Elna in Europe – Firenze

copyright Elna SchutzMy third stop in Italy was going to be beautiful Lake Como, I admit in part because it’s been the filming location for several beautiful scenes, including the wedding in Star Wars Episode II.
That bucket list wish will have to wait for next time (sigh, I hope). I’d loved the buzz of Venice and Rome so much that I changed my plans last minute and got on a train to Florence instead.

copyright Elna SchutzThe Tuscan home of food, architecture and art rings true to its reputation with countless rustic restaurants, amazing galleries and the famous cathedral’s red Duomo. Combining the first and the last, I took to sitting in front of the unusual pink, white and green church at night, munching on a Sicilian cannoli (my number one recommended Italian dessert. I’m serious, go find one!)

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For my fill of Florentine art, it had to be David. We’ve all seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece a dozen times, and there are several replicas around the city, so you may be surprised how much the original manages to enthral. You walk up to the confident, strong warrior the postcards always show, but circle around to face him and David’s expression is one of worry and fear much more fitting for a young man facing a giant. Beautiful.

Never content with the tourist offering, I trekked across the city for lunch at a local marketplace. What a find, with its shouting locals offering truffles and cow’s heads, just the way you’d expect from Tuscany. At the little restaurant inside you sit down beside whoever else is wolfing down some of today’s dishes, as the usual big jug of wine gets passed around. How the owners always know how many glasses to charge you, I have no idea.

copyright Elna Schutz

copyright Elna Schutzcopyright Elna Schutz

I sit with a British couple that has long since taken the plunge and bought a house here. They try to decide which gelato place to recommend and argue in that typical Italian way – expressive but never really angry. I have no problem seeing how one could want to start a life here.

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I leave Italy with a bucket load of photos and even more memories of places and moments I shared with no one but loved even more for it perhaps. My head is heavy with the thought that the specific magic of a trip can never quite be expressed and I’m alright with that.

*copyright Elna Schütz 2014*

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Elna in Europe – L’Abri

copyright Elna Schutz 2014

I knew the Alps were pretty, but my gosh, I didn’t expect to tumble into that picture you see on milk chocolate wrappers. I’m pretty sure I spent the entire steep bus ride up to the tiny village of Huemoz with my mouth open, cartoon style. My first thought was wondering why people weren’t standing outside staring?

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Once I got over it (just a little), I arrived at a scattering of Swiss-style chalets that make up L’Abri. Founded by the theologians Edith and Francis Schaeffer almost 60 years ago this Christian community has long been a meeting place for all kinds of people to live, work and study together. There’s the American kid fresh out of college coming for a semester to try to figure himself out next to the PhD researcher spending a couple of weeks wanting to relate her work to biblical ideas. There are devout believers, convinced atheists and philosophers.

The dinner conversations were fascinating to put it mildly.

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I’m no stranger to the little secret that sometimes tiny, far flung places can make you feel most like you’re living large and right where you should be. Small ponds make fish feel bigger I guess.

Although I was at L’Abri for just three days I noticed it working its magic on me, cleaning out cobwebs in my mind and straightening some things in my life like a chiropractor. That’s the beauty of it; when you take God seriously you automatically notice how seriously He takes you.

copyright Elna Schutz 2014

 

Because people are always coming and going at L’Abri, the community is constantly fluid and unique. While I wasn’t expecting to be surrounded by so many Americans in Switzerland, the group was pretty amazing (including their occasional mustaches, it has to be said).

On my last night we had a jam and jam session – the musical kind, followed by the delicious, homemade and edible kind.

I’m very much out of shape, but played some of my songs and was once again amazed at how different people are in their creativity and talent. A thousand songs have been written with a voice and guitar, and yet, put a couple of people in a room and you’ll get an unbelievable mix.

Among these was the lovely Juliana’s Daughter, that enchanted me with her smooth and soft songs, like the feeling of hiding from the cold under your favourite blanket. When I grow up maybe I’ll be able to sing out the jumble of things in my mind as prettily as she does ;)

 

That’s it for the snowy Alps and cozy chalets portion of the trip.

Okay okay, just one more:

copyright Elna Schutz 2014

*copyright to me *

El