In July we joined Big Art (Arthur's Father), and Marji (Arthur's wicked stepmother) for a delightful trip to Switzerland with all of their children, spouses, and grandchildren. We based ourselves in Meiringen, a delightful village south of Luzern. Over the next days and weeks I will share my journal, photographs, and other goodies from our trip.
We pick up Kristina at 8:00, and it's a little cold and very rainy. We drive up to Luzern, and then cut over to Altdorf in Canton Uri, and then drive down to the Gotthard tunnel. It is still rainy and grey.
It is fun engaging Kristina in conversation and learning about her school, classes, and activities. Arthur does an amazing rehash of the Reformation so that she'll have a bit of understanding about the places we're about to visit.
Once in Ticino, there are blue skies and sunshine. We stop in Bellanzona for a coffee and croissant, and ask Kristina to start noticing the differences in arcitecture, language, and attitudes. Luckily there is a castle and several churches that quickly set an Italian mood.
We don't really experience Lucarno at all, breezing through on our way to Val Maggia. Signs noting the church at Mogno sprout almost immediately so there is no problem in finding our way. As we drive up the valley (40 kilometres) there are a lot of religious shrines, granite and marble quarries, and charming villages certainly different from the Häsli Valley.
The other thing that is evident as we move up the valley evidence of the arts and artists. At Passio we notice sculpture all over town, and it is here that one begins and ernest assault on Mogno, driving up the steep eastern sides of a very narrow valley. Beyond Mogno there is Fusio, and beyond that nothing other than Gotthard pass on the Valais side. We stop at Mogno, our destination. As you come up the road below the town, suddenly the church is there, standing in a strange juxtaposition to the humble buildings that surround it.
It is embraced by a gentle, multi-leveled piazza, bounded on the north by a fountain that equates the voice of water with that of the Savior. Sometimes buildings, such as this one, end up being a huge disappointment. This is not the case here. It is an utter delight to both soul and eye. The use of two colors of stone is very Italian. The church is sobering. Even though there are several visitors, silence is maintained. I shall want to write more about this place in the future.
We buy some books and postcards, and, of course, take photos. Kristina has left here camera in the car, so I take some for her. I ask the kind woman at church about where to eat (my scanty Italian actually works). We continue down to Passio, and have spaghetti Bolognese and a salad, and then continue on down the valley. Arthur is navigating and I am driving. He steers us to a highway heading west, and soon we pass the frontier into Italy.
About 20 km across this brief piece of Italy, we come upon Santa Maria Maggiore, a humble town dominated by a huge pilgrimage church (the Botta church at Mogno is also a pilgrimage church, but of an entirely different nature).
From what I can gather the church was built to celebrate a miracle involving our Lady, a game of cards, and a fight that involved a wound that would not stop bleeding. There is a quaint 18th century church, with a miraculous icon of our Lady, that is literally straddled by a 20th century building. It is massive with modern stained glass that don't quite work. The bronze doors, stations of the cross, and the altar crucifix are actually quite interesting. What a difference, however, from what we have seen in Mogno. Perhaps Mies van der Rohe was right: "Less is more."
There is a need for gelato. So we scrounge around for euros, since all we mostly have are Swiss francs. Having found enough, we enjoy a wonderful black raspberry sorbetto, and move on. We drive back into Switzerland and go up the Simplon pass so as to catch the Lötschberg car train. This allows us to sit in our car, on a flatcar, on a train that goes through the middle of a mountainin the dark! Fun.
We drive to Interlaken and have a very ordinary dinner,
and then drive back to Meiringen to drop of Kristina. There we visit with
the Hoffmans, Duncans, and Morrises. Really tired, we come home, write,
read, and sleep.
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