As you know my biography of Angelica Balabanoff ‘The Strange Comrade Balabanoof: The Life of a Communist Rebel‘ has been published in June by McFarland Publishers. To celebrate the launch of the book I decided to devote my blog to Angelica’s lifestyle, friends, recipes and places where she lived during her long and interesting life. After laborious preparations I have finally managed to go to Switzerland for a one-week trip at the end of September. I have dreamt about it for years. Angelica spent quite a few years in Switzerland first in 1903-1906, then again later in 1918. She came to live in St Gall after graduating from the Sapienza university in Rome. The objective of her stay in town was to help the Italian immigrants who worked in St Gall in the textile industry. Most of them did not speak German, were unerpaid, lived in dreadful conditions and needed someon who could help them out and represent them. Switzerland beeing an expensive place to visit – my trip was not easy to arrange and I took time to prepare it. I wanted to visit as many places related to Angelica’s life as possible. Obviously I could not miss St Gall – a town in the North Eastern part of Switzerland where she had her baptism by fire as a speaker in 1903.
St Gall was named after its first citizen an Irish monk Gallus, whose statue can be seen on the central square, also named after him. As a place to stay I chose the Vadian hotel. Since the end of the XIXth century it has lodged those in need and also those who worked in the textile industry, the main industry of St Gall. So when Angelica lived in St Gall she must have spent most of her time in or near this hotel. Today it is a 2-star estblishment (with nice clean rooms, excellent breakfast and friendly staff). The proceeds from the hotel still go to support the poor and needy lodged in the building next door.
St Gall is a pretty town which has a renowned Baroque-style Cathedral and a medieval library with one of the richest collections of ancient books, including the books written in the 6th century. Both are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town is also known for its wooden oriel windows, has a small waterfall and a number of cozy restaurants to go to, which serve local cheeses and Rösti (fried potatoes).
For a small town it has many interesting museums such as the Textile museum, museum of Fine and Modern art and an excellent historical museum of the city of St Gall which exhibits 16th-18th century furnished rooms, portraits of local nobility, and has rooms dedicated to the honorary citizens – a composer and conductor Johann Fuchs, Abbot Joachim Opser and an extraordinary painter of the beginning of the 20th century Martha Cunz.
My travel schedule was fully booked and I could afford to spent only one day in St Gall. However one can easily spend 2-3 days there. The next destination of my Swiss vacations was Brissago. A town in the Italian part of Switzerland where Angelica came to stay in 1935. Follow my blog to more more about Angelica and her Swiss life.