bella, bella Svizzera

(Blog post title written in one of the Swiss languages whose region we did not visit. Did anyone get the book reference?)

Our next stop after Tübingen was St.Gallen, Switzerland — the hometown of my Opa (my mother’s father). We took a train from Tübingen to Lindau, a beautiful town on Lake Konstanz, and then another from Lindau to St.Gallen. Our AirBnB there was absolutely lovely, with breathtaking views and nearby walking trails. The only odd thing — which wasn’t a problem as it ended up being just me and David, not also my mother as originally planned — was that the second bedroom was actually a bed inside a large closet inside the bathroom. Kind of a stretch to call that a second bedroom, in my opinion.

Our first evening there, we were quite tired. So we dined on a frozen pizza in our kitchenette before going for an evening walk. By taking a steep hill into the forest, we found not only a pasture containing two cows (complete with bells, echoing through the valley), but also Wildpark Peter & Paul — an animal sanctuary. We watched some kind of mountain goats frolic on the side of a rock outcropping until an ant bit me on the toe and we hurried back to apply ice. Man, did that hurt.

The next morning — ant-bitten toe feeling better — we walked down into St.Gallen with a short checklist of tasks. We wanted to visit the house that my Opa grew up in, eat in a very old restaurant (where Opa had dined many times, including with me when I was seven and he brought us all to Switzerland), and visit the Stiftsbibliothek — the ancient library at the Abbey of St.Gall. After a bit of searching, we found the house and admired it. David took a few photos of me in front of it, and we headed off to find Weinstube Bäumli, the old restaurant, for lunch. We finally found it — only to discover that it is closed for renovations until August 1st. Shocked, we wandered around for a few blocks before returning to dine directly across the street. It was a fun meal. The server spoke to us initially in Swiss-German, and then noticed our blank, panicked stares and switched to Hochdeutsch. We got on well and she seemed pleased with our efforts. We ordered two classic dishes and shared everything between the two of us — local beer, a bratwurst with Rösti (sort of like a giant Swiss hashbrown), and geschnetzeltes (usually veal — in this case chicken — in a creamy sauce). My favorite combination was the nontraditional mix of geschnetzeltes sauce with Rösti. Two of my all-time favorite foods. 🙂

After lunch, we visited the ridiculous, rococo cathedral of St.Gall before going into the library. The floors are so old and beautiful that one must wear large, fuzzy slippers over one’s shoes and slide around. David was in his element as we slid inside. He spent a long time studying a replica of an 18th-century globe — complete with absurd sea creatures painted in the oceans. There are books in the Abbey Library that are over a thousand years old, and the room itself is beautiful. I looked out an open window to what appeared to be a school recess yard, with soccer goals and rubber balls. While delighted at the idea of children so near to the ancient library, I did wonder what would happen if a kick sent a rubber ball not into the goal, but soaring through the window.

We left St.Gallen the next morning, but not before a quick hike up the hill and a face-to-face encounter with the big, brown cows. I was pretty thrilled.

Instead of traveling directly to Cipressa, we stayed one night in Geneva with an old friend of mine, Anya, and her husband, Sam. We were expecting to entertain ourselves and then just crash at their apartment in order to make our flight out of Geneva the next day, but Anya and Sam went above and beyond in their hospitality to us. Anya took off work early and met us in the train station before leading us on a walking-tour of some of Geneva’s highlights, including an enormously tall fountain, a chapel where John Calvin had led a congregation, and statues of very serious Protestant reformers. We were caught in a thunderstorm in the middle of this, which was really enjoyable after so much hot, dry weather in London especially.

After returning to Anya and Sam’s lovely apartment and changing into dry clothes, we met Sam and all went out to a local restaurant. It was still drizzly and cool outside so we had a very traditional meal of fondue!! Both cheese fondue and meat (with hot oil). We had a wonderful time getting to know Sam, sharing about our travels, and enjoying the delicious food. Later in the evening, back in their beautiful apartment, Anya and I reminisced about our days in Girl Scouts together before we all went to bed.

In the morning we enjoyed breakfast — including wonderful strawberries — and David and I commuted into the city with Anya. We said our farewells, and David and I spent the morning strolling and talking in the waterfront parks before taking the train to the airport and catching our flight to Nice. Our unexpected trip to Geneva was such a treat, and we’re so glad we got to see Anya and meet Sam!