There are a lot of advantages to where my brother lives in the Allgau region of Germany, or as I prefer to call it…the Deep South. One of them is the proximity to Austria and Switzerland. One of my absolute favourite places to visit is the town of St. Gallen in Switzerland, not because of the picturesque oriels (bay windows) adorning many of the facades of 15th to 18th century houses that belonged to rich merchants or the quaint cobblestone streets that make wandering around the town a pleasant activity. That’s all fine, the main attraction that draws me over and over again to this place is one of the oldest medieval libraries in Europe, St. Gall. The library is attached to the complex of ecclesiastical buildings that lies in the heart of St. Gallen, including a baroque cathedral and abbey. The library itself isn’t very large for a public library, but it is the magnificent 18th century frescoes and the exquisite wood floor panelling that first draws you in. The Greek inscription over the doorway entrance roughly reads ‘Sanitorium for the Soul.’
I dare any bibliophile to admit that their heart doesn’t stop beating the second they spot neat row after row of exquisitely carved wooden panelling filled to the brim with huge leather bound volumes embossed in gold lettering. In the centre of the library are a few glass vaults with open manuscripts so that you can appreciate medieval hand-lettering and illustrations from when monks made hand-written copies of books. This Rococo style library contains Switzerland’s oldest collection of books with over 2100 manuscripts dating as far back as the 8th century. There are guided tours and audio guides to point out interesting facts and items contained in the library. The entire abbey is over 1000 years old and a UNESCO world heritage site.
THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN TOWN:
If you’re looking to rest your weary feet and have a coffee or nibble some chocolate, drop into Chocolaterie am Klosterplatz just across the street from the library exit. Order the hot schokolade (8CHF or INR 540) which is pure heaven in a mug, and buy broken sheets of different chocolate varieties and get them packed up in cellophane wrapped in a bow as gifts for people back home. The chilli chocolate slab is a mouth-watering favourite of mine.