About 30 minutes drive from Zug or Oberagerei, through verdant countryside and hills, you will find a 18th Century Benedictine Monastery – Einsiedeln. For many years, pilgrims from all over the world have flocked to visit the monastery complex, beautifully kept and a monastic population which encourages believers to join them in daily life. Not only is there the working monastery and Abbey, but a school, theatre complex and a horse-breeding enterprise.

Many cultural and music events are held in the village which is a magnet for visitors.

The outside of the Abbey – the towers dominate the village

 

In the 9th century, the monk St. Meinrad, of the family of the Counts of Hohenzollern, left one of the local monasteries to built a hermitage in the wilderness that would later become Einsiedeln. He took with him a miracle-working statue of the Virgin Mary given to him by the Abbess Hildegarde of Zürich. He soon became well-known in the local village for his kindness and holiness, and received many visitors and gifts.

On January 21, 861, two thieves murdered Meinrad for the treasure in his hermitage. According to legend, the murderers were apprehended after two ravens followed them into town and drew attention to them with loud squawking.

In 940, a small group of Benedictine monks transformed Meinrad’s little hermitage into the Lady Chapel. The chapel is said to have been consecrated by Christ himself on September 14, 948. The bishop who was to consecrate the new site had a vision in which the church was filled with a brilliant light as Christ approached the altar; the next day, when he went to perform the ceremony, he heard a voice saying the chapel had already been divinely consecrated. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Leo VIII 16 years later in a papal bull.

St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue (its dark color traditionally explained by years of candle smoke) as part of his altarpiece; after his death it was placed in the Lady Chapel for veneration. Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of “Our Lady of Einsiedeln,” and pilgrimages to Einsiedeln began shortly after 1000 AD. Throughout the Middle Ages, as many as 50,000 pilgrims streamed into the monastery each week.

 

Picture taking is forbidden of the Black Madonna, but we managed to get some of the outside of the black marbled Lady Chapel in which the Madonna is housed.

Since 1620 the Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln has had a school of theology for its own clerics, those of other abbeys, and students training to become priests. The small school has had 30 students at the most at one time.

Despite temporary setbacks to the pilgrimage tradition during the Reformation and especially the major destruction during the French Revolution, Einsiedeln continues to receive pilgrims – about 200,000 each year.

Here’s a picture of the Black Madonna taken from the postcard. Her vestments are changed depending on the Ecclesiastical Season.

What to See

The abbey church at Einsiedeln is a majestic baroque edifice with elaborately decorated pastel ceilings, many marble side altars, and a large high altar in the east end. The interior is a typically baroque feast for the eyes, in gleaming white with elaborate gold and pastel decoration.

The most important part of the basilica is the Lady Chapel, near the entrance in the west end. The Lady Chapel is a free-standing, square marble edifice that recalls the shelter over Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was destroyed in 1798 by French invaders and rebuilt in 1817. Above the chapel’s altar is the Black Madonna, resplendent in rich robes and surrounded by gold clouds. Many services take place here each day.

The vast Benedictine monastery that stretches to either side of the basilica is still thriving and is known for its tradition of sacred music, especially the occasional Orchestral Masses. Each day, the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are sung by the monks in Gregorian chant.

A short walk from the abbey is the world’s largest nativity scene, the Diorama Bethlehem, with more than 500 carved wooden figures, and the justifiably famous Panorama, a circular painting more than 300 feet long and 30 feet high depicting Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Open from Easter to the end of October, they have narrative explanations in five languages.

A view of the inside of the Abbey

 

The Abbey courtyard with the horse stud in the background.

Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage season at Einsiedeln runs from Easter to Rosary Sunday (the first Sunday in October). Major pilgrimage days to Einsiedeln include:

Before entering the church, pilgrims usually stop at the fountain fed by St. Meinrad’s spring to drink from each of the 14 spouts. After visiting the Lady Chapel inside, the Stations of the Cross can be followed on a well-marked forest path up to the top of Mt. Meinrad.

We found this lovely old wheelbarrow in the courtyard.

Every five years, Einsiedeln hosts the production of the religious drama “The Great Theater of the World,” in which more than 600 villagers participate. The last one was in 2007.

 

 

Zug may be better known as a city after which is named the Zug Canton in Switzerland, and home to many multi-national companies and financial institutions all benefiting from the low tax thresholds and central situation.

However there is more to Zug than glass towers and brass plaques behind which many companies go about their daily international business. The Old City. Nestled alongside the beautiful Lake Zug, the old city is tiny and has small cobbled streets and interesting architecture.

Lovely old doors abound in the Old Zug City.

 

Madame climbed to the top of the old Clock Tower – here is the workings of the genuine article: a Swiss clock!

 

A view of the Old City from the clock tower – Lake Zug in the background.

 

Another view from the clock tower.

 

Zug citizens have found novel ways to move through the narrow streets

 

A lovely turret clings to the side of a building

Natural beauty – Lake Aegerei

 

Food beauty! In honour of 1 August, Swiss National Day, the bakeries make a special bread roll, complete with the Swiss cross and a few mountain peaks. Inside – ham, cheese, pickles. Delicious after a long walk.

We found this little chap in Oberagerei

 

Lake Agerei has many of these little chaps too.

 

“Go to Gasthaus Bauerhof!”, our hosts had implored us before we left Provence. “You’ll have the BEST liver, ever!” Situated on the outskirts of Baar in the Zug Canton, we found Gasthaus Bauerhof, in a typical wooden chaelt with a glorious terrace under two huge plain trees. The staff were great, very attentive, and the liver….according to Madame…the BEST ever!

Liver does not make a particularly pretty picture. However, here is the dish in all its glory with rosti on the side. Pan fried, with mushrooms and onions. Melt in the mouth.

 

For patrons who are arthritically challenged and must keep away from high acid food (like liver), there are plenty of other options. Here is my Veal Schnitzel with veggies and the inevitable chips. Delicious!

 

A view of Gasthaus Bauerhof from the outside.

The Restaurant is open 6 days a week, (closed Mondays) from 12h00-24h00. If you’re in the Zug/Baar/Agerei area, don’t dally!

 

On the way back from Grindelwald towards the Zug Canton it is a simple matter to make a short 5km detour to the tourist hot spot of Interlaken. Much favoured on bus tours, the town still possesses a naive charm, amongst the huge hotels and multitudes of souvenir shops and, not to forget the Asian-themed Casino!

Interlaken is dwarfed by the Jungfrau and there is a bust paragliding industry from the surrounding hills, all the participants gliding on to the huge Town Square. It makes quite a fun sight.

A view down the bustling main street of Interlaken

 

What would Switzerland be without the cuckoo clocks? The souvenir shops are crammed with them.

 

Here is a particularly fine example of the famous Cuckoo Clock. Look at the magnificent craftsmanship. It all comes at a price, though, this one was close to 500 Swiss Francs.

 

Is this Kyoto or Tokyo? No, it’s Interlaken, The approach to the Casino.

 

A major show-stopper in Interlaken is the huge Hotel Grand Victoria – and Grand it is.

 

A real ‘old lady’

 

Paragliding down on to the Town Square.

One of the most popular areas of Switzerland is the vicinity of the two giant mountains Eiger and Jungfrau. Nestling at the base is the picturesque – but touristy – Grindelwald.

 

The Swiss autoroute network must be one of the best in the world. You pay a flat CHF40 for a year (or shorter) and then you have total access to the system without more tolls, or delays at toll gates. The toll is electronic (much like the Australian e-tag), the only drawback is you are compelled to stay within the speed limit – 110kmph. Cameras are everywhere!

It was an easy 70 minute drive from the Zug canton to Grindelwald canton, through numerous tunnels and past beautiful scenery. Mount Eiger is one of the most impressive mountains in the world and allegedly one of the most difficult to climb due to its concave ‘front’ which seems to overhang into Grindelwald village. The Jungfrau is the ‘top of Europe’, the highest peak and sits alongside the Eiger.

Grindelwald village is home to many ski stations, shops and hotels dedicated to the snow in winter and hiking in summer.

 

Spectacular picture from Madame’s camera with Mount Eiger towering over Grindelwald main street

 

A little Swiss huomur

 

We took a local bus through the village and surrounds up to one of the Alpine settlements, passing many farms and ski lodges.

 

We lunched at one of the local hotels on the terrace. The mountain views from the table were spectacular.

 

From the bus

 

 

 

 

Along a section of the lake, there are numerous animal sculptures

 

Lake Agerei is beautiful. Stunningly so. Here’s a peep at just some of the sights.

Crystal clear water

 

 

 

In the Oberageri village

 

The Swiss seem to like swans. Even floral tributes, on the road into Oberageri

 

Not only cattle, but sheep too.

Quaint wooden house near Oberagerei, Switzerland

 

 

 

There’s a great little Nursery School on the walk, with chickens in the playground.

 

not forgetting the goats in the farmyard

 

No Swiss ‘rural’ scene would be complete without showing their perfectly packed wood.

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