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Switzerland 2005 Feature Article
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Wayne Barton's Swiss Woodcarvers Tour 2005
By Stanley D. Saperstein
This past September my wife Cindy and I went on the best trip of our lives. We are independent travelers not liking others travel plans and avoid tours. I read Wayne's articles in Chip Chats and noticed at the end of his articles there was a paragraph about his Swiss tour so I sent for the brochure.
Being a professional carver I thought it would make a nice trip to go with other wood carvers and share interests. When I saw the 15-day itinerary that promoted not the usual tourist stuff but real Swiss woodcarving, culture and off the beaten path items with promised surprises this was the trip for me. The trip is as much for non-carvers as it is for carvers because where do you find great woodcarving but in castles, monasteries, churches and important buildings. Just being in one of the world's most beautiful countries is worth being there.
The tour is lead by Wayne and Swiss interior designer and expert on Swiss culture and history Paul Scherer. Their combined knowledge made the trip educationally exceptional. Each day brought added surprises. I will not tell you what they are or I will spoil the surprises. There was lots of free time to explore small alpine towns or the big city museums and shops. There is no tourist trap stuff. The cry "stop the bus" was heard many times as Wayne's policy was if you see something you want to see let us know and we did. Unlike commercial tours Wayne provided the flexibility to create these special moments in time like thimble museums or a perfect photo op.
One of the best features was the small congenial group from all over the U.S. who like ourselves sheared similar interests.
Here is the 15 day blow by blow: We flew into Zurich and then a short flight to Munich where Wayne meet us with a Mercedes mini luxury bus with seats that were like recliners. We then proceeded to the beautiful walled medieval city of Rothenburg for two days and the study of Tillman Riemenschneider woodcarvings. Riemenshneider was the Michelangelo of woodcarvers. Our hotel was in restored medieval building where we had a great dinner and breakfast. All our hotels were great as was the food. The only exception being the lunch we ate with the monks at the Carthusian monastery. You do not want to be a monk heavily smoked sausage and sour beans. It was authentic medieval fare but I will stick to the great Swiss food served up on the trip.
We then went to St. Gallen and on the way visited Nereshiem Monastery to study some baroque architecture and visited several medieval cities. In St. Gallen we saw world famous Benedictine Abby and its world famous library with books from the fourth century.
From St. Gallen we went to St. Maria a beautiful alpine village. On the way we had lunch in Vaduz the capital Liechtenstein, traveled the Fluela Pass through the Swiss National Park to Fuldera, stopping at a Swiss furniture factory and to St. Maria.
The next day we visited Charlemagne's Romanesque/ gothic basilica built in 800AD and then went to Lugano and on the way went into Italy to the medieval walled town of Glurns. After a boat ride on the beautiful lake we had an outstanding dinner on the Italian side of the lake and were introduced to Grappa. I will not tell you what Grappa is but we laughed so hard at that dinner my side hurt. You will have to go on the trip to find out about Grappa.
From Lugano we went to Montroux went over Nufenen Pass saw unbelievable scenery and to Chillon Castle a wood carvers delight. They have some of the finest examples of gothic carving and furniture. We stayed on Lake Geneva and enjoyed a great dinner and some nightlife.
We then went on a cog railway not a tourist one but a real working railroad that took us to the top of Mont Blanc at 6700 feet the day was clear and the scenery breathtaking. We then proceeded to Gruyeres and had a special lunch where we ate fresh bread covered with hot Rocklet cheese. We ended up in Brienz the woodcarving center of Switzerland. We visited the Swiss national Wood Carvers School and were let loose to hit the tool shops a wood carvers heaven. That night we ate at the Grand Hotel at Giessbach, elegance personified. They had a thousand foot lit waterfall and was right on Lake Brienz.
From Brinez to Bern the Swiss Capital lots of woodcarvings churches and we got to go into the famous Swiss clock tower saw the Burn bears and were let loose to shop.
The tour finished at Stein-am-Rhein another beautiful medieval city on the Rhein River.
This Section is the beginning of what will become an extensive documentary of our trip, as well as and educational section on Swiss Woodworking & Architecture.
Photography by Becky Bumgarner
For more information on this trip contact: