Words and Images by Joseph Mari Fabian–
I am quite sure that all of us have our fair share of experiences that are some of the most unexpected in our usual scheme of things, with these nonetheless proving the most unforgettable and life-changing. I, without expecting anything fortuitous at all, joined an essay competition sponsored by a little known university in Central Europe just for the heck of it. Fast forward to two months upon submission, never for the life of me had I expected to be selected as one of the ‘winners’, and to be flown all the way to the truly idyllic canton of Eastern Switzerland called St. Gallen for an all-expense paid trip just makes every damn night writing and polishing that essay absolutely worth it. While my experience there actually involves my participation in the annual university conference called the St. Gallen Symposium, I want to highlight herein my side trips, which are for me, the most worth treasuring. Notwithstanding, here are some of the things you can do in this relatively unknown Swiss gem:
1. Walk, walk, walk. Explore the city.
I am sure most of us are quite aware that Switzerland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and unsurprisingly has a very efficient transportation system. Hence, I strongly advise you to venture into the city by just walking because this lets you see how literally everything is worth paying a good amount of attention to. Everything, from museums, roads, flower beds, to even just row of trees, is just too picturesque.
2. Visit the museums and churches.
Indeed, for us to be able to appreciate the cultural significance and rich history of a particular destination, we should go see their museums and churches, for instance, because they tell us so much about how the place was, is, and will ought to be. In St. Gallen, I took the time to see the mediaeval-age Abbey Library of St. Gall, which houses the oldest library collection in Switzerland and serves as a repository of the country’s founding documents. Likewise, I also went to the Abbey of Saint Gall, which like the library is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Go to nearby cantons…and even countries!
St. Gallen is a strategically located canton in Switzerland and in fact serves as a transit points to other adjacent countries such as Liechtenstein, Austria, and Germany. My co-participants and I took advantage of this (and their efficient inter-country train system) as we had the privilege to visit Zurich, Appenzell, and even the principality of Liechtenstein! Don’t forget to try Swiss beer! It is liquid gold and happiness in a mug!
Should you have the time to visit this beautiful slice of Central Europe, please do take the time to take in everything because, from my experience, this has truly been one of the best trips I went to yet. More importantly, try joining competitions that involve an all-expense paid trip! You’ll never know because I surely didn’t! I am just truly fortunate to be able to experience all of this for free, all because of a piece of paper. Everything is worth a shot! No what ifs.
(About the author: Joseph Mari Fabian just finished his Masters of International Studies in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He will be one of the Philippines’ Foreign Service Officers someday)