Monday, October 14, 2013

Swiss Roots

Do you believe in coincidences?
Someone once told me that coincidences are just God's way of going under cover....I don't know if I would go as far as to say that, but sometimes it is miraculous the ways things fall into place.

The main reason I wanted to go on this trip was to trace my Swiss roots. Since both of my grandmother's parents were from Switzerland, I believe part of my blood must be Swiss chocolate.

So there we were - driving in the pouring rain, holding an old photo of my Great-Great Grandfather's house and an outdated map with little red circles and no street names. We were bound and determined to find this house.
Up and down, back around, turning here, stopping there. We sifted every house on this one street in this tiny cow town at least twice. None of them matched the picture and I was beginning to lose hope...and patience.
"Can we please just stop and ask someone?" I plead. So we pulled over at a random business and went in hoping for some answers.
COINCIDENCE #1 - Not only did we find someone who speaks fluent English, but this little business also happens to be the real estate agency that tore down my Great-Great Grandfather's house in the late 90's. They looked up the information and pointed us to the place the house used to stand.

Even though the house was gone, I was pleased to know we hadn't been looking on the wrong street after all. With new hope, we headed to the next town and the next house hunt. We climbed the green hills and there it was. Perfect. I was so happy to find it still standing. We met the woman who lives in the house currently, took lots of pictures, and directed our paths toward the rock quarry my Great-Great Grandfather used to own.

I assume not many tourists drive their cars into rock quarries, because a car followed us in and certainly was curious as to our intentions. The lady asked if she could help us and we (with the aide of pictures and family trees) explained our purpose for being in the rock quarry.
COINCIDENCE #2 - This woman just so happens to have the same last name as my relatives and her husband is the current owner of this quarry. She invited us to her restaurant, where we swapped old photographs and attempted to piece together the possibility of our connection. We didn't ever pin it down because the language barrier provides some difficulty, but her husband's family happens to come from the same city that my Great-Great Grandfather's brother was from. Even if we are not related, what were the chances that another Bruderer would run into us in the quarry??

Reading my Great-Great Grandfather's autobiography and then seeing the places he described was something very special. I saw my Grandma's brothers in each of the Appenzeller men - the similarity in stance was undeniable. Perhaps heightened because I lost my grandma just last winter, but I felt my family with me in the most peaceful way there. They were proud of me (for what I am not really sure), but I felt of their happiness and love.

So even if Switzerland weren't one of the most beautiful places with the best chocolates and cheese, it would still be dear to my heart because it's part of my history.
My Great Grandparents

Friday, October 4, 2013

Love Locked

I'm back! Did you miss me? I've spent the last 18 days trotting around Austria and Switzerland with my mother and of course I could share endless stories, but I figure I just want to post a few of the moments that aren't caught in the pictures or the journal entries...the pure experiences.
So today we'll start with the love locks. I first noticed them in Salzburg on this pedestrian bridge. As soon as I saw the hundreds of locks on this bridge, I knew it had to be something important. Was it a traveling art piece? A temporary memorial? I didn't know, and I couldn't find any sign to explain it. As I continued through the city I occasionally saw signs in shops or booths offering a lock for sale. My German is so limited, but from the few words I knew, I could piece together that these were Locks of Love.

So here's the experience-I walked across the bridge and handled a few of the locks. I saw names, dates, hearts, etc. Most of the names were boy and girl pairings, but a few seemed like friends or even mother-daughters. My mother's friend commented about how crazy these locks were, but I was basking in their beauty. It struck me that each of these locks represented one single moment where someone (hopefully two people) felt loved. A frozen moment of being somebody cherished. So sappy me, almost started crying because a midst all the sadness, loneliness, hate, and prejudice in the world, here was the hopeful reminder that people are loved. Hundreds of people held a single moment of love on this bridge, and it doesn't even matter if most of these couples never ended up "working" because sometime in their life they felt loved...and that is beautiful.

The locks didn't leave me when I left Salzburg. I continued to find them on a bridge overlooking Neuschwanstein Castle and then a guard fence overlooking a waterfall in Lauterbrunnen. They were everywhere reminding me that love still exists. It even found me in the last five minutes of my film on the airplane. In the flick, it said something about how people will throw the keys to these locks into the river to keep their secret / lock their love forever.

So here's to those who have ever felt a moment of being loved. It is special and sparkling - something we should lock up into our hearts good and tight.

Stay tuned for more European experiences.