Escaping to sanctuary in the Swiss Alps
BY CHRIS JOHNSON
Let’s face it. You’ve seen one church you’ve seen them all.
Every European city is rightly proud of its cathedral, but after Notre Dame what’s left to impress?
Well… St Peter’s Basilica, Westminster Abbey, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial for starters.
Then there’s Asia. Magnificent temples everywhere.
It seems history is full of worshiping people, cities and countries who have gone to great lengths to out-do their neighbours when it comes to building their religious edifices.
A pub crawl could feasibly quite easily turn into a holy shrine crawl if you let tour guides have their way.
Which is one reason why I shun guided tours and opt for the create-your-own-adventure holiday – mistakes and all.
It is also why, after a week-and-a-half soaking up the delights of Italy (cathedrals included), a getaway in the Swiss Alps was the perfect finale to delightful vacation.
And stumbling across this little chapel on a mountainside in Belalp did more to feed my soul than all the monks of Europe ever could.
I didn’t go inside. I’m not sure what denomination it is, if any. I don’t even know if it was a functioning church or a converted B&B. It is surely used as a wedding chapel.
But it looked as magnificent as the Duomo of Florence.
Arriving in the car-free village of Belalp by cable car from Blatten, a short walk to my Hotel Belalp destination and the chapel is unmissable. It is literally in the hotel’s backyard.
After a day’s hiking the mountain trails, surrounded by breath-takingly stunning views of snow-capped landscape and the jaw-dropping Aletsch Glacier, the chapel made for a welcoming landmark on the return. Or as Quasimodo might have said – sanctuary.
Switzerland enjoyed an unusual heatwave in its summer this year (although the Swiss don’t really know what a heatwave is), and while there was plenty of snow to be seen, it could be done in t-shirts and shorts.
In winter, Belalp is a ski resort. In summer it is just as seductive.
With the imposing Matterhorn standing tall in the distance in front of us and this cute little chapel perched on the doorstep directly behind, it was eye candy everywhere I looked.
Perhaps it was the friendly goats who came to greet us – definitely it was the scenery – but I couldn’t help thinking that this really is the only way to have an uplifting experience at church.