Thursday, December 6, 2012

Family in Switzerland.


Waking early, I groggily stumbled around getting ready,putting my things together and left the dog hotel while the stars were still shining. Lot and I strolled down the driveway and then rolled his car down the lane, waiting to turn on the engine until we were out of ear shot from the sleeping dogs as to not cause an unnecessary early morning orchestra of barking. Saying "hasta manana" at the bus stop, my journey to Ecce Homo began. My dauntingly long train route allowed less than five minutes between each connecting  train, and as each of the first two were just a few minutes behind schedule I ran to meet the third leg of my journey just as it pulled away from the station, leaving me stranded in a tiny cold train port for over an hour while waiting for the next train. On the journey of my final train, I starred out the foggy windows and it was clear that I had left the cities of Switzerland and was fully engulfed by the beautiful countryside. Full of gorgeous large houses with countless windows, and picture perfect streams of smoke trailing out of the silver chimneys on top, all clumped in tiny villages and surrounded by green meadows, this is the picture you create in your mind when you think of Switzerland. Departing this last train, I had one final step in transit, a city bus right outside the station where I was the only passenger. Three stops later I arrived at the Ecce Homo bus stop where I looked up to see directly in front of me my final destination, the home my great-grandmother had once lived in. 


Exactly like the pictures I had seen, the beautiful old house is covered in dark wood on the outside, with bright green shutters that frame the white windows perfectly. Feeling bold and confident after such a complicated journey I walked up to the front door, and looked at the door bell with the name "Josef Lounde" and rang it, not entirely certain that anyone would be home. I heard shuffling around from inside and soon enough the door opened and a familiar face that I had not seen in many years looked back at me. I smiled at him and told him who I was, and without a questioning look or hesitation he simply said, "yes, come in" and led me up the stairs. As he turned into the kitchen I heard his wife, Lottie, speak quickly to him in German, what I assume was something along the lines of "who is it?" after he responded to her  she came beaming around the corner to greet me with shock and surprise as she held her arms open for a big welcoming embrace. Realizing as I turned into the kitchen that I had interrupted their lunchtime, I felt terrible, but Lottie didn't even hesitate before quickly setting a place for me and served me up some of her delicious meal as we sat around the table catching up. It had been over ten years since I had seen these relatives, cousins of my grandfather, when they last visited us in the states. They had also gotten to know my parents during a trip that they had taken to Europe almost just as many years ago. My grandpa often sends family photos and updates about the happenings from the states and about what our family is doing each year, so Josef had many questions about updates on the family members. Though he would disagree with me, Josef's English is great, especially considering the fact that he couldn't remember the last time he had to use it to such an extent. While Lottie and I can not communicate directly, since I do not speak any German and her English is limited, we did manage to find other ways to communicate as she pulled out her photo albums from their visits to the states as well as from my parents trip to visit with them. They gave me a tour of the beautiful home they live in, that was once lived in by Josef's mother as well as my great-grandmother. The inside is very modern because as Josef put it, nothing is original but the walls. We discussed my travels as well as the trips they have been on and it became clear to me that all share a great ambition for travel, and they have even visited places that I would not yet be courageous enough to try. 



As the afternoon progressed I started to think about making my way back, not wanting to over stay my welcome, but they had other plans in mind. Down the road about thirty minutes from their home is a very small village called Illgau where my great-grandfather's family, the Burglers, are from. Josef and Lottie offered to take me there so I could visit the church and cemetery full of my ancestors. On this very foggy day we rode up the hill into the village and I toured around inside the cemetery with the two of them, amazed by how many Burglers there were in one place. Even driving along the road, the name of the construction company advertised their work on the roads was Burgler construction, the same name my grandfather's construction company had for so many years. 


Getting back into the car, certain that this wonderful afternoon with my family was complete, Josef asked if I had a schedule for the day, and I told him I simply had to be in Luzern by late that night in order to check into the hostel. Satisfied with that answer he nodded and said our next destination was the town of Brunnen where we would visit the tourist centre so I could learn more about the area. Along the drive and inside the centre they pointed out many significant pieces of Switzerland's history to me, and we watched some informational videos and chatted with the staff there about all the things this region of Switzerland is known for. After the centre, we popped up to their daughter Bernie's house, who I had never had the chance to meet until now,  and had her join us for an afternoon snack in the city before it was time for me to catch my train. Josef took me to the station and I expected to say our farewells at the car park or after I purchased my ticket, but instead he kindly walked with me all the way to the platform, and kept me company while I waited for the train to arrive. When the train pulled in I gave him a hug and thanked him endlessly for a wonderful day, and Josef stood along side the train as I boarded and waved good bye to me as I headed south to Luzern for the night. 

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