Four days ago, I went to the devils’ mountain. I crossed the Peak Walk, the first suspension bridge worldwide that connects two peaks, and walked on a bed of eternal ice, part of the Glacier 3000 experience in the Diablerets massif of the Bernese Alps.
I stood midway on the silence of the glacier, mountains all around, and the expanse of snow before me like a canvas waiting for the first paint stroke, and I was truly humbled… slightly blinded by the sun, but humbled.
The bridge is 351 feet long, and 2.6 feet wide and is 9,800 feet above sea level. I did not look down as I walked across, preferring to focus on the Swiss flag planted on the peak ahead of me. Having accomplished that, I then focused on the return journey, and ticked this off my bucket list. I have a heights phobia, so accomplishing this feat was a big deal for me.
Two days later I got off at the post office, the bus stop terminal in the village of Les Diablerets, to see the village named for the devil, and to photograph buildings — from the tourism office to private dwellings and businesses — which had devil motifs on them.
The tourism officer on duty told me that in the Middle Ages, the rock wall of the mountain massif was regarded as a dangerous and cursed place where the devil and his demons played at skittles, and where the dead and abandoned roamed the hills. This terrorised the villagers, who constantly prayed for protection for themselves and their cows. The place Les Diablerets derives from the French for devil, ‘le Diable,’ or ‘jab’ in our lexicon, and the 1881 church there is called ‘le Chapelle Anglaise des Diablerets,’ the English Chapel of the Devils. Hmmm.
I also visited the neighbouring village of Vers L’Eglisé — the 13th century historical centre of the area — to see an exhibition of Mongolian photographs at the Musee des Ormonts. I opted for the half hour walk to the village on the road than ran along the river, and through the woods. The half an hour stretched to almost forty minutes, when I was sure I was lost or on my way to being lost…and wondering, as I was the only person on the road, if a big bad wolf would spring from behind a tree. And me with no basket, just a non-Grenadian banana for protection. Fortunately, I saw a sign — the only sign on that road — assuring me that I was not lost.
At Vers L’Eglisé the train depot was the third building I saw, to my relief, and I bought my return ticket at once. The village is small and rustic. The beautiful church, circa 1396, with shingled roof absolutely charmed me; the interior was like the others I’d been to: simple, clean lines, and comfortable. The museum was also charm itself: three display floors including an attic cinema for 14 persons, and motion sensor display and room lighting that would be the envy of a larger museum. One of the installations was a full-size Mongolian Yurt, complete with furnishings. About an hour away, and more than 2,000 metres up the mountain at Rochers-de-Naye, there are authentic yurt-accomodations, all to showcase the two countries’ bi-lateral relations.
This visit to the Les Diablerets brought to mind similar contexts at home.
- Mountain experience: secured environments with maintained facilities for the tourist and the adventure-seeker would add to our mountain experiences
- Chinese pagodas: precedent in other countries where Chinese-inspired (and other ethnic) lodging and gardens have been built to add to the local tourism offering
- Museum: does not have to be large, or just one. The American Alliance of Museums has information on small museums. Apparently, there are more than 900 museums in Switzerland — one museum per 7500 inhabitants — many of which are small museums dedicated to the local history of villages. By my calculation, Grenada could have 14 small museums across the state!
- Jabs: the 2011 consternation of the carnival theme of ‘Home of 100,000 Jabs’ is in sharp contrast to a village named after the devil, a theme/history/folklore on which the area’s tourism thrives, separate from its religious belief.
Back in my studio, I looked up at the mountains, which are again snow-covered, and thought, I conquered my fear of heights that day on the devils’ mountain; I can conquer just about anything now.
Please join me on this journey, and receive at the end, an original made-in-Switzerland-by me artwork of your very own. Of course, along the way, you get to follow my blog (online or via email), and see progress reports. Visit my original blogpost with a Paypal link — and help yourself to an original painting made-in-Switzerland-by-me sent to you at the end of my residency. Thank you.
- USD $50 support: (acid free mixed media paper, 6×8 inches.) Still available #27
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