Ich liebe die Schweiz

I love Switzerland. I’ve been there ten times, give or take, and if I could, I’d live there. If my heart has a home (outside of Heaven) it’s Switzerland, or maybe it’s the other way. Heaven might be my compensation for not being able to live in Switzerland.

In front of me here are my talismans. There is a photo of the restaurant in Zürich with Goethe painted on the front I took in Zürich in 1998. There is a Wanderweg sign I took from a fallen tree in the Canton of St. Gallen. There is a photo of the Jungfraujoch I took the summer of 1997.

My Swiss story is complicated and mostly private, but I can say this. The strange and dangerous choices we make in our lives are sometimes the very ones we need to take us to our destiny. I found not only my writer’s voice but my story in Switzerland in 1997 in the little church below, the Lazariterkirche im Gfenn.

2005 at the Lazariterkirche im Gfenn

I found other things, too.

I found Goethe in Switzerland, in profile, painted on the front of a restaurant across from St. Peter’s Church with the inscription, “In 1779, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe stayed here with the Duke of Weimar.” Seeing that there — without even (yet) having read anything by Goethe — I was awakened to the essence of time in Europe. It was one of those moments that explodes your brain and catapults you from the person you were toward the person you will be. Then, of course, a few years later, I read Goethe. Here’s his beautiful poem about the Zürichsee, “Auf dem See” (“On the Lake”).

Und frische Nahrung, neues Blut
Saug ich aus freier Welt;
Wie ist Natur so hold und gut,
Die mich am Busen hält!
Die Welle wieget unsern Kahn
Im Rudertakt hinauf,
Und Berge, wolkig himmelan,
Begegnen unserm Lauf. 
And fresh nourishment, new blood
Suck I from the free world;
Nature is so fair and good
She holds me at her bosom!
The wave rocks our boat
Upwards with the rhythm of the oars
And mountains, cloudy heavenwards,
Meet our course.
Aug, mein Aug, was sinkst du nieder?
Goldne Träume, kommt ihr wieder?
Weg, du Traum! so gold du bist;
Hier auch Lieb und Leben ist.
Eye, my eye, why do you sink down?
Golden dreams, do you come again?
Away, you dream! As gold as you are,
Here too are life and love.
Auf der Welle blinken
Tausend schwebende Sterne,
Weiche Nebel trinken
Rings die türmende Ferne;
Morgenwind umflügelt
Die beschattete Bucht,
Und im See bespiegelt
Sich die reifende Frucht.
On the wave blink
Thousands of hovering stars,
Soft mists drink
The towering distance all around;
Morning wind envelops 
The shadowed bay,
And in the lake is reflected
The ripening fruit.

Over the years I also learned that part of my family came from Switzerland and I learned their amazing stories (and wrote them into novels).

Switzerland is not just places and history. It is a family to which I once belonged. Long walks in the forest, the Wallisellerwald. Christmases and birthdays. Quiet explorations of unknown places. Following the Sylvester Kläuse through the snow in Appenzell on New Years, and sitting in a tavern on a hillside in Usnacht next to an old Appenzeller man with a tiny spoon hanging from his ear. When young boys dressed as trees came in to yodel, I watched a tear run down the old man’s face. Maybe he was remembering when he was a boy, dressed as a tree, tromping and dancing through the snow, bells ringing, singing.


22 thoughts on “Ich liebe die Schweiz

  1. I was wondering what you would write. You are more at home in Eastern Switzerland. I was once in Appenzell where we stayed for a couple of days, but not at the end of the year. I like your little Swiss corner in your home.

    • I found a lot of pictures of Solothurn the other day when I was looking for photos of my friend’s dad cooking pork roast. Such a beautiful, beautiful city. I naturally thought of you and Mr. Swiss. ❤

  2. THis is a great story and you were, are a beautiful lady…love looking into your history.

  3. I spent six days in Geneva by myself in December, 2000. I loved it. I have wanted to go back for the spring, to see the clock tower filled with flowers. I also visited Lucerne as part of a tour group, so Switzerland is on my list of go-back-to places. I visted the Alps in Chamonix, a moment of growth for me, where I overcame fears and heaights and went to the mountaintop and learned to not let fear stunt my growth. Lovely post.

    • Thank you! I would love to visit Geneva and Chamonix. Lucerne is beautiful. My one visit there was in the height of tourist season, so not so great in some respects. I’d like to go back. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. ❤

  4. Martha you have captured my full attention with this post! I am hungry! Hungry to see this first hand! There are so many places on this blue marble that I’d like to visit… this one is near the top!

  5. Brings back memories. If I have to live somewhere else in the world, Switzerland would figure high on the list. But not its cities, somewhere out in the mountains. I lived in a Swiss farmhouse for a year, and among other adventures, was snowed in for two days. I didn’t know then that I would remember that year with so much joy later.

    • I can well imagine. I think I’d live anywhere in Switzerland, but I especially love the villages between Zurich. I guess because they are more familiar to me.

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