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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

What a 13th Century Castle Taught Me About Perspective


Last Thursday in Gruyeres - a day that started with cheese and ended with chocolate

We’re back, and as promised I have some luscious Suisse chocolate to give away!


When I wrote two weeks ago, Mike and I were just about to leave on a nine-day trip to Switzerland – our first to this beautiful country from which one set of my great-grandparents emigrated. We planned the visit specifically to spend time with extended family members who have a centuries-old ancestral home on Lake Neuchâtel.


I was over the moon that we’d finally see the place I’d dreamed about for decades.


In response to my post, over 55 of you left comments as to which of four possible activities I would engage in while in Switzerland. With so much spirited participation, I’m awarding premium dark chocolate bars to two members of our community instead of one. Read to the end to see if you guessed correctly!


But first, I have a question for you: Have you ever looked forward to a new experience so much that you were in tears when things didn’t initially go as you planned? Were you badly in need of a perspective corrective?


Just before boarding our connecting flight in Newark, we received an urgent text message. What should have been a routine medical exam for our Swiss-American cousin revealed an abnormality necessitating further testing that would not allow him and his wife to join us. While deeply disappointed at this turn of events, we immediately began to pray for them even as we scrambled to find lodging for the days we would have spent in their family home.

The castle at Chillon on Lake Geneva

When we landed in Switzerland the next morning, we stopped for a quick tour of Château de Chillon, a 13th century castle on Lake Geneva owned for centuries by the wealthy Savoy family, before hurrying to locate the modest lodgings we booked for the next two nights on Airbnb.


Online, “Le Petit Cotterd” looked like a charming small chalet, perched as it was in a lovely pastoral mountain setting. What the listing didn’t reveal was the lack of a road to get there! We finally found an overview where we spotted the little red cottage in the middle of a grassy field. Voila!

Nary a road in sight! We crossed a grassy field to park near the cottage


Lodging in Switzerland is notoriously pricey, and I was thrilled to book a place with character that was affordable. Ah, mais non – Il y avait une raison à cela. There was a reason for that!


Flies swarming inside. Lots of them.


Feeble electrical current sufficient for a pan on the stove or a portable heater – not both.


A shower located outside in the brisk mountain air that we would have gladly used after our overnight flight if it had been working.


A loft bedroom at the top of a narrow, steep stairway accessible only by a rope handrail, with the sole toilet downstairs. I could picture our 70-year-old selves pitching headlong down those stairs in the middle of the night.


Dismayed, Mike and I stared at each other and then burst out laughing.


“It’s an adventure!” my husband said, cheerful as ever. “Remember what Amy Carmichael wrote about her ocean voyage to Japan?”


Do I ever! I’ve quoted her so many times.


The “In Everything Give Thanks” sign Amy hung in her stateroom in honor of her “roommates” – cockroaches and rats by the multiples.


The tugboat that tossed seasick passengers about and flung them out after a typhoon kept their steamship from making it to shore.


The torrential rain Amy stood in when no one arrived to meet her, and she couldn’t speak a word of Japanese nor her fellow passengers English.


“I stood there on the shore laughing and laughing,” she wrote later. “What would God do now to rescue me?!”

Perspective. When the unexpected happens, it’s all about one’s viewpoint, isn’t it? Developing the capacity to view things in their true relationship and relative importance.

Remember that famous bit of doggerel about perspective?


“Two men looked out from prison bars~

One saw mud, the other stars.”


So as to my initial dismay about the primitive conditions at Le Petit Cotterd?


Swarming flies – bah! I grew up on a farm.


No shower? That’s why God invented washcloths.


A precarious staircase? Mike and I traversed it together in the middle of the night so one could catch the other at the bottom if we fell.


And you recall that 13th century castle we visited on our first day? It had no electricity, of course. No central heating. No indoor plumbing. It may have been built for royalty, but by today’s standards we all live better than kings. Our little cottage was finer than a palace.


Best of all, we received word yesterday that our Swiss-American cousin is completely well. The irregular test result was a strange anomaly. Praise God!


It’s about how you view things, isn't it? Whether the glass appears empty or full, what really matters is the privilege of having a glass at all.


And speaking of perspective?


It’s a mighty fine view from 5,000 feet in the air when you’re flying without using a plane!



Elaine S of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Eleanor F of Wheaton, Illinois, your names were chosen from those who guessed correctly that I’d go paragliding! Swiss chocolate is on the way.


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