Friday, December 30, 2011

Bells Ring! Are You Listenin'?

Alps.  Villages.  Cows.  Churches.  Bells.  Ski lifts.  Switzerland!

I love the sound of bells--from the least to the greatest.  On a trip to Switzerland, I the "bell experience" of a lifetime. 

The preferred mode of transportation on this particular trip to Switzerland was by train.  High speed trains zipped us through the Alps (literally) from Italy;  took us around lakes;  to the modern cities;  through picturesque countryside;  and eventually to the end of the train line in the high mountain village of Engleberg.  
Alighting from the gentle old train that had crawled its way up the slopes to Engleberg, we were greeted by a tranquil mountain village complete with steep cobblestone streets, a village market, the Abbey church, and most incredibly the cacophony of bells.                                                  

It was nearing the noon hour and the grand bells of the Abbey Church were calling the monks to noon prayer.  These great bells were only the accompaniment to a continuous overlay of the sound of various other bells--those that tinkled, those that clonked, those that chimed, and those that thwacked.  These were the bells hung around the necks of the local livestock from frisky goats to brown-eyed Swiss cows.  What a
glorious cacophony! 

Coming from Portland, Oregon we had specifically chosen to visit the village of Engleberg because of its relation to a small Oregon village called Mt. Angel.  You see, a hundred years earlier, a group of monks from the Engleberg Abbey had left their Swiss mountain retreat to found a new Abbey in the United States.  The monks chose the picturesque Willamette Valley for their new home.  On the highest spot they could find in this valley, they built their abbey.  Mt. Angel in St. Benedict, Oregon doesn't reside in the mountains --although majestic Mt. Hood can be seen from "the hill" as the abbey's home is called--but is among majestic Douglas fir stands.  Panoramic of the Mt Angel Abbey Chappel. Mt Angel Oregon

Possibly these trees reminded those first monks of their Swiss home.  Anyway, we decided to visit the home of the founders of Mt. Angel--the Abbey of Engleberg (in English Mt. Angel).
On our second day in this idyllic setting, it was decided that a trip up the slopes of the local Mt. Titlis via a ski lift was in order.  Being summer, the alpine wildflowers were in full bloom and the views of the village from above were said to be breathtaking.

Patiently waiting my turn to grab a seat on the lift as the chairs rounded the lift pick-up area, I noticed that things were getting hazy.  By the time, I was safely seated on the lift, a cloud had surrounded the lift hut.  As the chair swung out over the lip of the hut, suddenly everything was obscured by the cloud.  No other chairs on the lift could be seen in front or behind.  The lift hut was gone.  The chalets has disappeared.  The cows and goats were no longer there.  And amazingly the majestic steeple and bell tower of the Abbey Church was obscured.

Suddenly it was also nearly shockingly quiet!  With feet dangling over an abyss only imagined, and everything in sight a dull gray, I became aware of the sense of sound.  And what a glory it was.

Bells, bells, and more bells!  First a melodious tinkle--a goat in a pasture below?  A deep clonk--a brown Swiss cow wandering about in the fog?  A gentle chime--was that a wind chime on a chalet?  A thudding thwack--another brown-eyed long-lashed cow?   and then the insistent pealing of a low booming bell--calling the monks to Vespers?  A more awesome cacophony I have never heard since!

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