Favorite vacation, eh? That's the question this week.
Summertime is, of course, the time for vacations many places in the world. In the U.S., we don't really close down for the month of August...which seems to be the pattern in much of Europe.
Of course, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere tend to think of summer as vacation time...which is, of course, winter in the southern hemisphere.
Anyway, to my favorite vacation memory. While we have had many vacations as a two-some, then three-some, then four-some, and with our children marrying, six-somes, my favorite vacation memory is when all five of us visited Switzerland. Why five? Well, as of that year our daughter had yet to meet the man who became her husband.
It was the year 2000. An auspicious year to be sure. Remember the fuss about Y2K? No? Well, you can look it up. Understandably, decadal years are significant to we humans who are born time-keepers. One way the decade is marked is that every ten years, the village of Oberammergau performs the Passion Play. The legend has it that in the 1600s when the bubonic plague was raging, the village leaders prayed and promised that, should they be spared, they would forever after tell the story of Jesus and his life. Thus was born the Passion Play.
Now, we didn't go to Switzerland just to see the Passion Play. No, we went to Switzerland because the family name is WENGER. In fact, one town we visited was Wengen, from whence Wengers wandered. (Sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration.) So, we were returning to our roots.
The trip took us to lovely places around parts of Germany and Switzerland--we sailed along the Rhine; we visited a Mennonite community (our family heritage is Anabaptist); we went to the cathedral in Worms where Luther delivered his famous "Here I take my stand" speech; we visited the Black Forest; we hiked to Wasserfalls--a 500 meter water falls;we saw places where Taufers* worshipped; we also saw hidey-holes where persecuted Anabaptists hid; and we went to Wengen which is "up the hill" from Interlaken.
Wengen is at the base of the Jungfrau, a towering mountain of some 4,158 meters (13,642). The mountain is a PRESENCE. It was everywhere--looming over all. One morning we got up at 5:30 a.m. to watch the sunrise which touched the mountain face with gold. We rode a cog train up the Jungfrau, a one and a half hour ride at a 25 degree angle. All around we could see deep blue sky. The altitude made walking around quite arduous.
As the tour was planned, the highlight was the visit to Oberammergau. In 2000 the Passion Play was a revised version. Over time, the play had been criticized for being strongly anti-Semitic. So, this version had addressed those content concerns. As the play was a day long (seriously) and featured lots of singing as well as dramatic scenes, it was something of a tour de force.
I can't say that our family enjoyed this tour "highlight." We had a different event as our highlight. One of the charming things we noticed was the great number of various festivals. One of the little towns we passed through just happened to be having a parade. So we watched as people in local costumes marched by. On another day, when with a free day we traveled to Lucerne. And once again we encountered a festival parade.
So, our highlight event was the night we went to a Swiss folk festival--musicians playing accordions and a home-made bass with a single string were the first entertainers to come. Singers then entered, singing yodeling duets. Next eight dancers did several Swiss folk dances, followed by one man playing the alpenhorn. Suddenly we heard a clanging sound, unidentified until seven young men came into view, each carrying and clanging a large (make that HUGE) cowbell. They played these cowbells by rocking back and forth rhythmically. Quite a sight, and most humorous.
Then there was time for audience participation. One of the events was playing, or attempting to play, the alpenhorn. AND our son won! He was the only one who actually got the alpenhorn to sound--after which our daughter yelled out "RICOLA."
The ingredients for this most memorable vacation--the whole family, breathtakingly beautiful scenery, dashes of history about our family origin, local entertainment!
Taufers--this was the name given to the early Anabaptists, who preached and practiced adult baptism. Taufen is the German word for baptize, so the people who practiced that were known as Taufers.
Come to think of it, there is enough material here for a separate blog.