The Swiss Family Carlson goes to Schonenwerd!

Where is Shönenwerd? Well, it is in Switzerland.  It’s a small town in the northern part of Switzerland just 50km away from Basel.  That’s about 40 minutes on the train.

We keep busy.
We keep busy.

It really is a small town, with a population of just under 5000 people.  It was apparently noted in the annuls in 778 as Cloister of Werith.  The economy seems to be supported primarily by farms, the nuclear power plant and the Fashion Fish outlet mall.

A view of Schonenwerd.
A view of Schonenwerd.

It is full of interesting buildings that seemed to have sprouted out of the ground.

We found a wonderful cafe in an older section of the town to get lunch.  They made their own sandwich-sized baguettes (served warm) loaded with a cured meat, sliced hard-boiled eggs, pickles, tomato, butter lettuce, and a mayonnaise-based spread.  Mark and I liked them, but the boys were turned off by the mayonnaise spread.  The chef was exceedingly generous with that mayonnaise, so there was quite a bit of it to remove.

Then we found this tower that was crazy old! Older than anything else in the city. It looks like it could be from the 1100s.

The 12th-century tower connected to the much newer church.
The 12th-century tower connected to the much newer church; poised on an unexpected hill.

It was attached to this church.  The Bally Areal, part of the church of St. Leodegar. It was burned by the Bernese and the Solothurn in the late 1300s.  Only the tower is left.  The church was rebuilt several times and a major renovation was finished in 1979. I know I say this all the time, but this really is the most beautiful church I have been in.  It features a rococo/King Louis XIV style.

It holds probably no more than 75 people.  In the photos I am standing at the absolute back of the church.  It reminds me Roseville Church back in Iowa.  Roseville Church is about 10 miles from the closest town. It’s an anchor point that keeps the farming community together.  It has the same pastels and feels cozy and welcoming.

And for my Mom, the organ.  (Yes, that is marble holding the pipes.)

Below the church was an old abbey. The Schönenwerd Abbey.  It is no longer in use, but it is extremely beautiful.

The lower abbey area with a huge wall that goes around it, as if it were a castle courtyard.
The lower abbey area with a huge wall that goes around it, as if it were a castle courtyard.

What we had really traveled to see, however, was the Paul Gugelmann Museum. Paul Gugelmann was born in Schönenwald in 1929. The family was poor, but the children were creative – making toys out of whatever they could find.  Apparently good preparation for his art.  He was a shoe designer and graphic artist in Paris. He eventually moved back with his wife and children.

He is the city’s beloved son.  They show it with this piece displayed over the river.


The Paul Gugelmann Museum.
The Paul Gugelmann Museum. Small and unassuming.  In fact, we all thought, “Is this it?”

He built a steam-powered train for his son and was sparked to create steam-powered sculptures.  They are magnificent.  He made 4 based on musical instruments and concepts. He called them the Poetic Machines.  Crescendo, Largo, Andante, and Allegro.

Andante, made in 1967
Andante, made in 1967

Mr. Guglemann had a lot to say about politics and the hypocrisy of life.  He also made fantastic and fanciful designs that delight. I actually clapped my hands like I was a 5 year old child as they moved!

And my children loved them, too. H, the actual 5 year old, ran from one to another to another as our guide (who spoke only German) took us around the museum.  I think E might have been plotting how to make his own. (I hope so, anyway.)

Some of these are actually steam-powered and have their own boiler.  Later pieces are either electric or have a wind-up crank.  The man was a genius.  Each is a wonder.

If you ever come to Switzerland and are looking for a little out of the way place I would highly recommend a day in Schönenwerd.  There are little treasures like this all over Switzerland.  I am very thankful we are taking the time to find them and appreciate them.  Look for more soon, the boys will be taking their Spring Break next week!


4 responses to “The Swiss Family Carlson goes to Schonenwerd!”

  1. I love going along with you on these trips!



  2. […] The library is simply gorgeous. It was designed by Peter Thumb between 1757-1767 in the Carolingian style.  (I found it reminded me of the church we found in Schonenwerd, but this was more elaborate.) […]


  3. […] It reminds me a lot of the little church we found in Schonenwerd. […]


  4. Thank you for the posting the Schonenwerd pictures. We passed through this town in late Sept this year, visiting places my wife’s ancestors lived (including Schonenwerd) before emigrating to the US in the early 1800s. The church was closed so we enjoyed the pictures.


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