Have I said that I love, love old towns? Especially ones with cobbled or stoned streets, painted walls and architectural quirks. That and the possibility of discovering a hidden bit of history, captivates me.
This past week I’ve been to the old towns of Aarau and Zurich. Aarau is known for its beautifully painted eaves. The undersides of the extended overhangings make for exceptional canvasses. Many date from the 16th century: predominately floral motifs, and a few with figures. I got a crick in my neck wandering around with my head to the sky. At some point I had to leave off, because I wanted to see the Swiss Pop Art and Back to Paradise exhibitions at the Aargauer Kunsthaus. The Swiss art exhibition assembled 270 paintings, works on paper, sculptures, films and objects by 50 artists: clothing, food, soup cans, posters…fantastic stuff. In 2010-12, I used some of Nolde’s images during my exploration of Grenada’s carnival icon, the ShortKnee, which focuses on substituting ShortKnees in other artists’ works featuring pierrot figures. So I was thrilled to see works by Emil Nolde in the Back to Paradise exhibition, and other artists in this Expressionism collection. Sorry, no phototaking was allowed, but here are some pages from the Back to Paradise catalogue.
The patinaed spires (green: Fraumünster red: Grossmunster, a Romanesque-style Protestant church built in 1100), painted towers and the orange tile roofs of Zurich’s old town enchanted me. Inside the Fraumünster, a former nunnery now Protestant Reformed church, I stood in awe of the 6 glass windows (5 long and 1 rosette) created by Marc Chagall in the 1970s. Each of Chagall’s long windows has a dominant colour and its own story.
- Prophets, depicting Elijah’s ascent to heaven
- Jacob, displaying his combat, and dreams of heaven
- Christ, illustrating various scenes of Christ’s life
- Zion, showing an angel trumpeting the end of the world
- Law, with Moses looking down upon the suffering of his people
Apparently during a riot in the town, the windows were damaged. Chagall himself oversaw the renovations. The Chagall window images are from the catalogue, since I did not take photos, noting (i) signs saying no photos and (ii) persons taking photos anyway. Sigh. Couldn’t disobey while standing in a church, now, could I? NB: The Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance lists the Fraumünster as a Class A object of national importance.
From my vantage point next to another church with a fantastic clock tower, I looked down on the fairytale town. Then, the bells began to chime, clang, make a lot of noise which reverberated (can’t use a smaller word here) in my skull, and turned my brain to mush. Moving swiftly along, I ended up on a plateau, not quite sure where, but there was a small grove of lime trees—not of the citrus variety—but of the Talia genus, aka linden trees, with their beautiful heart-shaped leaves.
Before Aarau and Zurich, there was Domodossola. As in Italy. After my mask-carving workshop, we detoured to Italy. It was a 6-minute decision: we arrived at the Goppenstein station for the return train to Gstaad. At the station, the departures board showed a train shortly leaving for Italy: 6 minutes, well less than, to decide. Tickets bought— 14 CHF one way—I was on my way to Domodossola, at the foot of the Italian Alps, northern Italy. Domodossola, population just over 18,000 is known for its famous Saturday markets for fresh produce and almost everything you could want, at far better prices than in Switzerland. According to the train steward, thousands of Swiss cross the border every weekend, overrunning the relatively sleepy town. Great for business!
I had focaccia and expresso for breakfast, but passed on the gelato (much to the dismay of my tastebuds!) Walking Domodossola’s old town was a delight. Piazzas, small markets, winding streets and alleys, cobble stones, fountains with and without statues, it was all pretty wonderful. Iron sculptures mark the boundaries of the old town and more importantly the pedestrian zone. There was even a free wifi zone, but my phone would not cooperate. What to do?
One month left of my stay in Switzerland. So much to do and see and so little time left to do it all!
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.
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- USD $50 support: (acid free mixed media paper, 6×8 inches.) Still available #27
- USD $100 support: (acid free mixed media paper 9×12 inches.) Still available #16
- USD $200 support: (handmade South Indian paper A4.) Still available #5
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