenbach Falls, a nearby gorge where Holmes and his archrival Professor Moriarty confronted each other and plunged hundreds of feet to their presumed end.
“The Rosenlaui Gorge was awesome,” says Emily Dean, the 19-year-old daughter of Randy (McC77, KSM90) and Kathy Dean. “I loved the rush of the water, the cool mist and deafening noise from the water against the walls of the gorge.”
Traveling with children added a welcome dynamic to this alumni trip. At first each family stayed together at meals or on our bus, but it didn’t take long for the children to make friends with others their age.
Especially welcome was the fact that we parents and grandparents didn’t hear complaints from the children about being bored. In addition to our campus director, youth directors led the youngsters on a separate trip to the Muggestutz Dwarf Trail, where they rode gondolas (enclosed cable cars) between the valley and the mountain trails. In Berne, the capital of one of Switzerland’s 13 governmental cantons, adults toured the Parliament building while the youngsters visited the Berne zoo. At our hotel the children played and made crafts, while adults and teenagers attended lectures on Switzerland’s history, economy and culture.
The high point of our trip, literally, occurred the day we rode the Jungfraubahn train up to Jungfraujoch station, which is at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. Heavy fog kept us from viewing the mountain scenes, but we were able to walk through its ice palace — an ice cave carved from Europe’s longest glacier, which houses ice sculptures of birds, animals and other images.
The closest any of us came to actually scaling the Alps was when we visited Meiringen’s recreation center, where the kids tackled its 60-foot rock climbing wall.
“I was struck by the way all of the parents and grandparents encouraged everyone else’s kids as they were struggling up the climbing wall,” says Howard Goldstein (WCAS70). “[My 11-year-old son] Justin didn’t make it all the way to the top the first time, but because so many adults were cheering him on, he went up again and made it.
“He probably wouldn’t have done that without all of their support. There was a real sense of warmth among our group, like we were all part of the same family.”
Michele Hogan is alumni news editor for Northwestern magazine and communications editor for the Department of Alumni Relations.
For information about NAA’s travel programs, including the summer 2003 Swiss Alps family trip with Communication professor Rives Collins, call 847-491-7987 or log on to www.alumni.northwestern.edu/travel.