• Abbey of St Gall

Visit: 10th March 2018

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Following on from our morning visit to Bavaria’s Wieskirche the four of us drove across the Austro-German border to Bregenz, an Austrian city on the eastern shore of Lake Constance. Our primary purpose was to have lunch there and thereby save a little compared with eating in our notoriously expensive destination of Switzerland. There wasn’t much to see in Bregenz so we had a decent enough meal and moved on.

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20 miles to the west lies the Swiss city of St Gallen, home to the second World Heritage Site of our weekend. This is a place with a long history as a monastic centre of learning, having played host for many centuries to monks who were particularly prodigious manuscript writers.

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The monastery buildings are generally quite plain. This is not inappropriate for a monastery, but it stands in contrast to the Manueline majesty of Belém or Tomar in Portugal (you really should go to see the latter one). The highlight of St Gallen is the cathedral, which was rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 18th century.

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The interior is wide and open, which pleased Gokul more than the relatively small Rococo church we had encountered in Germany earlier that day. I note that the colour green, which is the predominant theme in the ceiling, is quite unusual in church interiors – though I am not sure what the reason is for having used it here…

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We spent a bit of time milling around St Gallen where highlights included:

  • buying the obligatory Swiss chocolates;
  • consuming the worst value-for-money bottle of water I have ever shelled out for (c.£3.50, warm and a taste like Hounslow tap water); and
  • experiencing an innovative but excessively spartan public convenience – in which the toilet itself doubles up as the handwash basin – eugh.

Following which we sped up a valley alongside the Rhine toward what would, for 3 of us (Nowell excepted), be a new country. Liechtenstein is only Europe’s fourth smallest state, but that says more about how small the Vatican City, San Marino and Monaco are than it does about how big Liechtenstein is.

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Unfortunately the country does not have a single World Heritage Site, so we had little to do but spend the night in the small selection of local bars. I can’t say we did anything particularly Liechtenstinian, given that we ate pizza, drank beer and played pool.

Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (the other is Uzbekistan). It is host to no foreign embassies, it uses the Swiss franc and it is a member of the Schengen area – so getting in is easy. The capital, Vaduz, is not its largest city – but since nobody has ever heard of Schaan I decided we would stay in the capital anyway. Below is the view from our balcony, where the mountains in the background are in Switzerland.

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When Sunday came it was time for us to head back to Munich to drop off Gokul and KC at their house and Nowell at the station. He was continuing on to India for a business trip, but since his flight was from Frankfurt he needed to take a train there first. That left me to fly back to London on my own, which I think is a first for a lads’ trip like this.

Many try to go the distance, few succeed.

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