We did a lot of driving with Thomas. He met us at the airport and drove us back to his apartment in Binningen in the area of Basel. We all took naps then ate ham and cheese on croissants (a staple of our trip, it would turn out) with Early Grey tea before piling into the car again for the drive to Egerkingen.
Egerkingen is a compact village nestled between foothills of the Alps, just like many of its kind that we saw from the plane coming in. We parked, not knowing what to expect from the place from which Carol's grandmother's grandfather Von Arx had emigrated. We walked first to the church - under restoration at the moment by Metalbau Von Arx. Thomas communicated ably with the workers, who assured us it was open. The church of St. Martin is a Catholic church halfway up a hill overlooking the town. A plaque on the outside informs visitors that it was restored in 1981-82. Stepping inside was breathtaking. All the gilt was shiny, the colors vibrant. The architecture was plain - white walls, no Gothic arches, no stained glass, but the decorative elements were so vivid that I didn't mind the lack of grandeur.
As we left the church we met a man named von Rohr, I believe. His was the other dominant name in Egerkingen besided von Arx. He spoke with the big, round vowels of the Swiss. He talked over to the parsonage and brought out the Pfarrer, who told us some of the history of the place. He had come from elsewhere - Romania - and so I understood him more easily. He said that the church was on the site of a ancient fortification, from which Romans could spy Germans approaching by river. Patrick imagined further strategic implications of an elevated stronghold. The priest let him feed the goldfish in his pond and gave both the children gummi bears.
We had a midafternoon snack in the Gasthof von Arx - completely deserted, staff nonplussed. Driving further that afternoon we came to Solothurn, the capital of the canton of the same name. It was a bigger city with a cathedral and a cobblestoned old center that was mostly for pedestrians. The cathedral (St. Ursus and St. Victor) was larger but not as charming as the other. Thomas had earlier suggested that we could enjoy a slice of chocolate cake. "Cathedral first, then cake," said Patrick, impressing everyone with his avidity for history.
When we got home (Note that word - "home". Having a "home" in a strange place makes all the difference in family travel, I think.) about 6:00 PM, Sarah and Patrick both went straight to bed. We were confident that they were down for the night, so went out for dinner with Thomas to the country club maintained by the bank where he works. It has no golf course, but otherwise reminded me of Gávea. The mixture of ages, the way everyone knew everyone else, the variety of languages spoken, the quiet relaxation of a summer evening.