Friday, June 27, 2003

2003 June 27--from Prague to Ronchamp and a visit to Notre Dame du Haut:

After spending our first 2 nights of our whirlwind mother/daughter European vacation in (click here for): PRAGUE  ,we were on our way to Ronchamp, France.

June 27:

Once we reached Munich, we switched to the German premium train (the ICE--Inner City Express). We really liked having the private compartment with the table and electrical hook-ups in first class. Angie was able to charge her laptop battery and work a bit on her pictures. Plus a waiter came by with a food cart.
Another view in the first class area of the  ICE train.

I loved seeing the ever changing countryside. The parts of Germany that we saw were a mix of pine and deciduous trees with hills and lots of farms, but we didn't see any castles.

After going through a bit of Austria (where this beautiful lake was),
we went through part of northern Switzerland

Even went through Zurich, but the part we saw of that city wasn't too impressive.

 We continued on to Basil. There we switched trains again (to an intracity French train) and were on our way to Milhouse, France, then on to Belfort on a smaller train. In my research done ahead of time, I read there was no train service to Ronchamp and that Belfort was as close as we could get by train. Then we'ld have to take a bus the other 30 or so miles. So we got off the train in Belfort and started trying to find a bus. Quickly we discovered no one there spoke English! I found a bus stop, but without knowing French and noone knowing English, I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. So I tried hailing a cab, but didn't like the price he wanted to charge us (35 Euro), so we looked for other options. There was a car rental place across the street, but they had no cars for rent. There was a hotel across the street and we considered checking in, but decided to look around a little more. With all our luggage, one of us would stay with the luggage while the other went to find options. There was an "Information" sign, but after about 4 hours we discovered it was pointing the wrong way. I finally just happened upon "information" which was actually a small train depot. After waiting in line about 30 minutes, I noticed Ronchamp came up on the train schedule a few times. Although the worker didn't know English, he was able to print out a schedule of trains going from Belfort to Ronchamp and my stress level dropped considerably! Soon we were on our way to Ronchamp. Hindsight says I should have asked for a schedule to leave Ronchamp, too, but I was so excited that I didn't even think about it.

We reached Ronchamp in about 30 minutes and were deposited in what looked like a rural school bus stop! Why were we determined to go to Ronchamp? Angie had studied the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, designed by Le Corbusier and wanted to see it. Now we were wondering what was he doing building a church there!?  It was completed in 1954, is one of the finest examples of the architecture of Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and one of the most important examples of twentieth-century religious architecture.

We found a road that led down a hill and into the small town.

It was late in the afternoon by now, so we didn't think we'ld have time to get up to the church, but didn't really know what we were going to do until a man came up and asked us if we were looking for accommodations (in French and a lot of hand gesturing). Turned out that at the bottom of the street that led up to the church was a newly opened bed and breakfast. So we jumped at the oppurtunity to get a room and store our luggage. Turned out we were the only ones there that night. But for 40 Euro and free rolls and jelly and drinks for breakfast, that was a good deal.

We did head out after dropping off our luggage and wandered around the cute little town.

Looks like there would have been lots to see here if we knew French!

This church was across from our B and B and we actually enjoyed hearing the bells toll.

We even found a really nice little restaurant, Della Fabbrica Ristorante, and had prucitto carbonara, spaghetti and wine---a very good dinner.

When we got back to the B and B, we noticed lots of cars going up towards the church.  I had read that it closed in early evening so was surprised to see so many cars going that way.   We decided to walk on up there and see what was going on. That was quite a hike!

It was on the top of a mountain!  Looking down on our way up.
Even came across an old mine on our way up. 
The walk was only about a mile, but the average 7.5% ascent made for quite a hike for an out of shape old lady like myself.  I see now why I had read that many people take a cab ride up there.  Here's Angie leaving me in her dust.
We finally reached the top and were let in along with all the other people.

 The windows are quite unique.  The openings slant towards their centers at varying degrees, thus letting in light at different angles. The glass is also set at alternating depths. This glass is sometimes clear, but is often decorated with small pieces of stained glass in typical Corbusier colors: red, green, and yellow. These stained pieces radiate like rubies, emeralds, and amethysts, and act as the jewels of the already complex wall.

Because it is a pilgrimage chapel, there are few people worshipping at most times. But on special feast days, large crowds will attend. To accommodate them, Le Corbusier built an outside altar and pulpit, so the large crowds can sit or stand on a vast field on the top of the hill.  I don't know what "feast day" it was when we were there, but one of those outdoor masses was going on then.

I guess boys will be boys everywhere!  Here were a couple of them playing with their mass candles.

The structure is made mostly of concrete and is comparatively small, enclosed by thick walls, with the upturned roof supported on columns embedded within the walls, like a sail billowing in the windy currents on the hill top. The Christian Church sees itself as the ship of God.

We turned out to be interesting to a bunch of kids! They started following us around saying, "Madame, photographie!"  This was just a fraction of our following!

After awhile, we decided we better get out of there before the parents come to find out why all their kids were following us!

We walked back down the road to our eerily empty B and B.   But managed to sleep well.  It was a short stay here, but we did pack quite a bit into it!

Now---to find our way to Rome---

1 comment:

  1. Haha! I remember bawling like a baby when we left Prague; I was leaving Tamer behind forever. I had the biggest crush on him...why did I have to have a stupid boyfriend in the US? Oh, and I also realized that I had left my Mucha Print and that other painting on the train of the 200 Koruna. Dang it!!!