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09 May 2020 - Day 28 – Liechtenstein and Chur

After the morning preparations and packing was complete, I took the stairs down to the breakfast room. Partially filling a small bowl with muesli and adding a tablespoonful of plain yogurt, I munched on the cereal as I consumed a banana. Preparing a bowl with hot chocolate, espresso and hot milk, I drank about half before putting it into a to-go container. Pulling salami and “swiss cheese” slices from the cold cuts board, I slit a 6-inch piece of baguette, added the cold cuts, and wrapped it in a paper napkin. I observed that most all of us in the room were doing about the same.

Returning to the room, I put on the light jacket, and after brushing my teeth, put the tooth brush into the top of the roller. Heading down the lift, I checked out and began heading towards the train station. With a 9:15 departure, I would be heading east to the town of Sargans, my first stop of this Saturday. The Zürich Hauptbahnhof wasn’t very busy, and it only took me about 5 minutes from entry to platform, reached by escalators, to board the coach. I’d finished my beverage on the walk, discarding the paper container in the appropriate street bin.

Punctual as ever, the train left on time. The regional train took us along the south shore of the Zurichsee and Obersee before heading inland through a pass at Ziefelbrücke. Then the Walensee was out the windows to the north, with the ski resort Flumserberg rising steeply to the south. We followed along through a valley before arriving at the station in #Sargans 80-minutes after leaving Zürich. I hefted my roller off onto the platform. A small transportation depot building had luggage storage, so I left the roller there, and go a roundtrip ticket to Vaduz. The bus left 15 minutes after the train had arrived, so I didn’t really have much time to see anything of Sargans.

After 35-minutes, the bus let about half its passengers off at the #Vaduz post office stop, under an underpass. #Vaduz is the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein. There is a parish church, built in 1874, which became a cathedral in 1997. A stone building with a stone bell tower and spire, it was about 10 minutes south by foot, if one allowed time for picture taking. The Cathedral of St Florin sits up a rise from the main street which runs through the capitol, and below entrance are two alcoves with shrines dug into the hill. Staircases bracket these prayer spots to gain access to the cathedral.

St Florin is a small church with a wide center aisle and two narrower side aisles along the nave walls. Fixed wooden pews under brass chandeliers hanging from the dark tracery arches and white ceiling fill the nave. The sanctuary is set back in the apse, raised three steps above the nave floor. A simple table altar sits on a red carpet, with the traditional high altar behind which has a small gilded reredos and gold tabernacle. The five pairs of lights of the apse are colorful stained-glass depicting religious scenes. The cathedra is against the gospel wall, an archbishop’s chair on a platform with a tapestry backing on the wall.

Allowed 90 minutes in Vaduz, I still had almost an hour. Many of my fellow tourists had marched up to the tourist office to pay for a stamp in their passport, but since I hadn’t bothered with that in Bermuda or Luxembourg, it didn’t seem important. Ruled by hereditary princes and princesses, there is a small private castle for the Regent Crown Prince Alois which would be a kilometer and a half round trip, so I decided to just walk up to Kunstmuseum,

a modern art collection, opposite the castle for pictures. Returning towards the bus stop, I had time to enter the Liechtenstein Center which is the tourist office, where I checked to see if they might have a hat pin. With about a half dozen to select from, I wound up leaving with two, and got talked into getting a stamp in the passport.

Crossing the road, I joined a small queue of folks waiting on the bus for a return to Sargans. After boarding and turning in the other half of my ticket, I sat and ate my “breakfast sandwich” while drinking a bottle of water I’d procured at the TO. Another 35-minute ride, mostly in Liechtenstein, we rolled into Sargans with 45 minutes before I could get on the train to Chur, my destination for today. There wasn’t much near the transit center, but I did spot a domed chapel off in the distance, so I walked to it to get a photo, and then returned and recovered my roller.

A twenty-two-minute ride, we followed the Rhine River through a long valley surrounded by high mountains. It was 2:30 as I left the train in #Chur. Less than half a kilometer away, it was a ten-minute stroll to the Central Hotel Post where I’d booked my room for the night. Another Garni hotel, they were ready for me, and I was soon in my small, simple and efficient room on the top level, looking out to the street. With temperatures in the mid-70s, I decided to keep my light jacket, but took the heavier jacket out to hang, along with the yellow parka. Journal and cameras (with spare batteries) in my light rucksack, I headed back downstairs to the street.

There’s a cathedral in Chur. Kathedrale Mariä Himmelfahrt (Basilica of Mary of the Assumption) was up a curved street on a hill, about another half kilometer. With no expectations, I was stunned by this lovely church. Appearing a small, somewhat mundane building from the main or western façade, upon entering the rear nave, the history just oozes. The main aisle and two smaller side aisles form the nave, with thick columns supporting the arched vault. At the end of these aisles, which would be the crossing, a double sacristy has been placed, reminding me of the cathedral in Bamberg. Flanking the main post-Vatican II simple table altar of white marble, sets of stairs rise to the upper sacristy with the high altar. There, a brilliant medieval triptych rises above the altar table. There is an organ up the stairs where the choir stalls are, and a second organ mounted against the west wall to the rear of the church. Due to a barrier rope, I really couldn’t tell what was in the lower sacristy behind the main altar.

As I puttered about, admiring the stained-glass windows, several older people came in, straightening the free-standing chairs in front of the fixed pews at the east end of the nave. Saturday evening Mass would be at 4:30, so I wondered at their earlier arrival. One man explained to me in slow German that they were collecting the sacrament to bring to the sick and homebound before the service. As the cathedral closed for tourist at 3:30, I got chased out.

I left and went around the church, climbing a bit to find a good vantage point for some more photos. Near the library I found a nice shot showing the cemetery and rear. I continued to follow the road around, and walked along the Plessur River, which eventually feeds into the Rhine. At the third bridge I crossed west and headed to the lift station. The last ride up is at 5, and I was able to get on the 4 o’clock ride. I decided to stay on at the first stop, Känzeli BCD, to ride on to the end. The several mountain bike riders offloaded their equipment here.

At the terminus, Brambrüesch, I got off to walk around looking at the Alpine fields for 15-minutes, until the return trip would commence. From the midpoint I decided to make the 5½ kilometer zigzag walk down the shaded eastern face, spending an hour plus hiking with the benefit of gravity. Besides, I knew that if, during the 550-meter altitude change, I wanted to quit, there were two bus stops I could use. With a nice macadam walkway, it was a pleasant descent, as the cyclists went whizzing by on the road with huge grins on their faces.

It was about 6pm when I found myself at the rotary over the river just down the street from the gondola station. Crossing the Plessur, I strolled a bit thinking to find a watering hole, and found Piranha Tapas Bar.

With a pour of a Tuscany red, I got a small nibbles sampler with olives, tomatoes, meatballs and roast potatoes with celery (a very Swiss variation) with a few slices of bread. Apparently, it was too early for a pre-dinner crowd, so I was able to chat with the charming Slovenian woman who was behind the bar. From near Nova Gorica on the Slovenia-Italian border, she aspired to the professional ski circuit, and was here for the off season. Having been to her town to see the co-cathedral there, she was amazed that an “American” even knew about the town, much less had visited it. While there, I got some more journaling done.

Leaving the bar, I found it was beginning to cool off, so I headed back to the hotel. Finished catching up in my journal to that point, and starting the charge for the first camera battery, I began to write this post. Getting as far as the train ride to Chur, I stopped and swapped jackets to head out for dinner. Google Maps had about 30 options within 5 minutes of walking, all on this side of the river. It seemed that many of the restaurants were part of hotels, which figured in a resort town. Looking for a Swiss restaurant for my last night in this country, I headed to the Hotel Stern, also known as Hotel de l’Etoile.

Not sure if there’d be space, I was delighted to find they had several options for the solo diner. Seated in an area with enough light to read, I experimented and had Alpenbitter as my aperitif. An herbal liqueur, originating in the eastern part of Switzerland, I was truly local. Served over ice, the bouquet of anise carried into its flavor, along with some other herbals I’m not sure I could identify. Maybe more experience, but it wasn’t something that screamed to have again. I started with carpaccio, dressed with some greens and radishes but no balsamic. I’d asked for a half carafe of local red wine, which raised some eyebrows, so I switched to a stein of beer. I suspect there isn’t too much red wine produced in Switzerland. I’m not sure what the name of my main was, as it was off the specials board and Swiss script can be challenging. Bu it was a dish of beef tips served in a brown gravy with spätzle on the side. The meat was tender and flavorful, the gravy to die for and the “pasta” held the gravy well. To clear the palate, a salad of mostly spinach, with walnuts and shaved hard cheese from Switzerland that tasted and behaved like parmesan. And for dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cookie shell with homemade Swiss-style apple strudel, which had little in the way of pastry. Pulling my napkin from my lap and getting ready to call for the check, my waiter delivered a glass of Rigi-Kirsch, a clear colorless fruit brandy made from cherries. At 80 proof, it was a sipping drink with intense cherry flavors but not too sweet. I figure it would be prefect for any flambee dish.

Having finished my digestif and paid my bill (food is expensive in Switzerland, relative to France at least), I headed back to the hotel. The young woman at the front desk wanted to chat, so we talked a bit. She found my obsession with cathedrals interesting, and asked about the Swiss ones. While I’d really only seen the one in Chur that was still a functioning Catholic cathedral, I knew there were 6, but that there were several more ex-cathedrals, mentioning Basel and Geneva from personal experience. Showing her my itinerary pasted into the inside of my journal, she expressed wonderment at a 12-week holiday. Europeans get 5 weeks per year, so such a jaunt would be impossible for her.

Riding the lift, I headed to my room. While downloading photos from the camera chip and from the phone, I began finishing this post. I had to be back at the Chur train station enough before the 8:30 train departure, as I had to find my reserved seat. Checking and sending a few emails, including one to my youngest brother for his birthday, I was ready to crash.

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