Thursday, November 15, 2007

A wedding in the Swiss Alps

Lasse, my oldest friend in the world, is taking the plunge with Anja. They need altitude. So where better than the Swiss Alps?

Lasse honours me by making me his best man. I meet up with them in Zürich, and they stuff me into two rental cars full of mothers and nephews. Then they force me to take a bath. Luckily its the amazing thermal bath in Vals, designed by architect Peter Zumthor (This is not my shot - what kind of creep brings his camera to a bath house anyway?!).

We drive across Switzerland to the tiny mountain village of Präz in the Graubünden canton.

It's so old and idyllic, you almost forget it was all PAID FOR BY NAZI GOLD!!! Just kidding. Not this village.

The funny thing is that on the inside the houses look like this.

Oh look, the Alps.

This is the house we stay in, along with a few squillion mice. If my Roman numerals are correct the house was built in 1675 and renovated in 1801.

The backyard. By the way, the key to the house is like a meter long. I've never seen a key that big before. Truly amazing to behold. Well, maybe you should have been there to appreciate it.

This is where the Swiss get their water.

OK, so it's the big day. Talk about a white wedding. Unfortunately one of the rentals has summer tyres, and there's only one set of chains. Perfect.

Will we make it to the city hall in Ilanz, at the springs of the Rhine? For a time it seems no.

One of the cars has to be driven in reverse the first half of the trip. Cows block the road. There's a blizzard. I'm not making this up, look at the pictures.

Is he...? Well, he's probably a little nervous.

We stop to get the car fixed. HURRY UP FOR GOD'S SAKE MR. SWISS MECHANIC!

Thank you, Mr. Swiss Mechanic.

We make it to Ilanz. These two blurry ladies are the lovely bride Anja, and her maid of honour, Mariken.

Look how pretty she is! The bouquet is mistletoe and Bornholm roses. Anja's mother (a florist, conveniently) stayed up half the night making it.

OK, we're almost ready. There's a bit of a panic when it turns out no one but the dashingly handsome best man brought his ID. The ceremony, performed by the mayor, is very moving. My German is a little rusty, but I think I catch most of it. Amongst other things, he quotes Danish philosopher Kierkegaard.

"Where it is good to be, there is the fatherland."

Husband and wife, legally - but it's not over yet. In Switzerland church and state are separate, and so Lasse and Anja have decided to have two ceremonies. The church ritual will take place in a small chapel high in the Alps, performed by a retired Lutheran priest from the Danish mission. He's driving up from Geneva.

But first another photo opportunity.

We travel higher and higher into the Alps. The snow chains come off and go on, off and on, off and on...

The maid of honour is praying. Or maybe her hands are cold.

When the priest finally calls it's bad news: He's stuck in a blizzard, on summer tyres, about halfway from Geneva. There's no way he can make it.

NO PRIEST??? But we're so close! The chapel is right up there. It belongs to a monastery of Benedictine monks.

Their old chapel was destroyed by an avalanche.

So they had Peter Zumthor make them another one!

A chapel that would resist any avalanche, anything the forces of nature could throw against it.

A nice little chapel of wood.

Shaped like a leaf.

With a simple altar.

Everyone is here but the priest. We have a groom.

And his bride. And the church warden, standing next to Lasse's brother Niklas who studies theology. And there's... Waaaaaait a minute. Back up. Lasse's brother is studying to become a priest? Hellooooo.

Is there a priest in the house? It turns out that there is. Complete with a Blues Brothers tie bearing the words: "I'm on a mission from God". How cool is that?

If that's not a miracle I don't know what is.

We did it!

It's hard to tell the rice from the snowflakes.

Afterwards there's some sort of dinner party. We sing songs. At one point I make a speech, but I don't remember a word of it. There's cheese. It's a blur.

We cut the toes off Lasse's socks. It's a really stupid tradition, especially in the Alps.

How can you send him out there with holes in his socks? Have you no pity?

Suddenly it's all over and I'm in a bar at Zürich International. The bartender keeps calling me "my dear", and all the customers seem to be smartly dressed men with shaved heads and gold earrings. I suspect I might have stumbled upon a gay airport bar.

OH MY GOD I'M DRINKING GAY BEER!!!!! It tastes pretty good, actually.

At this point I begin taking pictures of my luggage.

Now if only I can get my two kilos of cocaine through customs.


Blogger suttonhoo said...

NOW we're talking!

beautiful beautiful -- so well told and such a happy couple.

what an amazing chapel. (of course, I would expect nothing less from Lasse.)

and what's with the socks? that tradition never made it this far (that I know of). skulls on the grooms socks, maybe, but the holes are a new one on me.

thanks so much for posting these and for telling such a great story -- many congratulations to the groom and his lovely bride!

6:34 am  
Blogger Antagonous said...

what a fantastic post!

7:29 am  
Anonymous morten said...

Mikkel, fantastiske billeder & tekst! Ærgeligt det ikke kunne hænge sammen med at være med selv - men når jeg ser sneen og situationerne i bil er jeg alligevel glad for ikke at ha haft et nyfødt barn med!

Nyder ofte at læse din blog, iøvrigt!

ANyways, en hilsen fra Morten

2:46 pm  
Blogger Susanne said...

Whoever thought out the concept of this wedding is a genious. But then again, I guess I'm a bit of a freak - I kinda find bladder infections romantic; I mean, miniskirt in the Alps, pretty ... cold! Brave girl.

3:34 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

Morten! Jeg forstår godt at I ikke ville vove Jer ud på sådan en ekspedition med en ny baby (tillykke!), men det var ellers lidt af en oplevelse. Det var iøvrigt også et fantastisk litografi du gav dem.

5:03 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

Susanne: Oh I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee. I'm going to the Alps, my true love for to see. It snowed all night the day I left, the weather it was dry - the sun so hot I froze to death; Susanne, don't you cry.

5:11 pm  
Blogger Susanne said...


7:33 pm  
Blogger Lasse said...

Thank you for this great story of our wedding! We really enjoyed it too. It's incredible that it really DID happen - and everything went according to the timescedule when you add the blizzard and the god damn summer tyres! What a great memory.

The tradition with the socks is so that the man cannot cheat with other girls since he is not properly dressed. (??!) The next day I had on a similar couple of socks and Mikkel just couldn't seem to add it all up -had Anja really repaired those socks during the night??? (hi hi hi)

My lovely wife in her lovely dress conveniently had a worm jacket on when we walked back and forth from the cars. The Church was a cold though, but that's all forgotten now. (OK well almost)

We visited the chapel in September and it was then we found out that we really wanted to marry there, it is SO beautiful and you have the view of 3 valleys -WOW! - when it is not snowing!

9:56 am  
Blogger Mikkel said...

I hope you mean a WARM jacket, because a worm jacket seems a little gross.

1:56 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

But that's just me.

1:57 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Maybe it was the jacket of Worms. Like the concordat, only warmer.

Congratulations again, Lasse! Looks like an awesome experience.

3:25 pm  
Blogger Lasse said...


1:50 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

You know, that actually makes a lot more sense: A worm jacket would be too small for Anja, and probably very slippery.

6:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting swiss weatherrepport with a twist lucky to have a priest in da house.

8:40 pm  

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