Happy Tuesday, habibis! Welcome to part II of my Northern Europe travels! See the first part here.
I went back to England for a proper, week-long visit almost four years ago. My friend A was studying at Oxford and our friend R was at UCL. We split our time between London and Oxford and it was SO FUN. We went to Kings Cross and I took a picture at Platform 8 3/4. We went to the London Archives and the London Museum, Picadilly Circus, King James Park, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace (we didn’t go into all of those places – some we just saw from the outside!), Trafalgar Square, and then we went all over Oxford and saw the Bodleian and went punting (I am not half bad at punting! who knew?) and just had a blast. It was Holy Week and A and I went to both Holy Thursday and Good Friday masses. They have two orders of priests in Oxford, the Jesuits (our favorites! we went to a Jesuit university) and the Oratorians. I’d never heard of the Oratorians before; they wore black hats with pom poms on them and I thought they were Dominicans. We went to the Oratorian masses and they were LONG. The Oratorians are traditionalists, definitely. One mass was all in Latin. I think we spent five hours in church between the two days! (I noticed, also, that they only washed men’s feet during the washing of the feet. Like I said, traditionalists.) It was a really wonderful trip. It was, actually, exactly what I needed. The timing of the trip came a week after my father’s mother had died, and I think the trip helped me cope with her loss. When my father’s father died a few months later I had a much harder time going back to work.
I know I have pictures from that trip, but I couldn’t find them. I’ll make up for it with lots of other pictures!!
Now, finally, we come to my last trip to Europe, two summers ago. My dad’s family wanted to take a trip to Switzerland, to visit where my father’s father was from. My grandpa was born in St. Gallen but the family came to America when he was small, and as far as we know we don’t have any family left there. Neither Grandpa nor his older sister (our deeply beloved Aunt E, my favorite of my great aunts, who – along with my grandpa, was one of the kindest sweetest people in the world; they are both dearly missed in our family) seemed to want to go back to visit. We thought it would be a really nice family trip. We added Austria and Hungary and went as a group. My brother and his then-fiancee (soon to be wife!!!) couldn’t join us, unfortunately. In addition to my parents and my sister, Uncle P, Aunt M, Uncle R, and my cousins C and T-Rex and T-Rex’s husband B all went. (As you may have noticed, we tend to travel in a large group.) We started the trip in Budapest. We only had two days – I wish we could have spent much longer! We got to see most of our family in Hungary. The day we arrived we went to Jeno bacsi’s house, where everyone had gathered and cooked amaaaazing delicious Hungarian food for us. (Oh, the meal had endless courses, and then dessert, and fresh peaches – my grandma always says the peaches are better in Hungary.) The next day some of our cousins took us sightseeing in Budapest proper. (Jeno bacsi lives in Godollo, in what I guess would be considered the suburbs of Budapest, where the Habsburgs had their Hungarian summer palace.) It was such a fun day.
The Hungarian Parliament (Orszaghaz)
The Chain Bridge
The Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya)
Mátyás templom (Matthias Church)
Then we had to leave (boo!) and to go to Austria (yes, our lives are so hard) – two days in Vienna, and two days in Salzburg. I appreciated them a lot more as an adult than I had when I was 12. (I didn’t really remember Vienna from the first time we went.) We went to see some more palaces (the Hofburg and the Schonnbrunn), museums, churches, and the opera house. We even went to a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic at one of the palaces (see below – the Hofburg – I think this wing is now the national library), in a special auditorium that isn’t open for tours.
No kangaroos in Austria! We stayed right near Stephansdom, the Cathedral, but I don’t think I had good pictures of it. It was a fun place to stay, though – walking distance from everything. (Not good for driving.)
In Salzburg we explored more than I think we had last time. (We went to mass at the same church, in Mondsee, and we realized there’s not one skeleton, but five. Five! Interesting church decor. That is, decidedly, NOT my favorite church.) We also ate amazing food everywhere. Traveling with my family is a hectic pace but you see everything and you go in style. 🙂 We took the Sound of Music tour again and we saw the Mozart Museum (in addition to the one in Vienna).
The church in Mondsee, where the wedding from the Sound of Music was filmed (except for the part where she’s by the gates with the nuns – that’s in the convent, which isn’t open for viewing). (I’ll spare you the skeletons.)
A cute restaurant in Mondsee
The gardens with the fountain where Maria sings with the children and the Salzburg castle in the background
The gazebo (closed to the public after an elderly lady broke a hip jumping from bench to bench years ago)
The back of the Von Trapps’ house in the movie – this was a palace and I can’t remember who built it. (The front of the house in the movie is a different house, and neither was their actual house – their actual house is, I believe, a bed and breakfast now, if you’re planning a trip to Salzburg and you’re a Sound of Music fan.)
Mozart’s birthplace (now a museum)
Other pictures of Salzburg:
We traveled a lot in Switzerland – Appenzell, St. Gallen, Guarda, Lucerne, Zermatt, and Zurich. (We also stopped in Liechtenstein but I skipped those pictures.)
Appenzell is one of those places my parents had on their list to return to, like Venice. It’s a cute town in the German-speaking part and we’d been there on our first trip. (The first time it was a holiday so everything was closed and the women wore traditional outfits with headdresses like the Flying Nun.) Appenzell is one of the more conservative cantons in Switzerland – it was the last place where women got the vote, and then only after they sued the canton in the Swiss courts. In the 1990s. Regardless, it’s truly lovely. It’s probably what you picture when you think of Switzerland. Cute wooden houses and lovely shops. My uncle is a big golfer and there’s a nearby golf course up in the mountains. He, my dad, and my sister went. They golfed on the Swiss mountainside and the wind carried the sound of cowbells up to them as they golfed. It doesn’t sound real, does it? It sounds like a movie. I couldn’t find my pictures, so just take my word for it.
St. Gallen has a very famous monastery. During the Reformation the town of St. Gallen, mostly tradespeople, converted to Protestantism, but the countryside remained Catholic, as did the monastery. The townspeople built a large wall around the church compound to separate the Catholics and the Protestants, but the priests had to sneak out of the wall to minister to the people living in the countryside. The bell towers of the church are at the altar end, rather than the entrance, because the wall cuts too close to the entrance for them to have built the bell towers there. The church is in baroque style, but I learned that Northern European baroque is not like Southern European baroque. In Spain and France and Italy, baroque seems to be dark woods and lots of gold – very heavy. Further north it’s lighter – pastels on a light background. I like it better. The monastery was shut down a long time ago but they still have the amazing library where you can take tours. When we went the theme was the bible in all its forms. They had old old bibles in Latin from when you would only have a few chapters together instead of the whole book, illustrated manuscripts, a Gutenberg, other early printed versions in German, etc. The tour guide was very impressed that I could read the Arabic Bible they had on display, a recent acquisition. It was an amazing library – lovely decorated wood paneling with a huge decorated globe – and an amazing collection.
Pictures of St. Gallen:
We don’t know exactly where in St. Gallen my grandpa grew up, but thanks to anlichan’s mom and her fabulous genealogy research skills we had the last address where Grandpa and Aunt E lived with a relative before traveling to America to meet their parents, who had gone on ahead of them. We went to that address – just an apartment building – but we took a family photo there. (We are huge tourists. We had matching tshirts that we wore for the picture hehe. They said “what happens in Switzerland stays in Switzerland.” Most people didn’t get it. Guess those Vegas ads don’t play in Switzerland hehe.)
This is a picture of a man on a bicycle herding cows on the road somewhere as we drove through Switzerland. I had to share.
From St. Gallen we went to Guarda (pronounced guard-a not gward-a) in the Romansch speaking section of Switzerland. For those of you not familiar with Romansch, it’s a Romance language spoken by a significant minority of Swiss and one of the four official languages of Switzerland, with German, French, and Italian. Very interesting if you like languages, as many of us in my family do.
Guarda was cute. It’s known for the painted walls on houses, known as sgraffito. In some of the pictures you can see the Romansch written on the walls.
Pictures of Guarda:
I have so many more pictures of the sgraffito, too many to share.
From Guarda we drove to St. Moritz and took the train into the Italian speaking part and then into Italy. That was a beautiful trip!! You go through the Alps and see glaciers. On the way back we took a local train and got off in a cute town bisected by a river with a lovely church.
Pictures from the train trips (too many glacier pictures so I didn’t include them)
From Guarda we went to Zermatt with a detour to the French area. I don’t remember the name of the town, but it was in the wine region. It had almost a Mediterranean feel. I’m afraid I got carsick in the backseat of the 10-person van taking hairpin turns up and down mountains and I was too nauseous to enjoy it. We saw a Roman-style church there – it was pretty but I didn’t think it was worth the nausea. Had I felt better I’m sure I would have appreciated it. We got to see a glacier in the mountains and that was cool, too, but I was very happy to get to Zermatt.
Zermatt is where the Matterhorn is. It’s a car-free town and all the houses and hotels look like chalets. It’s full of tourists but still preserves its charm. (Maybe the locals don’t feel that way… On the one hand, tourism brings in money, but on the other hand it must be hard to have your town invaded by tourists all summer and all winter.) you can take the train up a nearby mountain with great views of the Matterhorn and other mountains in the range. You can also hike. We took the train up and then hiked the last bit down and it was not the easy trail we non-hikers had expected. We took longer to get down than we expected but we had family bonding time as we went through the forest. (And how many people can say they’ve hiked in the Swiss Alps? Even if it’s the easiest hiking you could probably do in the Swiss Alps, it was an accomplishment for us. We do a lot of walking but not on steep mountain trails.) Zermatt was truly lovely.
We went to Lucerne and walked around and took a boat tour of the lake.
We saw the famous Lion Monument, carved to honor the Swiss mercenaries guarding King Louis XVI who were killed by French Revolutionaries.
Our last stop was Zurich. Zurich took fully to the Reformation and it was interesting to see the churches. Many of the churches were Catholic Churches until the Reformation and then they became Protestant. One of them was redone with beautiful Marc Chagall stained glass but they don’t let you take pictures. Another looked very plain except for the really unusual stained glass. Some of them were geodes. Some of them were actual stained glass but we couldn’t tell what they depicted. One looked like a goat. They were an interesting mix of Gothic architecture and I guess modern stained glass, with no other decor. They were not my favorite churches but as you know I like my churches to be beautifully decorated, rather than plain or austere. However, Zurich itself is very pretty.
These banners were hanging in one of the streets and they caught my eye. It was some kind of art exhibit, and these were only a few of the banners that hung the length of the street.
That was a really fabulous trip.
Did I make up for the lack of pictures in my last post? I hope so. It was hard to whittle them down to only this many!
Come back tomorrow for the guest post by my cousin T-Rex!