Gotthard Pass

2019-09-10T18:22:52+00:00

Since the middle ages the connection of the North of Europe with the South has gone right through the Swiss mountains across the Gotthard pass. It reaches 2107m and used to be a treacherous small road for traders and pilgrims often traveling in caravans past deep gorges. Due to bad weather every year a number of people didn’t make it.

Today a solid road leads across the pass. It’s great for motorbike rides or people wanting to enjoy the scenery rather than going through the fast tunnel beneath. The road is closed in winter with snow covering the top up to 10m. However the tunnel at the foot of the mountain stays open all year. During summer holidays sometimes the traffic from all over Europa causes traffic queues of several km of cars waiting to enter the tunnel…. A new railway tunnel through the mountain connects Bern to Milano by direct train in only 3h03’.

In the picture our friends look down into the valley on the Ticino side shortly before reaching the very top.

Gotthard Pass 2019-09-10T18:22:52+00:00

The Zillis Church

2018-11-27T08:12:53+00:00

The Romans had already settled in the village of Zillis. The first village church dates back to about the 6th century. The church at the mouth of the forbidding Viamala gorge (Canton of Graubünden) was there to provide spiritual and physical relief for the brave travellers daring to cross the alps.

The ceiling of the church was painted between 1109 to 1114 and consist of 153 wooden panels. An unknown artist painted the panels with a very interesting Christian perspective of the world. The panels are still vibrant with colours and interesting motifs.

Basically the gospel is presented such as the birth of Christ, his temptation, his baptism, his life and his death on the cross. However there is no hint of his resurrection. If ever we have a chance we would love to explain to you some of stories of panels above.

The Zillis Church 2018-11-27T08:12:53+00:00

Spiez

2018-10-22T11:46:50+00:00

The village of Spiez is embedded in a bay on lake Thun. The castle is big and dates back to the 10th century. From the top of the castle (see picture) the view is of the 1000 years old church down below, the small harbour and across the lake.

The castle itself houses one of the most beautiful castle museums of Switzerland. It documents the change from a medieval life style to a patrician one.

Spiez produces a nice vine. The vineyard rises up on a hill close to the castle and adds color, especially in autumn! The restaurant down at the pier has nice fish and other foods too.

Many like to stroll along the lake and then board a boat taking them across the lake.

Spiez 2018-10-22T11:46:50+00:00

500 Years Reformation

2017-12-14T09:30:59+00:00

500 years ago, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Later this was recognised as the official start of the Reformation.

There were quite a few other reformers that had strong impact on the young movement such as Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Farel and others.

By the 16th century the Catholic Church had become quite corrupt. Church offices and titles as well as the forgiveness of sins could be purchased by money. Church traditions had accumulated and caused the simple gospel of the early church to fall into the background.

Luther himself was originally a monk within the Catholic church. He advocated the 5 solas (sola – in Latin means „alone“). Here just two solas:

– sola scriptura („Scripture alone“) – go back to the Bible and use the original writings to evaluate how to live a Christian faith
– sola gratia („grace alone“) – people’s sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ and this by grace alone. It is a free gift since Christ redeemed any believer by his own sacrificial death.

In the picture we see the „Fountain of Moses“ in Bern. The fountain is located in front of the Cathedral (the Münster) with the figure of Moses on top. It dates back to the 16th century and has a strong reformation message.

Moses points to the number 2 out of 10 (in Roman letters). God gave Moses the 10 commandments for the people of Israel. The 2nd commandment states: „You shall not make yourself a carved image…. and worship it“ (Ex 20:4-6) or simply put: don’t worship idols. The 2nd commandment was criticising the many statues of saints in the catholic churches, that the believers would pray to.

In the beginning the Catholic church leadership was offended and threatened by these radical ideas and the church split into two: reformed and catholic. Later the Catholic church also incorporated some reformation ideas and got rid of some excesses.

This year (2017) the reformation has been remembered in Germany and Switzerland. It is widely recognised that both churches, reformed and catholic face many problems and that both are in need of another renewal.

500 Years Reformation 2017-12-14T09:30:59+00:00

Wilhelm Tell

2017-08-22T22:05:48+00:00

Tell is Switzerland’s legendary freedom fighter and the national hero of the country. The legend dates back the 14th century and takes place in the old Swiss Confederacy.

The story of Tell was written at the beginning of the 19th century as a play by the famous German poet Friedrich Schiller. It has been translated into many languages and is also known in China.

Tell was known as an excellent marksman with the crossbow. Gessler was the tyrannical representative of Habsburg stationed in Altdorf, in the canton of Uri. The tyrant raised a pole and hung his hat on top of it. He demanded that all passing by had to bow before his hat.

On November 18, 1307 Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed the hat without bowing to it. Tell got arrested. Gessler was upset about the boldness of Tell and wanted to punish him cruelly. Gessler commanded Tell to use his crossbow. Tell should shoot an apple off his son’s head, otherwise both, father and son, would be executed.

Tell hit the apple indeed. When challenged by Gessler, why he had prepared two bolts and not just one, Tell answered, that if he had hit his son he would have shot the tyrant.

Immediately Tell was arrested again and brought to Gessler’s boat to be taken to the castle in Küssnacht. A storm broke out on Lake Lucerne and Tell was able to save himself. He ran across to Küssnacht and waited for his enemy, who had to pass by this road. Gessler arrived and Tell killed him, thus riding the area from the tyrant.

During the summer season Schillers’ play is newly interpreted and acted out in Interlaken. It is very dramatic and is played on a natural stage. Almost a hundred people, mostly volunteers, are involved in acting. The play takes about 2 hours, starting at 8 pm and finishing at 10pm. It is acted in Swiss German and German. We are happy to translate the story simultaneousiously into Chinese as it unfolds before our eyes.

Wilhelm Tell 2017-08-22T22:05:48+00:00

The Island of St. Peter

2017-05-27T13:43:07+00:00

Three beautiful lakes are at the foot of the Jura mountain chains: the lake of Neuchâtel, the lake of Biel and the Lake of Murten. All of these lakes are called according to it’s the biggest city. They are all interconnected through a system of water channels. The wider area of these lakes is culturally interesting since it often switches from Swiss German to French and vice versa. The climate is moderate and on the slopes of the Jura nice vine is produced.

The lake of Biel is split by a peninsula called the Island of St. Peter. Originally there used to be two smaller island. But because of frequent flooding the water level of the lake was lowered artificially by 1891 and so the peninsula came into existence. From the lovely small town of Erlach (in the picture) a leisurely walk of about 5km leads to the St. Peter’s island.

By 1127 the powerful order of Cluny set up a monastery. At the time of the reformation, in 1530 the island was passed on to the patricians of Berne who own it up to the present time. Today the monastery is a nice restaurant serving excellent fish.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, a famous french philosopher and writer from the 18th century lived on the island for a few weeks. He propagated the idea of „back to nature“ and „freedom of man“. His writings had a great influence on the French Revolution and all successive revolutions seeking to bring freedom to man.

The second picture shows the view from the island across the lake of the village of Ligerz.

The Island of St. Peter 2017-05-27T13:43:07+00:00

Oberhofen and it’s Castle

2017-05-11T18:30:37+00:00

The village of Oberhofen dates back to at least 1133 when it was first mentioned in a historical document.

The village is situated on lake Thun and only about 5km away from the city of Thun or 20km away from Interlaken. Oberhofen has a small harbour where the regular boat coming from Thun oder Interlaken stops to take on passengers.

The castle of Oberhofen dates back to the 12th century. It changed hands quite a few times and on that occasion was often enlarged too.

The museum inside the castle shows the history of it’s previous inhabitants over the centuries. On the top is the ‚oriental smoking room‘ offering a spectacular view over the lake and the mountains. The beautiful English park surrounding the castle is accessed free of charge and is a great place to stop and take in the view. In summer this is our preferred site to venture out into the lake of Thun for a swim. Swimming right away from the shore and looking back to the castle and over to the mountains all around you is simply breathtaking!

Oberhofen and it’s Castle 2017-05-11T18:30:37+00:00

Zytglogge

2017-01-12T02:38:09+00:00

This is one of the famous landmarks of the city of Berne. Many visitors try to be there at the full hour to see how the old clock work is set into motion. The best time would be at 12 noon!

It’s beginning dates back to 1220 where it was the guard tower and entrance to the newly founded city. Since the city of Berne is surrounded by the Aare river on the North, East and South side the Zytglogge tower was a formidable guard house and entrance to the newly built city.

The city however kept expanding, and there was only one direction to go – to the West, past the Zytglogge. So the function of the tower was changed and before the big city fire in 1405 the tower was turned into a prison. Later the tower was turned into the clock work tower (in Swiss German: Zytglogge). At that stage it was rebuilt using the local sandstone, which was the main building material used for all the city houses. The clock audibly regularly rang the time for the whole city. The Zytglogge tower was the center from which distances were measured. For instance to walk from the Zytglogge across to Gümligen took one hour. At a specific spot in Gümligen an old stone is marked with the indicator: 1 hour.

In the 16th century the Zytglogge got is square shape and and new clock was installed. The tower clock work is one of the oldest in the country. 4 minutes before every hour a golden cock on top of the tower crows. At the full hour quite a complicated mechanism is set into gear and starts working different parts revealing information such as the present position of the moon.

Make sure to be there at least 5 minutes before the full hour so as not to miss the age old show. By modern standards it isn’t all that spectacular. However if you consider that the mechanism is 500 years old the Zytglogge is really quite amazing!

Zytglogge 2017-01-12T02:38:09+00:00

All Brothers

2016-11-28T19:32:33+00:00

Between mid October until the end of November the houses of parliament in Berne are turned into a huge screen. A free sound and light show draws ten thousands of visitors from all over the country to come and enjoy the powerful spectacle.

This years’ topic was „Tutti Fratelli“ (Italian) meaning „All Brothers“. It celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Swiss Red Cross. It was founded in 1866 in Berne by Henry Dunant.

Dunant was actually from Geneva and a devout Christian. In 1852 he founded the YMCA Switzerland with the aim to help neglected young men to study the Bible and to help the poor. He spent much of his free time engaged in prison visits and social work.

In 1859, Dunant as a Swiss businessman was on his way to to meet the  the emperor of France, Napoleon III. He happened to be in Solverino (Italy) where he witnessed a battle between the Italian and the Austrian Army. Once the firing stopped there were thousands of dead and wounded left back. The agony and suffering Dunant witnessed was terrible. Dunant rushed into the village nearby and enlisted the support of volunteers. Mainly women followed his call and came along to help out. When they arrived on the battle scene they kept saying „tutti fratelli“ – all brothers, regardless of nationality and attended to the wounded.

150 years ago Dunant founded the Red Cross in Berne. In 1901 Dunant was the first to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today the organisation (along with the Red Crescent Movement) is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers worldwide.

All Brothers 2016-11-28T19:32:33+00:00

Donald Trump: America’s New President!

2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

In the morning of November 9, after a nerve wracking election night, Donald Trump clearly won the presidential race against Hillary Clinton. His victory was a bit similar to the Brexit – to most people quite unexpected. The polls tended to predict a victory of Hillary Clinton. But the people who voted for Trump seem to have mostly done so out of a deep frustration and disappointment with the policies of Washington DC. The number of Americans who are upset with present situation has clearly been underestimated!

In Europe, most people would have strongly preferred Hillary Clinton to be the new president. Hillary Clinton was often perceived as the lesser evil. Donald Trump has been very much disliked for his rough manners and his aggressive and rather selfish assertiveness.

But now the fact is: Mr Trump is going to be America’s next president!

The Swiss press voiced some fears, that President Trump could reverse many of the international treaties. The stock markets internationally did react and promptly dipped lower but quite a few indexes recovered within the day. The SMI briefly fell and then actually increased by over 1.5% (to 7862 points). It seems that the market over the past few weeks had already anticipated some shock waves.

Nobody knows at this stage where President Trump will be heading with his country.  What will be the impact on the US and rest of the world? Will there be more political and economic instability?

However most people would agree that what just happened in the US is history in the making!

Donald Trump: America’s New President! 2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00