St Gallen
St GallenSt GallenAfter Nuremberg and the Toy Fair I was on the last part of my journey. I decided to spend the night in St Gallen so that I would have more time to spend at the Stiftsbibliothek. St Gallen is just across the Bodensee or Lake Constance which it's also called and where Germany, Switzerland and Austria come together. This is a particularly beautiful part of Europe It's one of the first larger cities in Switzerland that you come across taking the train south from Munich. By major I mean it had more than five people and a goat. The city’s name and origins can be traced back to the founding of the monastery by the wandering Irish monk Gallus, about 612 AD.

St GallenSt Gallen In the thirteenth century, St Gallen had become an important market town as a producer and exporter of exceptionally high-quality linen. Early in the eighteenth century, cotton began to outsell linen around Europe, and by 1790, some 40,000 women were working from home to embroider cotton and muslin for export. The invention of embroidery machines in the 1820s and 1830s brought a golden age to St Gallen. A few decades later, the region boasted some 100,000 machines, with production still centered in the home. By 1913, embroidery was Switzerland’s largest export industry, with St Gallen accounting for around half of the entire world production of textiles. These days, that figure is down to just 0.5 percent, but Swiss embroidery remains a highly valued, luxury commodity and production continues in the hands of small, highly specialized companies that supply designs and finished products to haute couture fashion houses: Lacoste’s famous crocodile logo, for instance, is Swiss embroidered. While St Gallen’s embroidery industry is almost entirely computerized it still relies on some two thousand local women working from home on fine hand-sewn detailing impossible to achieve by machine.

St GallenSt GallenOne of St Gallen's most important landmark is the imposing baroque Cathedral in the heart of the stunning "Stift” district. This beautiful district has been awarded World Cultural Heritage Status and is under the protection of UNESCO. I stayed in a small hotel on one of the side streets not far from the train station and a block from the old part of town, across from which there was a small audio store where I purchased a set of headphones for my son's birthday. The night was cold but clear as was the next morning when I took a short walking tour around town. I went into a toy store and purchased a set of SBB wood bearing freight cars for my model railroad. It's funny how you can find things that you are looking for in the most unsuspecting places, of course it helps if you want everything!.

St Gall Stiftsbibliothek

My main purpose for stopping in St Gallen was to visit the famous Stiftsbibliothek considered one of the great libraries of Europe. When Gallus died he was recognized a saint and a church was built on the site of his retreat. In 720 Othmar von St Gallen established a monastery where he installed a scriptorium. Traveling monks who logged at the abbey were expected to assist in the copying of manuscripts. In the middle of the 17th Century the Abby at St Gallen acquired a printing press which led it to become a center for printing in Switzerland. In 1750 the Abbot Coelestin Grugger von Staudach launched the reconstruction of the Abbey that had fallen on hard times. Given a central place in the new plans was the library that I visited. Above the door to the library is a Greek inscription  that translates as "Sanatorium of the Soul". The current library's holdings include manuscripts from the first catalogue taken in 850. Other notable works include a Life of Charlemagne written shortly after his death, Mirabilia Romana the first tourist guide to Rome and a document recalling the cruel acts of a certain Count Dracula. In total there are approximately 150,000 works including more than 2,000 manuscripts and 1,500 incunabula. Before you enter the library you are required to wear special slippers so as not to mar the inlaid floors. In the end a worthy visit on my tour of the Western World's great libraries.