The end of the road for Miss Jemima

July 16, 2013, No comments

“It is to the Swiss rambles that we look back with the greatest pleasure.” That was how Miss Jemima ended her Swiss Journal exactly 150 years ago: on 16 July 1863 the last remaining passengers on Thomas Cook’s first Conducted Tour of Switzerland arrived back in London after three weeks of hiking in the Bernese Oberland, watching the sunrise on Rigi, buying watches in Neuchatel and battling the beggars everywhere. They were exhausted but ecstatic. It truly had been a trip of a lifetime for them.

And for me. Same country, different century. The landscape might have stayed the same but travelling through it certainly has not – and mainly thanks to all those early tourists. They were the customers who made the first mountain trains viable so that we can still enjoy them today. My legs are forever grateful.

Over the past three weeks, I have posted quotes from Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal on my Facebook page, along with modern photos to match the old words. It was amazing how often they matched: her words from 150 years ago, my pictures from now. Some things don’t change very quickly in Switzerland.

But here are some of the old photos that will appear in Slow Train to Switzerland (published in October), to give you a taste of the many wonderful images I tracked down in cantonal archives, libraries and private collections. A glimpse of how travelling used to be, when the dresses were big and the trains were slow.

The Touristik-Museum in Unterseen (beside Interlaken) has a special exhibition until the middle of October about Miss Jemima and her journey (in German and English). As for what happened to her after she came home – and for the incredible surprise that was waiting for me as I finished my research – for that you’ll just have to read the book in the autumn.

Miss Jemima 2 TC

But for now the last words belong to our intrepid lady from Yorkshire, who had tramped over glaciers but was happy to be back home again:

“The memory of our three weeks’ holiday has many bright spots, but none in their way more precious that the happiness we experienced in setting foot on an English shore, and hearing again our mother tongue.”

Farewell Miss Jemima. See you again in October.

(Pictures from Thomas Cook archives, Victoria-Jungfrau archives, Interlaken Tourism)

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