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“You’re going to Switzerland to stay in a monastery!? Is that even possible?” There’s quite a few questions over my upcoming trip to Disentis Monastery in Switzerland, located in the Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). And I must say, I’m actually quite excited myself – especially in times like these. Will it be possible to cross the border without any issues? And back? Well, I can now say that the answers to these questions are all YES: Travelling to Switzerland by car from Austria, as we did, was no problem at all, and the drive from Bludenz in Vorarlberg, the start of our trip, took only one and a half hours via Chur. At Disentis Monastery, it was Brother Martin who received us very warmly following a prior announcement of our visit and stay via the Austrian association “Klösterreich”.
So what’s it really like to “check in” at a monastery?
As with my previous experience of spending the night in a monastery, convent or abbey in Austria (check out my blog posts about staying at the rather famous Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Lower Austria, the Abbey of Saint Lambrecht in Styria or Wernberg Monastery near Villach in Carinthia), I am once again humbled and excited to being welcomed by a community of Benedictine monks at their magnificent monastery, over 1400 years old in its original building structure.
Brother Martin Hieronymus takes his time in guiding us around the monumental historical building complex, also explaining such mundane tasks as to when and where breakfast and dinner are served. In addition, he welcomes us to take part in the holy evening and morning service right inside the adjacent monastery church. It is not compulsory to do so as a visitor, however very much appreciated by the community of monks when staying at Disentis Monastery. I did go to church service in the evening (it’s a truly splendid church after all, and I have welcomed the experience) but failed to show up for much of the morning service, going for a nature walk first and then stumbling right into the breakfast room!
Disentis Monastery has its own free app offering a virtual tour of the monastery church, the monastery building complex as well as the monastery museum. On our way to the actual monastery church, we pass by a touch screen that offers even more detailed visitor information about Disentis Monastery. I am further impressed by the monastery’s very own Instagram account; there is even a Social Media manager employed here. Brother Martin laughs all while busily typing up suggestions for improvements that we give him. It’s “only three years ago” that he got himself a smartphone, finding it very useful indeed. Even as we go about our visit, he sends me emails with further information and links about the monastery and its activities. Chapeau to such an excellent display of modern “customer service”!
Spending the night at Disentis Monastery, we brought some more time with us over simply visiting the museum, the church or the shop area. We have thus spoken with a young monk about his work in the garden, and he even shows us the drying racks he uses to dry herbal leaves and flowers. “The garden is my passion”, he explains modestly, and gently points towards the orchards from the adjacent monastery high school.
Last but not least, we are taken back to the monastery church in order to visit its mighty organ, a musical instrument that is unlike any other church organs I have ever seen. Parts of it are several hundred years old, it counts over 4000 single pipes, and now is entirely computerised, too: “I can establish a WiFi connection that allows remote technical support all the way from Germany”, Brother Stefan explains, who is very modest about his excellent musical (and technical) abilities in playing this wonderful organ. I have never quite seen anything like it, and hearing him play in the mighty monastery church, the building for which it was conceived, is really something. Check this out.
If you fancy looking at even more photographs from visiting Disentis Monastery, here is my selection on Flickr:
My travel buddies Christina Leutner (www.CitySeaCountry.com) as well as Inge & Heinz Jucker (www.TravelExperience.ch) have also written about their stay in Disentis:
Disclaimer: We have been invited by Disentis Monastery as well as “Klösterreich” on our visit to the monastery in Switzerland. All opinions are my own.