Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Memory is iconic: of nerds and travel.

Don't expect a disquisition. I have actually studied Byzantine art and traveled in the eastern Mediterranean seeking out the tiny remnant mosaic clad churches of that era. I could bore you to death with art history. I know nothing about stained glass, and likely won't ever. I took these pictures on Monday, February 20 at the marvellous Cathedral in Basel. I'm not even sure why it is called the Münster (as are several other glorious Central European cathedrals including the one of the city of Münster with that name as well: I was going to do some scholarly research and tell you why, but this blog is really not about history per se: it's about color, perhaps. Touristing). Like all Blogs, it's about the blogger. And you, the reader. My blogs are usually about flowers and plants. And color (since flowers and plants are all about color). Like flowers, stained glass fits into the category of "something everyone enjoys looking at but not necessarily knowing a whole lot about"...unless you are a plant nerd, or stained glass nerd...(I plead yes to the first, no to the second).

I just spent two weeks traveling through Germany, Switzerland and a slice of France, accruing the sort of fragmented memories that one does: in this case, the incredible intense learning and camaraderie of the Fifth International Perennial Plant Conference in Grünberg, my ostensible reason for going. That really merits its own blog. Thence we traveled to Basel, then to the Vaud Alps (with touchstone visits to Montreux and Gruyere going and coming: each worth another few blogs) where we spent four days in a ski resort near Villars in high season: more blogs! Summon towering snowy peaks out your window, swathed with lavender and peach sunset light! Summon up images of nearly two feet of snow settling on Chalets overnight. Back in Basel, we trammed all over the old town for several days, and hung out on our lofty perch at a childhood friends in Munchenstein. Did I mention a luminous day in Alsace? All blogworthy, all comprising iconic panels that illuminate our memories from a two week jaunt.

Of course, who wants to go to Central Europe in February? I usually time trips when I can to high flower season (here it would be the summer months in the Alps) when costs are astronomical and travel even more hectic. Lufthansa and every other direct airline offers ridiculous fares this time of year (I once flew my family of four for under $1000 round trip for all of us to England). I must remember when I can to scarf up these offers and just go: late winter or late fall, either way, Europe is worth it if only to visit cathedrals and stroll twisty, cobblestone backways (they are a Gasse, if you will forgive a feeble pun).

And here is the grand Münster from a distance, from a nearby gasse: giant, pink sandstone (remimniscent of Canyonlands) and Romanesque. Erasmus of Rotterdam is buried in it (I discovered after we visited and I was researching it). There are many things to see and do in Basel, and this is certainly a highlight...

I have sketched very briefly two weeks of my life: I have not recounted missing a train but having the Director of a Botanic Garden in Mannheim, drive us a hundred miles or more to catch it later...nor the hundreds of exotic plants I saw in various cities including huge and very happy palm trees here and there in Germany and Switzerland both. It does not include the myriad meals, some sumptuous, a few not so fancy, nor the strolls nor the bric-a-brac of diurnal observations of daily life that constitute living for all of us. Our daily routine becomes a blur: on trips these moments flash prismatically, with stained glass precision and clarity. the whole trip was colored for me by reading The Anthropology of Turquoise: a strange, flawed but wonderful book by Ellen Muloy that touched on many suchlike themes. And of course, can I gloss over the time spent at the elegant home with my friend of 55 years , Lesley Andrew and his wife Mariko Hirano? Continuing one of the deepest, longest term and most rewarding relationships of my life. Would I could capture the trip in my own cathedral of memory, awarding each glimpse, each day, each memory a glowing panel of vibrant color. Or perhaps that is the secret of such trips? We do. We do.


  1. Münster is a German word for cathedral or priory. As usual, many things are improved by your descriptions.

  2. Thank you for the elucidation (albeit it did make me feel stupid in extremis). Your final clause eased the pain a bit! I shall stet my ignorance!

  3. Thanks for sharing all these different types of beauty!


Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive