blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, March 4, 2019


Bristol is largely built from pale yellow, local sandstone, although not as predominantly as its smaller neighbour, Bath, where we went afterwards. Bristol Cathedral is not as old as it looks although the site is old. I'll mention Bath and its Abbey in my next post.

The Royal Marriott, Bristol
After a stopover in Reading to recover from our transatlantic flight, walking by the Thames and the Kennet on Saturday afternoon, we attended a Sunday Meeting at the Friends' Meeting House in order to meet Martin and his wife, (the novelist Annie Murray), both of whom are very involved with the Reading Quakers. We shared a very enjoyable lunch out with them before retrieving our luggage from the Ibis on Friar Street, took the afternoon train to Bristol and checked in at the more upscale Royal Marriott Hotel. As before, this was the venue for Chris' SCSC symposium, serving good quality breakfasts!

In the Cathedral Close
As I have mentioned in other blog posts, Bristol Cathedral stands beside the hotel and this year I attended Evensong again, twice, in the Quire. On Wednesday evening, the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in 1952, the organist gave us the Crown Imperial March by Walton: a thrilling piece to hear in that setting; it had been played at the Queen's coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1953. When the organist pulled out the stops at the end of this voluntary, the stalls and stones vibrated. So did the congregation! Another lady shared her enthusiasm about this with me, as we left. On Monday evening I'd heard the lay clerks and choral scholars (two earnest young women) sing; on the Wednesday Evensong the boys' choir sang. I heard Howells' and Long's canticles, and settings of Psalms 19 and 30. The Wednesday Evensong included the Old Hundredth as its concluding hymn, which I remember almost by heart from my schooldays. It was not altogether a nostalgic experience: after the 17th century collects and other prayers, the vicars also prayed aloud in modern English for people who are worrying about Brexit, for people awaiting the results of cancer scans, and for victims of addictions. That brought us soberingly up to date. Outside the Cathedral, a tree in the close was hung with knitted roses as a reminder of St. Valentine's Day and of the victims of heart disease, with a collection bucket for donations to patients at the city's hospitals. One morning there I talked to the two girls from Above and Beyond who were decorating the tree and I promised to give them publicity on Facebook and in this blog.

There is one theory that the famous but incognito graffiti artist, "Banksy", was once a schoolboy at the Bristol Cathedral school, but nobody really knows; my sister thinks she does who he is (she has a different guess). He did paint a lot of graffiti in Bristol, anyway.

Up Brandon Hill in the park with the climbable Cabot Tower (not to be confused with the one in Newfoundland) were lovely patches of snow-bells in the green grass, a delight to someone coming from the midst of a Canadian midwinter. At the base of the tower is a plaque that says:
This tablet is placed here by the Bristol branch of the Peace Society in the earnest hope that peace and friendship may ever continue between the kindred peoples of this country and America. 'Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace, good will towards men' Luke 2.14
30,000 people had been on Brandon Hill park when the SS Great Britain set forth on her maiden voyage.

The hill up from College Green has some more good stopping places, such as the art shops, the student-y cafes, the Oxfam Shop selling 2nd hand DVDs and The Last Bookshop (recommended) in which all books on sale cost 3 pounds or less.

Wakeful babies at lunchtime, after the concert
On Thursday, my sister brought her three daughters and two of their children (the babies Caden and Freyja) to visit us in Bristol from Wales, a very happy occasion. Chris was at work till the end of the afternoon but the rest of us went to a lunch hour piano duet concert at the beautiful venue St. George's, on Great George Street. We heard piano duets from the married Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins: Mozart's Andante mit Variationen, K 501, extracts from Weber's Huit Pièces, Op. 60, Debussy's Petite Suite (that Faith and I used to try to play with our Mum) and two of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances. The two young babies breastfed almost throughout, the rest of the audience apparently not at all put out by their happy suckling noises to judge by the smiles we got at the end while people were going out (we were sitting at the back of the concert hall). Chris was able to sit with us in the Watershed cafe at the end of the day where little Freyja had fun pulling at his beard.

Left to my own devices I walked beyond the centre of Bristol up the hill to the village (?) of Clifton, beyond which is the the famous suspension bridge engineered by I K Brunel over the Avon Gorge. Parallels with Ithaca here: bridge over a gorge, a nearby university with hundreds of students, nets to discourage them from suicide. On the grassy hill in the park near the bridge at Clifton is the building once used as an Observatory, with its 19th century Camera Obscura preserved in a room at the top of the tower, up a spiral staircase. I went in to take a look at this, but the young man at the desk let me off paying a fee "because you won't see anything up there today", it being too cloudy and dark—true. The suspension bridge was constructed in the first half of the 19th century. Back at the museum in town I found a 1840s painting View on the Avon at Hotwells, with new bridge in background (it didn't open to the public until 1864) and a man carrying a turtle on his head in the foreground, near the seagoing boats on the river.

By Epstein
The Museum and Art Gallery is in the university area, on Queen's Road. It has a wide-ranging collection: Chinese glassware and pots, a gypsy caravan, intact, dinosaur models and bones; in a corridor between rooms I found Japanese prints from the 18th and 19th centuries (a current, special exhibition) alongside Hokusai and Hiroshige prints (a separate collection) and in the adjoining rooms a superb permanent collection of artworks besides those Asian treasures: Dürer's painting of Luther, 18th century Italian cityscapes, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture, a bronze of Epstein's model and muse Kathleen Garman, a Pissaro garden in oils. Leonardo drawings were on show too, in another special exhibition, but I didn't see those. The haunting portrait of Charles I as a solemn and sickly looking four year old made me feel sad, an unhappy little boy in a long dress with a tragic future ahead of him. I was also taken with Edward Lear's oil painting of mountains beyond a rocky plain, at Thermopylae. La Belle Dame sans Merci was a large scale, over-the-top painting depicting a moment from Keats' poem of that name, leaning down from her horse to seduce the knight in a thoroughly decadent (in my opinion) pre-Raphaelite manner, her long auburn hair everywhere, painted by Dicksee in 1901.

Luther, by Dürer

By Pissaro

Charles I as a child

By Barbara Hepworth

Bristol's waterfront today
On a different day I visited the "M-shed"— another big museum with historic maps of the city, an obsolete double-decker bus, an exhibition about Bristol's events past and present: the annual Balloon Festivals and Carnival processions for instance. I liked the way the city was documented, in the M-shed, in terms of its various districts and suburbs, and I got some historical insights. A medieval map of Bristol, walled, didn't seem to bear much resemblance to what is there now; the waterways and of those times having been reorganised since. The sugar trade based in Bristol was tied up with the slave trade. On either side of the river are rail tracks, no longer in use, and mooring spots for barges.

Also close to our hotel is the Millennium Square with its shiny giant ball and water features. There's plenty of choice for places to find lunch or supper in that area. In the morning rain of our departure day, we visited the Bristol Aquarium and its rainforest-themed indoor garden. Still in a fishy mood after that, we lunched at Catch 22 opposite the hotel.

On the way to Temple Meads, on foot and too laden with our luggage to manage our umbrellas, we were utterly soaked by a downpour from Storm Erik, the first named storm of 2019, hurrying through the deep, muddy puddles in the roadworks currently surrounding the station area. We sat dripping for half an hour on the slow train from Bristol to Bath, that was late leaving. Our passports and computers were among the wet things in our luggage, without any permanent damage done, fortunately. I spread everything out to dry in our hotel room once we reached Bath and we changed all our clothes.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Fifty-six years later

Sachseln on the Sarnersee, from the fields above the town

The Luzern-Interlaken train at Sachseln
I was eleven years old when I first saw Sachseln and the Sarnersee. My sister was seven. In April 1962, we went "abroad" for the first time in our lives, on holiday with our mother and father; our destination was this lakeside village in the canton of Obwalden, Switzerland.
Sursee, between Zofingen and Luzern

Sarnersee at Sachseln
In the last week of November (2018) when the morning mists were starting to lift off the valleys and lakes, I caught a train from Zofingen to Luzern, passing tranquil Sursee on the way. At Luzern I changed trains, sitting in a two-carriage cross-country one, bound for Interlaken, getting out at Sachseln station. It was a lovely day. Looking towards the both ends of the Sarnersee, the mist still dissipating, I recognised the old view beyond the willow trees and pebbly shore, with the snowy slopes of Mt. Pilatus beyond. It looked familiarly wonderful and I had it to myself. Coots, whose ancestors we'd met 56 years before, were swimming around. My sister, reacting to the e-photo I sent her, remembered having sketched a close-up of their feet. I couldn't find the lakeside guest house where we'd stayed in '62; perhaps it had been demolished or re-purposed. I made my way towards the centre of the small town. The road to Brienz, as I passed the school and turned round, pointed straight towards the high mountains of the Bernese Oberland. At the crossroads, the old Gasthaus Engel was not the place where we'd originally stayed, but looked similar. I treated myself to lunch there, sharing a table with another solitary diner. The shops were full of things Swiss, including bottles of "Dole" wine (I carried a small one back to Zofingen, to another Engel hotel). A couple of friendly horses lived at the bottom of the Wanderweg I followed steeply uphill from Sachseln into the fields with their picturesque farms, and from a grassy lookout point, which had a cross that added to my impression that I was on a pilgrimage, I could look down over the whole town. Mountains in all directions, fortunately clear; I'd have been most disappointed had the clouds hidden them. The autumn leaves on the small trees in the village square near the substantial, 17th century, Catholic church, were still colourful. I recognised the names of nearby villages, too.

The village church, Sachseln

View from Alpnachstad
On my train ride back to Luzern, I stopped for half an hour at Alpnachstad, so that I could take a look at another lake, an inlet of the Vierwaldstättesee. Ferries run for most of the year, but they were having a Winterpause just now. Alpnachstad is also the base station for the cog-wheel railway that takes tourists to the summit of Mt. Pilatus, the steepest such railway in the world. This had stopped operating for the winter, so everything was deserted. The advantage of being in Alpnachstad without a swarm of tourists around me was that I could appreciate the waterfront with its pollarded trees at my own pace. Back in Luzern, seeing the lion memorial was another story, popular with foreign visitors year round. I enjoyed the views from Luzern that Chris and I would have had a few days previously, had it not been so wet and overcast. Crossing Luzern's Seebrücke festooned with dangling lights, I could see the Rigi on the horizon this time. The Uri was moored at her dock, decorated for special Christmas cruises.

The Uri

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Early December in southern Germany

From Vaduz, on Sunday Dec. 2nd, we caught the No. 11 bus that runs from Sargans railway station to Feldkirch railway station via Schaan. It was a short ride with sensational views of the nearby mountains through the windows. The route was built up most of the way. The flatter part of Liechtenstein seems surprisingly industrial.Craning my neck in all directions I appreciated the scenery but failed to notice the border markers between Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Liechtenstein again, then Austria. Austria (in the western Tirol) looked slightly less prosperous than the other two countries. When we got out at Feldkirch, that was Austria, and we had to purchase some euros to buy a ticket for our next leg from an ÖBB machine. I thought, that's how borders ought to be the world over, unnoticeable.

At Feldkirch station we had a short wait for our train to Lindau. Running along two walls of the station concourse is a quotation from the well-travelled Irish novelist James Joyce, translated into German and transcribed in lower case. It said, "dort drüben auf den schienen wurde 1915 das schicksal des ulysees entschieden." On the rails over there in 1915 the fate of Ulysees was decided."

I didn't have any such inspirations on our half hour ride into Bavaria, but it was another quiet and pleasant journey. Grey skies over the grey lake: the eastern end of the Bodensee (Lake Constance). Lindau is just around the corner, a medieval, walled town on an island, with a causeway linking it to the shore. We could have cut the corner by catching a ferry there from Bregenz, but there are few boats running in the winter. Our hotel for the night was the Lindauerhof, an attractive building with pink walls, right next to Lindau's Christmas Market, so that you could smell the roasting chestnuts and cinnamon flavoured hot drinks from its front door. A brass band was playing, and later a jazz band, and people were thronging there to such an extent that we had to keep saying Entschuldigung! as we trundled our suitcases over the cobbles, through the crowd. It didn't help that, with the rain starting, everyone was carrying umbrellas. It rained all evening so we never took advantage of the voucher for complimentary glasses of Glühwein in the hotel courtyard. Chris wasn't feeling too well. He had a bad cold that lasted for the whole trip. I went down with it too, in the end.

We walked along the arms of the harbour next morning, seeing the Bavarian stone lion and the stone watchtower, the Mangturm. These landmarks had been floodlit the evening before making for a pretty view from our (upgraded) front bedroom window. The winding streets through the old town were very picturesque too. It must seem like an awful tourist trap in the summer but in the quieter season, it's worth being there. The express trains to München pull into the station there and then back out again down the causeway. We took a midday one and reached the destination around 4 p.m. having seen a distant line of snowy Alps to the south for most of the way. The woods, farmland and unfenced lanes in the foreground looked appealing too.

Munich, by contrast, has a big-city feel. Our hotel there was a few steps, once we worked out the direction to walk in, from the Nord-Friedhof underground station, near the top end of the long park known as Englischer Garten, off Ungererstraße. We tried exploring the park but it was muddy on the paths and getting dark; we turned back in the direction of the Leopoldstraße where there was food for sale and found first a tea shop, then the small outdoor (Christmas) market outside Münchner-Freiheit station then, for supper, an excellent Afghan restaurant, the Khorassan, at the end of Dietlindenstraße. It was as well we took note of these places because Chris needed to bring his colleagues and all of his trainees to the Khorassan the following evening, as an emergency measure, after there had been confusion over a group booking at some other restaurant. Men are not good at organising meals out, and I was nowhere to be found at that point. Chris led an all-day workshop on the Monday, which left me free to explore by myself. I take such days at a slow pace, all on foot, which suits me. It was raining again, but I had an umbrella. I had an agenda too, to discover the spot where my Ottawa friend Dagmar used to live as a child in the early post-war days, on the quiet corner of Arcis- and Adalbert-Straße, in a Wohnhaus now painted yellow, a short walk from the Siegestor, Munich's Arc de Triomphe, with its four lions, not looking so fierce or triumphant in the rain. Dagmar remembers this, of course. I took photos to send to her afterwards, that she was pleased with. Another short walk past the Alter Friedhof that's mentioned on the first page of T. Mann's Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice) brought me to the Pinakothek complex which Dagmar had recommended for my stay.

I have been to the Alte Pinakothek before but it is worth multiple repeat visits, its modern interior housing a superb collection of European art from the 14th to 18th century. I get emotionally drained in art galleries and have a bad habit of muttering my thoughts aloud as I walk past the pictures. Rembrandt's lovely and sincerely imagined picture of the holy family in the stable made me think of my two nieces who had very recently given birth. You stop and gasp, oh wow, that's famous! as you approach the faces by Rembrandt, Dürer, Giorgione ..., but less familiar pieces grab your attention too. I soon needed a sit-down at the last available table in the cafeteria downstairs. After my light lunch I felt I might have enough stamina left for the Pinakothek der Moderne across the road as well where I lingered in the Blaue Reiter collection and among the expressionists. Marc, Kandinsky and Klee were well represented in these rooms. Early 20th century art both thrills and disturbs me. The colours were radiant, the paintings stylishly displayed. There was no way I could also face the Neue Pinakothek (19th century art) after this, so I continued towards the city centre, finding a traditional Bavarian supper at a traditional tavern where I was lucky to get a table.

Christmas Markets everywhere. I happened upon the Wittelsbacherplatz where a medieval market (Mittelaltermarkt) was in operation despite the rain. Stall merchants were wearing medieval costumes; people do enjoy dressing up and acting a part. Open flames and ages old traditional food and drink were in evidence and ancient music was being performed. In the dim light my attempts at photography weren't successful.

On my second day of explorations, meandering past the Hofbräuhaus (out of curiosity I had a look inside this tourists' hotspot). I also browsed the Christmas market stalls at the Residenz, nibbling the obligatory roasted chestnuts and sipping Glühwein, as well as in the Marienplatz and in the Viktualienmarkt. The latter was the best place for this, the stalls selling fresh, local produce, the Christmas decorations featuring fresh flowers and fir branches smelling wonderful. I would have lingered there far longer and perhaps found a souvenir worth buying, but had to pick up my stored luggage and meet Chris at the station, so that we could catch our train to Stuttgart. At this point we both felt unwell. I was beginning to notice the cold I was trying to throw off, the same as Chris' cold which after a day of teaching had reduced his voice to a mere squeak. We were in an enclosed coach with other people so didn't talk much in any case.

In Sindelfingen, which we reached by means of a crazy ride from Böblingen with an expat Turkish taxi driver claiming to have a personal connection with Erdogan and complaining of his lowly status and inadequate income in Germany while driving in a very erratic and dangerous way, Chris had to keep working, at the usual December conference in Sindelfingen. He gave a presentation right at the end of the day, before which the poor chap felt faint from nerves and fatigue, but once he got up on stage it went well and the questions continued long afterwards. Meanwhile, I enjoyed another few hours of sheer respite, at the place I'd been looking forward to for weeks, the Böblingen Thermalbäder, swimming and relaxing in the blood-warm water. In the evening I led Chris and three of his German QNX colleagues through the Altstadt to a meal at the Fässle pub, a place I've mentioned before in this blog. It didn't let us down.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Since Vaduz

This could be a long post, if I'm not careful, not having updated my blog since we were in Vaduz on the 1st of December.

Since then, for the record, I have crossed the Atlantic 4 times. I've been to Lindau, München and Sindelfingen (Stuttgart), to London and Cardiff and back to Ottawa. The day after we returned, on December 15th, my mother died. I'll write more about it, eventually. Between that day and the day of Mum's funeral (January 10th) came Christmas, which I hardly noticed with so much else to think about, although our friends Elva and Laurie were very kind to us on Christmas Day, allowing us a moment of tranquillity over a lovely Christmas dinner at their house, with a log fire in their living room. We felt exhausted. On January 7th I was back in the plane to London, returning (after the funeral) on January 13th. In Ottawa I had to hit the ground running, as the cliché has it, in order to finish editing the February edition of CFUW-Ottawa's newsletter and get it published on time. That, while fighting a virus of some kind, was also exhausting. The outside air temperature felt like -35 C for a few days, which didn't help.

It wasn't all bad. Among the good things were a couple of gemütlich and stimulating meetings with my German-speaking friends, swimming at the Chateau, walking in crunchy snow, flying over the hills in the Cessna, playing the accompaniments to our Schubert songs, seeing the special exhibition of Paul Klee paintings at our National Gallery and highly entertaining documentary film about four famous British actresses. On January 25th I had another treat, a horse-drawn sleigh ride after snowshoeing.

I'm writing this in Bristol, in a hotel room with my husband who's about to join the annual SSS (Safety-Critical Systems Symposium), having flown to England again on February 1st.


That was not such a long post after all, a mere summary. My next post will go back to our week in Germany at the beginning of December.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Vaduz on a Saturday night

... is quiet, apart from the families enjoying the temporary ice rink set up beside the Rathaus. Otherwise, the streets are deserted, the shops are shut, and the mountains (all around us) are mysteriously invisible. We saw them in all their glory earlier today, with orographic cloud coming and going over their summits and ridges. From our room at the Landhaus am Giessen (on Zollstraße) we can see Vaduz' floodlit royal castle perched on its cliff, and the unexpectedly British-looking cathedral spire in the middle distance.

We had a wonderful time travelling here this morning. Breakfast with a Gipfeli at the little coffee shop near our hotel in Zofingen, then we were on the platform at 9:30 waiting for our train to Olten. At Olten we transferred straight to the busy Zürich train, changed platforms, and again with no waiting got straight onto another train, a few platforms away, destination Budapest. This was an Austrian (ÖBB) train, that was to drop us at the town of Sargans in eastern Switzerland, the other side of the Zürchersee and the Walensee and several chains of mountains. The ride took us past vineyards and close to the lakes' edge, with their poplars and weeping willows, across the flat, green valley floors and through long tunnels. The views, with clouds clinging to the cliff-faces and snowy mountain ridges, were spectacular. Elsewhere the sky was blue. The trees on the mountainsides were still golden-brown for autumn, although we have now reached December 1st.

Again, at Sargans, no waiting. Off the train, down the slope, along the tunnel between platforms, up the other slope and round the corner of the railway station to the bus station, where the lime green No. 11 was waiting to leave for Feldkirch, in Austria. Our tickets bought at Zofingen covered this part of the journey too. It was a half-hour ride on the bus to Vaduz, at the central point of the bus route. We weren't sure of the correct stop for our lodging---now realise it should have been Vaduz-Au---so got out at Vaduz-Post where the postage stamp museum is, and the other museums in town. It is a fairly small capital city, with fewer than 9000 inhabitants all told. The state of Liechtenstein itself is only 24 km long and 12 km wide. We entered it over the bridge to Balzers (which also has a prominent castle); the bridge crosses the Rhine. This is the Rhine in its young stage, of course, not much water in it, and what water there is is a glacial blue, meandering among the white pebbles. It originates in the high land of Graubünden / Grissons where the locals call it the Rein da Tuma, in the Romantsch language. I have only just learned this.

This afternoon, after finding sandwiches in a café and lugging our luggage a kilometre back along the main road to our guest house, we checked in, left the bags in our room, and walked down to the River Rhine / Rhein / Rhin / Rein / Reno where there was a covered wooden bridge crossing it, not fit for motor vehicles, although you could probably drive a horse and cart through, or ride bicycles abreast. Half way over the bridge a line was drawn on the wall where Chris stood with one foot in Switzerland and one in Liechtenstein. I imagine a lot of people do that. A footpath called the Alpenrheinweg follows the bank on the Swiss side, with plaques about the local wildlife, etc., along it.

Having enjoyed that short walk, watching a para-glider soar slowly down the mountainside to land in a nearby field (others followed later), we left Switzerland behind again and took other footpaths round the back of town, following a stream, the Au, into the centre again. On the other side of the town is a large field with rows of vines, the Prince's royal vineyard, with what looked like very healthy plants. Every few rows, an illustrated information board described what needed to be done in the vineyard, on a particular month. I took a photo of the April board, but while reading the information my attention was wandering to the irresistible views of the mountains on the horizons of both countries, changing at every moment as the grey, or white or misty clouds formed and dissipated and the sun's dazzle moved from one direction to another. We went up another side of the vineyard to the Mitteldorf above it, an older part of the town, just a small village really, where there were old wine presses in people's gardens. One little cottage had sky-blue shutters, geraniums flowing over the upper window boxes and a vine curling up its whitewashed walls. What an idyll.

On the way "home" to our guest house, Chris got me to poke my head through one of those cardboard people's head holes, so that he could take a photo of me wearing a Liechtenstein dirndl.

We found another pizzeria for supper this evening. Chris ordered his usual cheese-free pizza and I had an Italian omelette. To drink, we sampled a Liechtenstein brew of beer, very smooth, because the restaurant didn't stock any of the local wines. Maybe the Prince keeps all those for his own Hofkellerei.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Cherzli Nacht, Zofingen

On our final evening in Zofingen (this morning I bought our tickets for Vaduz, where we're going next) we were lucky enough to experience a local Advent tradition: the lighting of candles and Christmas trees on the cobbled streets of the old town.
Tausende Cherze Liechtli. Gedimmter Abendverkauf bis 22h. Überall gnueg z'Ässe und z'Trinke. Kerzenziehen in der Rathausgasse. Schulkinder musizieren und singen in den Gassen.
What a charming idea! It is simple, but something that young children are likely to remember all their lives. The Christmas tree at the entrance from the station to the old town, in the Market Square, is absolutely covered with lights. Round its base are small candles in glass jars, and these candles also line practically every street in town. The walls of the fountain basins (several of these) are also decorated with candles, as are doorsteps and some walls. One store, selling house decorations, had two star-shaped clusters of these little lights outside its premises, and other places had lit up their outdoor shelves or outdoor dining areas. An improvised sitting place had decorated benches and patio tables with lights, and some sheepskin rugs had been provided, but it was too wet to sit down there. A few market stalls were selling edible treats (hot dogs, etc.) or drinks.

Best of all, on the steps in the Market Square, a group of children were singing, their teachers accompanying them on guitars. One little chap was doing duty as a music stand. We also met two older girls politely asking for donations towards their school-trip next May, selling fancy buns. They gave us a long explanation in Swiss-German before we admitted that we couldn't follow a word, at which they immediately switched to English and told us they were going to travel to Scotland.

For our supper, Chris and I returned to the Thai restaurant we'd enjoyed on our first night here. They had candles on the tables there, too. Then we made two more laps of the old town, appreciating the happy atmosphere.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Zofingen: old town, Heitereplatz and museum

On the morning of Wednesday December 28th, still sluggish from jet-lag during Chris' first day at work in Reiden (a short train ride away), I explored the walled town of Zofingen to get my blood circulating and some oxygen in my lungs. After my first lap of the walls, local children were starting to come home from school (the Gemeindeschulhaus) for their lunch, so I followed a few of them along a back lane and then struck off on a narrow lane up the hill, following one of Zofingen's Wanderweg signposts. This led me through sloping orchards and meadows to the so-called Heiternplatz, a flat, rectangular recreation field above the town, out in the countryside, with 60 linden trees planted on its perimeter. A nearby shooting range allowed the locals to practise their deer shooting skills. Not sure I approved of this, but the forested hills in the background, still tinged with autumn colours like a picture in pastel oils, looked romantically mysterious in the mist, and in the other direction I had panoramic views of the industrial valley with its railway line leading in the direction of Chris' workplace and thence to Luzern (or Olten, in the other direction). Had the sky cleared, I think I'd have caught sight of some distant Alpine peaks. Apart from a distant dog-walker, I had the immediate surroundings to myself. I learned, from a carved gothic script plaque screwed to one of the older and larger tree trunks, that it had been school children of my generation who had planted the linden tree saplings to replace the very old, original trees. 
Im Jahre 1955 hat die Ortsbürgergemeinde den Heiternplatz erweitert und am 14. Dez. wurde der äussere Ring von 60 Linden durch die Schuljugend gepflanzt. 

I also approved of a steel children's slide fixed on the steep slope up to the Heiternplatz, but I didn't fall to the eccentric temptation of using it at my age, even though no one was looking, because it was muddy at both ends and too narrow.

I walked downhill back to Zofingen for lunch at the crêperie. There's a scuplture park and other public green spaces outside the town walls, then the school, and next to that a museum with a nymph at the entrance who had sore feet, like me.

I spent a good while inside the museum which was full of interest. To judge from an old video recording and the pictures on the walls, Zofingen's centre hasn't changed much in the last few centuries. Only people's clothes and their means of transport have changed, although even then, there are very few motor vehicles on the streets of old Zofingen today, which are still mostly cobbled. Workmen were re-cobbling one street all the time we were there. 

It was one of those museums that have a bit of everything: stuffed animals, pinned butterflies, prehistoric pottery, oil paintings, historical agricultural implements, costumes. Alongside medieval suits of armour, they had the full costume of a Pontifical Swiss Guard from the Vatican. I particularly enjoyed looking at the early 20th century pictures of the traditional Vereine, groups of local men or women (rarely mixed) with an interest in common, be it music-making or sports or whatever, the photographer of the day using the same background for all. I snapped a copy of the Gymnastics Club photo, dated 1902.

Swiss Guard
Since the first half of the 19th century, Zofingen has been known for its printing works (printing the pages of the Schweizer Illustrierte magazinefor example, and one part of the museum was dedicated to the different equipment they had used over the ages: