For Jacob and I, our time in Switzerland was a homecoming.
Jacob (and I by proxy) had long heard stories of his Swiss heritage - he has the full collection of Swiss souvenirs and knickknacks, including about ten Swiss Army knives. He has a Swiss passport and ID card, yet had never seen Switzerland through the eyes of an adult.
The last time Jacob was in Switzerland he was 7 years old. His vivid memories are of running through a house of mirrors and banging his silverware barbarian-style on the table while waiting to be served dinner in a castle. Now he was back in Switzerland, bringing a wife, and establishing a relationship with the relatives that loved him even when he was acting like a barbarian.
In the last few days of our time in Switzerland we drove to St. Gallen to stay with another member of Jacob's family, Edith and Guido. Living close by was another family member we had yet to meet, Walter and his wife Ursula.
As was the trend throughout our time in Switzerland (as well as our entire trip), we were royally welcomed. St. Gallen was a place we had been very excited to see. Switzerland may be Jacob's home country, but St. Gallen and the surrounding region is the soil from which his family sprung.
Chauffeured by Ruth and a longtime family friend named Karin, we arrived at Edith and Guido's apartment to find a lunch of cheese fondue waiting for us. CHEEEESE FONDUE. The Swiss have contributed many wonderful foods to the world, but I would take cheese fondue over chocolate any day.
(That statement will offend the chocolate addicts of the world. My defense? I am French. Cheese is in my blood.)
Karin and Ruth fighting over the cheese fondue remains
As if that wasn't enough cheese for one day, after lunch we made a trip to the Appenzeller Cheese factory, made almost exclusively in the small canton of Appenzell. It was a potent smelling place, where an Ipad gave us a tour of the cheese making and aging process. Jacob announced that in another life he will be a mountain-dwelling Swiss man who makes cheese and wears gold earrings. I actually don't think I'd mind if that were the case, it sounds like fun.
On the way home we made a stop by Schwellbrunn, a tiny village notable for no reason except this is
original birthplace of the Frischknecht name.
In the evening Edith and Guido packed us into the car with Walter and Ursula and drove us over to Austria for dinner. It's a strange world to me where you can do little things like
go to another country for dinner.
The thought still awes us a bit.
The next day Walter took us on a tour of the city of St. Gallen. Walter is an extremely knowledgable tour guide with a vibrant sense of humor. It was a pleasure to learn not only about the city, but also about Jacob's forebears who had lived and worked in the buildings we were passing by. We saw several former homes of various family members, as well as the bank where Jacob's great Grandfather had worked back when all the math was done by hand.
St. Gallen has two particularly famous landmarks, the abbey library, as well as a Catholic cathedral.
Unfortunately I was not permitted to take any pictures inside the library, so I had to steal one from google. Let me tell you - this library. It's just....well, there aren't any good words for it. All I could say while we were there was "I want to live here. Right here. I'll happily camp out in that corner for the rest of my life."
See for yourself.
I have this fantasy that if I had gone to a school with a library that looked like
then I would have ended up as a world renowned poet or something.
As if that wasn't enough beauty, afterwards we visited the church.
Jacob and I outside the church doors with Ursula (on the left) and Edith.
The next day we took a trip out to the countryside of St. Gallen where Walter and Ursula's children and grandchildren live. Patricia (Walter and Ursula's daughter) and her husband Martin have a pack of children who are athletically gifted in a way I cannot begin to understand. Three of the children are on the Swiss National Ski Team, doing competitive downhill and slalom skiing. They train year round, in winters at the ski resort that is walking distance from their house, in summers on the glaciers in Austria.
Patricia and two of her daughters, Anna and Leah, took us up to the top of their mountain so we could enjoy the view.
On top of the mountain we found a broken igloo and climbed in for respite from the driving wind.
On the way back Jacob and I attempted some sledding. (We mostly just posed on a sled.)
On our final day, Edith and Guido took us to the top of another mountain that gave a glimpse over the country border into Austria. The views will never ever get old.
Guido, Edith, and Jacob
The next day we said goodbye to Switzerland. Edith took the train with us to the airport, tearing up ever so slightly as we said our goodbyes. Once again we were astounded by the depths of love and kindness that was offered to us. We are humbled and grateful to have such wonderful family that would take us - near strangers - and make us feel like we were home.