VIEWS FROM THE HIGHEST
San Galo is the capital of the canton of the same name and a major religious and university centre. It is very close to Lake Constance, which actually bathes the territories of three countries: Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Returning to the city of Saint Gallen, we must walk a little through its streets to gain some height, since the city is located on a fairly flat land in the valley formed by the Steinach River (which flows into the vicinity of the Bodensee or Lake Constance) and the narrow Sitter River, which runs protected through the city.
Obviously, we found a large city, clean, orderly and quite flat, although with slight elevations, but not enough to have a beautiful view from above. But you don´t have to worry because behind the Benedictine Abbey and its Cathedral, there is a very steep hill from where you can admire, with a little more perspective, part of this city full of different aspects: the religious, the university, the artistic, the natural.
Arriving at the imposing Cathedral (of course, dedicated to Saint Gallen) we skirt the building in the opposite direction to the bell and clock towers; Turning to the left, we find the square with a modern stone fountain dedicated to the saint, and from there you can already see the hill where the mills used to be, taking advantage of the strength of the Sitter River, which still descends heavily today in the rainiest season.
We should walk a little further to the Mühlegg Talstation funicular station, there we go up to the Mühlegg stop, and when we get out, we walk a little to the right. From that place we can discover a beautiful neighbourhood with spectacular views, yes, it is necessary to get lost among the mansions and buildings to seek the depth of the horizon.
TYPICAL DISHES FROM THE FLOOR
The gastronomy of St. Gallen is quite varied due to its proximity to Austria and Germany, without forgetting that St. Gallen is surrounded by fields full of fruit trees, pastures with cows and of course, being in Switzerland there are two products that are ubiquitous; it is cheeses and sweets that incorporate chocolate, either as the main ingredient or as a good complement.
On the other hand, here in the historic centre of the city there is an extended tradition that is to eat in traditional pubs that are usually found on the first floor of buildings, or rather, on the first floor of some historic buildings. It should be remembered that some of them are more than five hundred years old. This type of establishment is called “Erststock-Beizli”.
In these small restaurants you can taste typical and traditional dishes of the region, in addition to enjoying the picturesque pubs in the historic centre closest to the monastic space of the Abbey of Saint Gallen.
These restaurants that bear this characteristic name are actually called first floor taverns, no more, no less, simple and concrete.
Here we can enjoy a real St. Galler Bratwurst, or a good selection of the different cheeses from the region near the Appenzeller. Being a region marked by Lake Constance and the nearby Rhine River, you can also taste some of the Rhine Valley wines.
And we cannot miss the opportunity to taste some of the regional sweets that have apples as their main ingredient, from the extensive apple orchards nearby. Sometimes they also include chocolate and other times they don´t. Although this product came from America, the Swiss, everyone knows, have become real experts.
The most suitable place for these purchases in St. Gallen is, without a doubt, the historic centre, which also has the advantage of being pedestrianized and invites us to walk around, visit its shops, whether they are clothes, traditional dresses, watches and jewellery, or simply books or household items. Here we must mention the difficulty in finding the typical souvenir or souvenir so common in other places. Postcards and Swiss Army Knives, yes, it´s easy, but you must look…
Although, the fact that the city centre is marked by the abbey complex, the merchants of other times and the wealthier families settled in this part of the city that rose slightly from a small valley (where the market was located, taking advantage of an extension) even the ecclesiastical part, much higher.
In the Middle Ages and in the Modern Age (after the discovery of America) many of the buildings that we can admire today were built, and part of the stores that currently offer us their products. Our trip can start by climbing up the Marktgasse and on our walk we can stroll through some of the favourite streets of locals and foreigners.
Arriving at the intersection with the square of the bears on the right, we find the Mulergasse, usually decorated with flags, advertisements or flowers, depending on the time or season of the year... This street is one of the favourite streets of locals, where you will look for, for example, the famous cafeteria Sprüngli.
However, if we walk to the left of Bear Square, we see Spisergasse, another favourite place to go for a walk, get your hair done, buy fashion or beauty items, or drink a good wine from the region.
A PHOTO TOGETHER WITH A CHARACTER WITH ADVANCED IDEAS AND NEW THOUGHTS
There are cities where it is difficult to choose a place to immortalize yourself, to take a photo that represents the place or is recognizable. Saint Gallen is certainly one of them, but the photo we have to take (in addition to the cathedral) is undoubtedly the sculpture of the great Swiss humanist Joachim von Watt or Vadian, responsible for introducing and affirming the reform in the city and region.
Vadian was born in San Gallen into a powerful family of linen merchants, the great product of those centuries and a source of regional wealth. After completing his first studies in the city itself, he soon went to study in Vienna. There, in addition to changing his name to Latin as was fashionable among humanists of the time, he completed his training as an art teacher, was a writer and later studied medicine. Returning to his hometown, he became a doctor in the city and ended up holding a position on the council, and later, he became mayor.
In addition to advanced ideas and new thinking, he confronted the Catholic Church and imposed his iron will to develop the reform, drawing on and applying the knowledge and theories of his friend Ulrich Zwingli, the great Swiss theologian and reformer who developed the reform in Zurich.
The monument is located on Marktgasse Street, on a pedestal, where we can see that he is dressed in the typical clothes and hat of important people of the 16th century.
The monument is really impressive for the pose of the character and its great realism. Also, it looks like something insignificant, but it is impressive that the sculpture is looking towards the Abbey and the Catholic Cathedral, which are at the end of the street. It´s like an affront lasting over time.
In short, this monument is well worth a photo.
MONUMENTS THAT WILL MAKE US LOOK UP
Often, when we visit a new city, we focus on the most famous monuments and perhaps miss other interesting things. Here in St. Gallen, we must open our eyes wide and look everywhere, not just forward, but also up.
In the city we have several "monuments" that few people stop to admire, because for that you have to look at the top of the buildings to discover them, and that hardly go unnoticed: we are talking about the balconies.
In the streets of the historic centre, those where, thanks to UNESCO, only pedestrians can walk, we find an infinity of old buildings adorned with balconies and windows that protrude from the facade, here they are known as "Erker".
In fact, there are only 111 rehabilitated, the others are still in process. They are windows with balconies, made of stone or wood, with valuable carvings and paintings. People love them so much and are so cared for by the inhabitants that they even have names of animals, such as the "Camel" or "Pelican" or "Swan" viewpoint. We also find funny figures that show the tongue, or the one that shows the bust of a black woman, and we can also recognize tropical fruits and plants from other places.
The great families of merchants and burghers, who, thanks to commerce, experienced at first hand or through the mouth of others the wonders of the places where silk, pepper or paper came from, decided to demonstrate their wealth and the exoticism of their goods to demonstrate that they were luckier and richer than anyone else in the city. In them we can see different details: carved fruit baskets, mythological water creatures, or even references to the four continents of the Earth. The more ornate and exuberant their "erkers" were, the more they declared their power and how much they knew the world. The unmistakable message was, "I´m richer and more educated than you are."
FIND THE RED CAR IN THE RED SQUARE
Whenever you talk about Red Square, you think, of course, about Moscow, but few people know where the red square of St. Gallen. To get there, you have to go from the monumental area and main focus of the city (the Abbey and the Cathedral) to the street where the old wall protecting the Catholic area ran.
As the main track, we can leave the square dedicated to the Saint (Gallusplatz), we reach the Garden Streetat (Gartenstrasse) and there we suddenly begin to see everything in an intense red colour.
We will be catapulted into a kind of huge open-air room, but everything is red, from the floor to the furniture. It is the Stadtlounge, a lounge or "lounge" recreated in the financial and business district around Reiffeisenplatz. It is a creation of the year 2011 that is signed by the artist Pipilotti Rist and the architect Carlos Martínez. One of the main ideas was to integrate the financial district into the middle of city life, or rather the opposite.
The red floor is made of Tartan (the rubber used on athletics tracks) and covers the square and adjacent streets. There are seats, sofas, little tables, all red, of course, except for the big hanging lamps like clouds, which are obviously white.
You have to find a Porsche, which even has a ticket on the windshield!
Urban legend tells that someone parked there in the middle without caring and in a forbidden area.
But no one came to claim the car, so it was covered with the same Tartan material as the floor like a fine... All kidding aside, people come to this urban lounge to relax. There are groups of young people listening to music, others playing cards and children jumping from one sofa to another. A surreal place that invites us to enjoy it.
THE DETAIL THAT FEW KNOW ABOUT THE MOST STIKING MONUMENT IN THE CITY
Everyone knows that one of the great beautiful, impressive and unmissable monuments is the cathedral dedicated to the Irish monk who arrived in the city in the 7th century called Gallus, today known as Saint Gallen, or Sankt Gallen, in the German language.
The cathedral temple is part of the set of buildings of the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in the year 747 reaching its peak between the 9th and 11th centuries.
The first buildings of the Romanesque church and monastery were not preserved, although we can admire a single vestige; the crypt with the tombs of the last abbots and bishops. The current cathedral and monastery are Baroque in style and were completed in 1767. The project is the work of architects Peter Thumb and Johann Michel Beer. Mainly Thumb, he designed most of the current cathedral as a capitular church, mostly following the lines of the library room; on the other hand, the interior decoration was carried out by the main artists of the time.
To discover a unique piece that perhaps only the townspeople will instantly recognize, and which is, in a way, a relic and object of veneration, we must enter the cathedral. We will have to go through the naves towards the high altar, and once in the apse or chevet, on the right side, we will look at the upper part of the walls until discovering a simple bell, somewhat crude and dark, suspended from the wall. You can even guess the figure of a monk with an animal, it is nothing more and nothing less than the Gallusgloke, the oldest preserved bell in Switzerland and which also dates from the 7th century, contemporary of the patron saint, Gallo. Obviously in our search we will not fail to admire the beautiful German Baroque decoration that decorates the temple.
WALK BETWEEN TWO RELIGIONS
This city of Saint Gallen has a particularity, that despite having one of the Benedictine monasteries and an impressive cathedral, it was always a city where the Reformation triumphed over the Catholic Church, and this meant a constant religious “struggle” reaching even to influence the urbanism.
The Reformation meant many changes at various levels, so the walk we propose is based on the layout of the wall built by the Catholic monks and bishops of Saint Gallen to separate and delimit the Protestant area from the Catholic. If we look closely at the map of the historic centre of the city, the perimeter of this wall is perfectly recognizable.
In their efforts to prevent people from attending the Reformation service, Catholic priests even offered beer and food to those who attended their celebrations.
Our tour starts at the intersection of Markplatz and Marktgasse streets and we pass by leaving the buildings on our left. First, we will see the market for rural products that local producers bring to the city, organic and traditional. Continuing our walk between the trees and the facades, we can see how the street continues along the Oberer Graben, leaving the historic centre always on our left.
The current name of this street means neither more nor less than "high ditch"...
On our tour, we will reach another of the city´s attractions, such as the Textile Museum of Saint Gallen, one of the most important and powerful industries that have given recognition and economic power to the city over the centuries. We continue until we reach Wallstrasse, which passes through the back of the Abbey and connects with Moosbruggstrasse, a street nowadays filled with gardens, parks, mansions and even a work of modern architecture by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Always following the street layout, we will return to the starting point.
A BREAK IN THE MUNICIPAL PARK
In the city of St. Gallen there are several places or green spaces where you can decide to take a moment to rest and reflect on everything and nothing, a moment for yourself where you can spend some time without regrets or regrets.
We suggest you take a break like a local, at one of the most visited and beloved parks by the inhabitants of St. Gallen: the Kantonsschulpark or the Kantipark, as they are affectionately called here. It can be easily reached from the City Theatre, from the Museum or from the Abbey, about five minutes walk away.
It is a pleasant, uncluttered park, but with wooded areas, with the city´s Cantonal School as its present and important building. This type of public school managed by the regional government (cantonal) is very common in Switzerland, with high educational quality and offering a large number of studies and courses, including some in languages for foreigners. It should be remembered that compulsory basic education is free and in general it is very important for the Swiss. Thanks to Johann H. Pestalozzi and his commitment and dedication, since 1830 in Switzerland illiteracy has been almost completely eradicated, until today.
All kinds of people appear throughout the Kantipark throughout the day. From families with children to run and play, to teenagers who leave the cantonal school to rest, friends who get together to eat something lying on the grass, or groups of athletes to perform a series of exercises in the open air. Even an executive lounging under a tree or sitting in one of the metal chairs for common use. And, of course, you also see some tourist who decided to stop on the way and take a “break and watch life go by”.
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