by Frederick W. Vogler

As had been carefully planned over most of the past four years, Swiss Trip III (10-20 August 2001) turned out to be a gratifyingly successful reprise of the previous 1992 and 1997 programs. This was all the more remarkable in that it had to be carried out in the absence of its chief organizer and driving spirit, Betty Vogler Houston, who shortly before departure had been forced to remain behind in Charlotte because of an unexpected and urgent vision problem. Even so, thanks to the detailed, precise arrangements she had worked out in advance of the trip, her husband John (who at the last minute willingly took her place) and I had no trouble following her instructions in our day-by-day management of trip logistics and itinerary options, with the gratifying result that not a single really serious problem arose for us as a group or individually.

Much credit for the trip’s sustained interest and enjoyment must be given to our talented, energetic, and cheerful young driver George Marabuto, a native of Portugal but longtime resident of Switzerland, fluent in English, French, Swiss German, standard German, and Italian in addition to his own native language. The bus itself, seating three times as many passengers as there were members of our group (there being 15 of us plus George) and boasting an on-board lavatory and mini-refrigerator as well as a cell phone and an electronic location finder, had only been in service for a few months when assigned to our group and proved to be remarkably comfortable and convenient for sightseeing through its tall, wide, unobstructed windows high above the road being taken. Thanks to almost invariably beautiful weather of warm, sunny days from start to finish, our travel time was unusually pleasant and comfortable.

Additional credit for the smooth unfolding of our trip should also given to those members who had participated in one or both of the earlier trips, for John Houston and I were rejoined by veteran Swiss Trippers JB Houston, the family unit of Jerry Jr., John, and mother Pat Vogler (accompanied this time by father Jerry Sr.), as well as Cokie and Pat Jones. (Regrettably, another Veteran Swiss Tripper, Madelyn Fogler, who had brightened our 1992 program along with her late husband Ben, was forced by a medical emergency to drop out this time the very evening before we were to leave for Switzerland.) This allowed first-timers Cindy Smith, her sister Debbie Pendleton, and their lively and highly congenial McKinney cousins Juanita Braxton, Annie Hunt (with her husband Stokes), and Mary Lois Jessup to benefit from the prior experience of the rest of us, and it did indeed seem to help a great deal in reducing potential anxiety and stress whenever a question would arise about what was to happen next. In my own case, just as I had been able to do with our two earlier drivers, while on the bus I conversed in French with George as we drove along, working out itinerary changes or adjustments as necessary with him before announcing them in English to the others without having had to bother them.

Swiss Path

Map of Vogler Family Swiss Trip III: August 10 – 20, 2001

As before, the most important scheduled events of the trip were the ones taking place on Homecoming Sunday (August 12 this year) in connection with our pilgrimage visit to the Vogler ancestral village of Oberhasli and its immediate area just northwest of downtown Zurich and only two miles west from one of the main runways at Zurich / Kloten Airport, where we arrived after a blessedly uneventful overnight flight on Saturday, August 11. This time, however, the Sunday morning Swiss Reformed service we attended as a group was not held in Niederhasli’s 12th-century church but instead in a modern church building in the nearby town of Niederglatt, a place not associated with our family history but which had been designated as that Sunday’s place of worship for area congregations whose clergy were away on summer vacation. But as before, we were able to enjoy a well-planned lunch together at the same Niederhasli restaurant as in 1997, after once again visiting the nearby picturesque medieval walled town of Regensberg perched atop a small mountain rising above the rolling plain below, with both Niederhasli and Oberhasli clearly visible in the near distance. Joining us as our guests for lunch were our longtime Swiss friends Eddie and Flora Herzog from Zurich, who once again had handled local arrangements for our Homecoming Sunday, and Edith Mittelholzer, our equally longtime devoted friend from Niederhasli itself. After lunch, on behalf of the Niederhasli town council, Edith presented our PC Vogler Foundation a signed copy of the official town history of Niederhasli past and present, along with several other publications about the area, as well as an area map and some Niederhasli decals; all of these gifts will be on display at our upcoming family reunion in 2003. Our traditional afternoon visit to Oberhasli’s small 11th-century church, where our Vogler ancestors actually worshipped before emigrating to Germany and then North America, was presided over by Oberhasli’s new mayor Felix Marthaler, who officially welcomed us in the name of the community, then accepted several souvenir Vogler mugs and a copy of an Old Salem scene (Christoph Vogler House) drawn by Jerry Vogler. As in 1997, that reception was followed by a short drive north across the Rhine River and briefly through part of Germany along the way to Schaffhausen and the Falls of the Rhine, which we proceeded to visit both below and above the falls themselves.

The following day (Monday, August 13), we left Zurich and the Hotel Rigihof (considerably improved since our 1997 stay there) to drive to Bern for a visit to its scenic Rose Garden and Bear Pit before going on into the heart of the old city itself for lunch together in a restaurant just off Parliament Square. Later that afternoon, we drove south toward the alpine Bernese Oberland area along the shores of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, pausing briefly between the two in Interlaken to take in a panoramic view of the nearby Jungfrau before continuing on over the Bruenig Pass to Lucerne, that day’s keenly anticipated destination. The next day (Tuesday) we actually drove up and over the Alps after stopping briefly in Altdorf to view its famous 19th-century statue of the 12th/13th-century Swiss national hero William Tell. Our route that morning took us up to the entrance to the St. Gotthard Pass before turning west along the 8,000-ft.-high Furka Pass, stopping to visit the Rhone Glacier’s popular Ice Cave along the way. We then descended the Upper Rhone Valley as far as Visp, then climbed the Matte River Valley as far as Taesch, where we boarded a shuttle train for Zermatt and a two-day stay at that spectacularly scenic resort, with the Matterhorn looming just to the south and clearly visible from our unusually convenient and comfortable hotel within easy walking distance of both railway stations we would be using while there. On Wednesday morning, we took a cog railway ride up to Gornergrat (el. 10,300 ft.), sitting five thousand feet above Zermatt itself. After a leisurely mid-day visit enjoying its shops and alpine scenery, including lunch served on a sunlit terrace outside its mountaintop hotel, we took the train back down to Zermatt in time for a local festival parade, very unlike the “Million-Man Mega-Rave” event we had witnessed on the day of our arrival in Zurich. For three of our group – JB, Jerry Jr., and John – the day would end unforgettably with a special helicopter ride from Zermatt to the Matterhorn and back, something they were able to capture very effectively on videotape along the way.

The next morning we set off for a very different part of Europe, back over the Alps and down into the Lake Country shared by southern Switzerland and northern Italy. After pausing for mid-morning refreshments out on the sunny deck of an Upper Rhone Valley roadside inn in Muenster not far from the Rhone Glacier gleaming above the highway, we left that familiar scene to take a new route recommended by George instead of the Furka and St. Gotthard passes we had crossed in 1997. This time it was to be the Nufenen Pass close to the Swiss-Italian border, much less famous than the other itinerary, but with the advantage of considerably less traffic along the way. Soon we found ourselves descending the south slope of the Alps into the Ticino district, Switzerland’s only Italian-speaking canton. Instead of proceeding straight to Lugano, that day’s destination, we bypassed it and drove across Lake Lugano on into Italy, where we stopped for an hour of relaxed sightseeing in downtown Como on the lake of the same name, enjoying its lakefront vistas of shore and mountains, with Milan itself only about 25 miles to the southeast. Then back we went to Switzerland on that same fast-track motorway to Lugano, arriving in plenty of time to settle into our lakeside hotel before dinner, observing how it had been renovated and modernized since our 1997 stay there.

After leaving the hotel mid-morning the next day, we first drove north and west to the Swiss sector of Lake Maggiore, passing Locarno, entering Italy, and then heading south to Stresa along the west shore of that truly “major” lake – largest in the Swiss-Italian Lake Country. Lunch that day turned out to be a memorable event in itself, provided by the same restaurant we had found four years earlier out on Isola dei Pescatori (“Fishermen’s Island”), with an excellent view of nearby Isola Bella (“Beautiful Island”) with its vast baroque palace and, in the distance, Isola Madre (“Mother Island”), all part of the Borromeo Islands group halfway down the lake. This time, however, the weather was cooler and with an increasingly stiff breeze churning up the lakewater as we crossed on ferries to and from the islands and later across the midpoint of the lake itself on our way back to Switzerland and Lugano for the night. That evening’s after-dinner entertainment came as a surprise, for right there in a hotel parlor off the dining room most of us were treated to a lively improvised musical program provided by John Vogler and his visiting American friend Greg from UNC-Chapel Hill, featuring professional-grade singing with piano accompaniment by that “Dynamic Duo” well into the night.

Just as had been the case in 1997, our departure from Lugano next morning took place in a rainfall that soon dwindled and stopped altogether as we proceeded northeast along Lake Lugano, entering Italy again for a 50-mile stretch along both that lake and Lake Como before reaching the southern edge of the Italian Alps and climbing again to re-enter Switzerland not far from St. Moritz. That beautiful old resort surprised and pleased us just as much as it had four years earlier, but this time we were able to stop for lunch in a mid-town restaurant after a leisurely hour of shopping. Then it was on into Austria, following the Inn River along its widening valley all the way to Innsbruck, one of the few places none of us had ever visited before. By luck, our hotel turned out to be a recently renovated and very comfortable place right at the edge of the university district in the middle of town, with sweeping panoramic views of the mountains lining the Inn Valley on both sides, a convenient location for after-dinner strolling that evening.

The following day – our last full traveling day – found us leaving Innsbruck in eager anticipation of an upcoming major event of this trip, a visit that noon to mad King Ludwig II’s late-19th-century Neuschwanstein Castle just across the now-unmarked German border in the Bavarian Alps, a world-famous place none of us had ever been before. Once arrived – and despite a much longer trek from the shuttle bus stop to the castle than we had ever imagined – we found ourselves caught up in King Ludwig’s Neo-Romantic fantasy as we moved from room to room of a castle that was actually only briefly his home in the mid-1880s. After that visit, we proceeded back across the border into Austria, stopping for lunch at a picturesque restaurant perched beside the road in a high mountain pass, luckily a place that accepted Swiss, Italian, and German money since none of us had brought along any Austrian currency, not having anticipated any need for it. The rest of that long afternoon was spent driving west along a wide, level alpine valley highway until we finally reached Liechtenstein, passing through a Swiss-manned customs station whose staff expressed amazement at finding so many Voglers all traveling together. As we had on both previous trips, we were able to stop and spend an hour visiting Liechtenstein’s tiny, tourist-oriented capital of Vaduz, with the Prince’s castle looming high above us on its mountainside. Soon after leaving that town, our bus crossed the Rhine River into Switzerland itself, with an unhurried drive along a major motorway past Lake Constance all the way to Zurich and the same hotel we had left a week earlier. By that time it was mid-evening, but fortunately the hotel dining room had been warned of our late return by George on his cell phone. Dinner was promptly served by an unresentful staff, after which we lingered for a group farewell session during which we all shared favorite memories of our recent experiences as a group and as individuals, all of this recorded on video by John Houston for future sharing.

The next day, Monday the 20th, we left the Rigihof and drove under a steady drizzle to nearby Zurich / Kloten Airport to begin our carefree return trip home. But by then rainy weather did not matter at all, for we had been able to enjoy more than a week of untroubled sightseeing in one another’s congenial company on that handsome new bus as our driver and friend George escorted us as planned through parts of five countries, allowing us once again to discover and appreciate our ancient Swiss roots as modern American descendants of Philipp Christoph Vogler and his Oberhasli grandfather Rudolf.

Thank you, Betty, for having made all that possible for us. We’ll never forget.

[NOTE FROM SWISS TRIP ORGANIZER AND COORDINATOR BETTY VOGLER HOUSTON: We would like to express our many thanks to Dr. Frederick W. Vogler for his excellent itinerary and leadership as Tour Guide not only on this August 2001 Swiss Trip III but also Swiss Trip II in 1997 and Swiss Trip I in 1992. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us in all these special and unforgettable trips back to our Swiss Homeland. Without you, none of these trips would ever have been possible.]