From the center of Switzerland’s Lauterbrennan valley, I gazed up at the encircling Alps. Treeless gray slopes lead to razor-sharp peaks encased in pure white snow; although breathtakingly beautiful, the mountains also appeared inaccessible. Yet, I was bound for the tiny village of Stechelberg at the far end of the valley, where I would catch the gondola to Gimmelwald, an even smaller burg perched on the mountaintop. Read More »
The ferries that ply Lake Zurich are the lifeline of the small towns nestled along its shores. Residents ride them to work and use them to access recreational activities, rather than drive all the way around the lake. They’re also a boon for tourists, who can hop aboard for sightseeing tours. One of the more popular routes is between Zurich and the medieval town of Rapperswil, famous for its 14th-century castle, 15th-century town hall, and 17th-century Capuchin monastery.
Some are happy just to stay on the boat for a round-trip sail, since the ferry provides gorgeous vistas of the southern Alps as it approaches Rapperswil and a good view of the town’s ancient architecture as it motors Read More »
Of the many beautiful churches to visit in Zurich, Switzerland, the most popular may be Fraumunster. This relatively small church, located on the banks of the River Limmat on the Munsterhof, is easy to locate by its giant clock tower topped by a slender green spire. The church was donated by King Ludwig the German in 853 AD and originally served as a Benedictine convent. After the Reformation the church and the convent passed into the city’s possession.
Architecturally the Fraumunster is of interest for its Romanesque choir and the high-vaulted Gothic transept, but most visitors come to see the art. Besides the biggest organ in the canton with its 5793 pipes, the most important pieces of art are the stained glass windows by artist Marc Chagall.
In 1967, 80-year old Marc Chagall accepted the commission to create five 10-meter tall stained glass windows for the choir, as well as a circular rose window in the south transept. Upon completion, Chagall’s five masterpieces joined the existing stained glass window in the north transept designed by Augusto Giacometti in 1945, which depicts God and Christ, eight prophets, the Four Evangelists, and ten angels. Read More »
Lofty Mount Pilatus, the 7000-foot high massif that looms over Lake Lucerne, is a side trip that should not be missed when visiting Lucern, Switzerland. Steeped in legend, Mount Pilatus earned the nickname “Dragon Mountain” during the Middle Ages, as it was believed to harbor dragons and evil spirits and the body of Pontius Pilate was said to have been disposed of in a tiny lake on the mountain.
Once a year, on Good Friday, Pilate appeared as a figure with flowing gray hair, wearing purple garments and seated on a chair in the middle of the lake. People so feared this vision that climbing the mountain and use of the lake was prohibited until 1585, when Lucerne’s priest and residents challenge the ghost. They Read More »