Through historic Bern and the mountainous Bernese Oberland by train is a most relaxing way to spend some hours peering out the window, watching the world go by getting to whereever you want to be in picturesque Switzerland. Especially if that destination happens to be in equally mountainous Valais where the scenery changes a multitude of vineyards for which Valais is famed throughout Switzerland for its Fendant. The varied scenery of the central plateau, the famed skiing mountains and regions, its lakes and (internationally lesser) known wine producing areas of Valais all contributed to the backdrop of todays ride across Switzerland to Martigny.
Our first stop was the Amphitheatre, set against the vineyard-clad and forested steep mountains which surround it, which formed an important part of the Roman settlement and Forum which was established here under the Emporer Claudius. Granted, this isn't the grand structure of the Colloseum or Leptis Magna but it is beautifully set against steep mountains on one side and vineyard clad slopes on the other contribute to the natural beauty of the place. Aside from the strategic significance of being astride the Rhône river, it's not hard to imagine why people would have wanted to live in a beautiful place such as this.
Although the "Erotic Rodin" exhibition was the real draw for this trip the rest of the Fondation is well worth a visit if you're in the area. The twin track approach of sketches of live, moving nudes alongside the sculptures and bronzes based on them provided an insight into how Rodin worked. The sketches, primarily of charcoal on paper, convey a sense of movement and eroticism which, at times, seems to slip over the line to downright explicit. The sculptures and bronze works were, by comparison, restrained but retained the erotic realism much in evidence of the sketches.
6 March to 14 June 2009
La Danaïde, a bronze work, is, to my mind, one of the more exquisite works. The attention to detail in the caste is evident most acutely in the back of the nude which ripples with a natural muscularity. The shape more than betrays a sense of a swirling movement. The Hands, a marble sculpture, are equally finely thought out and, in my opinion, the best sculpture on display. Fingers touch each other as though the imaginary body to which they would be attached is in reposful thought.
The Automobile Exhibition downstairs was equally fascinating - and not just for car buffs as I'm sure m'learned colleaque will testify. With vehicles, many unique in the world and in original condition, dating from the 1890s the exhibition charts the progress of the motor vehicle from steam powered vehicles to more recognisable types of 6-cylinder engines and brands. Long forgotten brands such as the Zürich -based Turicum sit alongside Martini motors, Mercedes and a hugely (literally) impressive Rolls Royce - resplendide with the iconic flying angel.
With the weather fine, we strolled through the Sculpture Garden - essentially a collection of sculptures on display in a garden specifically designed for their exposition. Sculpture by prominent sculptors and sculptresses such as Joan Miró (pictured) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Richard Guino adorn the carefully sculpted garden which is similarly adorned with water features in the finest traditions of Charlie Dimmock.
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Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook