The Monastery and its neighbor, the Tepee

Coordinates 47°07′40″N 8°44′35″E

The famous pilgrimage trail, the way of St.James, crosses Europe and passes thru the Swiss city of Eisiedeln.  Which is why, in the Middle Ages, this city was the first meeting place for pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  

This radiant city, in the heart of Switzerland, is also known as the most important for pilgrims who revere the Virgin Mary. Travellers arrive with the intention of adoring the Black Madonna that resides in the Benedictine Monastery of Einsieldeln; a baroque construction that dates from the XVIII century. 

Black Madonna

It was during the celebration of the fourth Sunday of Advent that we decided to discover the city and its most famous resident, the Black Madonna. 

They say that originally the famous Madonna sculpture had a white complexion.  However the dust and soot of the thousands of candles lighted by pilgrims over the years turned it black. When it was sent for a renovation, the artist transformed it back into its original state, what was not well received by the faithful. They complained because they believed “their Madonna had been changed.” It was then determined to paint it black in order to respect the wishes of its faithful followers.

While pilgrims have impacted the development of this city (even the main specialty of its oldest bakery, Goldapfel, is pilgrims’ cakes), Einsieldeln is also attractive to those who enjoy nature. Nestled between the Sihl lake and the Mythen mountains, it has a scenery that will surely take your breath away. In Winter, it is a paradise for those who enjoy skiing or practicing the nordic sport of Langlauf, where skis are used to glide in cross country style over specially designed horizontal snow trails.

With the winter sun as our companion, we walked part of the famous jacobean trail, from the Benedictine Monastery up to Kloster Au, the residence for Benedictine nuns in the area. Along the way we found, in addition to multiple sculptures with messages that invite reflection, a small restaurant that captured us.

Meinradesberg Guest House

Hidden in a corner, away from the stores and restaurants that surround the Monastery, we discovered the Meinradesberg Guest House restaurant. Described as a tavern by its owners, it serves a seasonal menu.  We tasted fondue, Switzerland’s most typical dish: melted cheese cooked on a comunal pot that is eaten with bread dipped into the fondue using special long forks.  They offer as well glühwein, hot wine cooked with spices and pflümli, coffee served with prune liquor or other distilled spirits. Ice cream and homemade desserts are also in the menu.

What captured us, besides the cozy restaurant interior, was the grand Tepee they had outside, that takes over most of their front garden. At first we thought it was a playground for kids but once we stepped inside, we found it decorated with tables, blankets and a fire; ready to serve the winter specialties that warm up everybody’s soul. 


Lodging:

Guest House Meinradesberg
Hotel Allegro
Boutique Hotel St. Georg


Places to visit:

Einsielden Benedictine Monastery
GoldApfel Gingerbread Museum
Diorama Bethlehem