Monday, October 1, 2007

Trip Photos

Photo Link here

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Return to CA - "Proximo Anno" - Sept 27

Dad and I both arose before our 6:00 a.m. alarms as we wanted to get an early start on return drive to Zurich airport (some 140 miles from Gordevio). G & V were already waiting for us with breakfast and coffee on the table when we ventured to their house around 6:15am. In each of my trips, leaving has always been emotionally draining -- and this morning would be no exception. In fact, it was the most difficult yet because I had been able to share the trip with Dad who had not been back to Switzerland in 13 years and it was not at all certain when, or if, he might return again. Shortly, Marco and Emma arrived, having made their way in the dark, to say their good byes -- and the tears flowed for all. I don't know much Italian, but as with previous visits, my utterings of "proximo anno" ("next year") as I said good bye to each gave me some comfort -- hoping that they understood that I would do everything I could to return.

The return drive to Zurich was beautiful -- and though the roads were dry, the alps were still peaked with the first snow. I hadn't really studied the routing back to the airport, allowing the GPS to guide me -- but I've made a mental note to do a little more homework on the route next time as the GPS routed me into what appeared to be some of the central city -- with accompanying traffic delays -- that got us back to the airport with less time than I had hoped.

The rental car return went without a hitch -- but entering the airport from the rental car parking area brought us on a direct route to the gate without going to the main check in. I didn't realize my mistake until we found ourselves at the end of a tram ride to the gate and were faced with baggage inspection with bags that we had expected to check. Thankfully, our bags were small enough to be considered "carry-on" and the only loss at security was an oversized can of shaving cream in dad's bag that would have made the trip if we had correctly checked our bags. Our flight was a nearly on-time departure with another packed plane. We squeezed into our seats emotionally and physically exhausted -- and the captain announced that our flight would take 12 hours because of unfavorable head winds.

Neither of us slept much as the cabin stayed pretty bright as we were traveling with the sun...and though we traveled 12 hours, our watches were only permitted to advance 3 hours. We set out at 1:30pm from Zurich -- travelled 12 hours -- and landed 3 hours later at 4:30pm. I wondered how the various languages translate "jet lag."

Immigration and processing in LAX was disappointing particularly when contrasted to the efficient and friendly Switzerland process just a few days before. I couldn't help but ponder why US processes are so sadly different but I'll spare readers of this blog my political musings.

Last 2 Days - Sept 25 and 26

Where did the time go? I am now sitting in my parent's home on September 29 reflecting on how quickly the last few days have flown by and how I neglected to make or find the time to keep up this blog. It seems to be the standard case of life getting so busy that one has little time to reflect on the past or the future -- living fully in the present.

Anyway, I do have a few notes of the activities of our final days in Gordevio and I'll summarize these activities below and then add a separate posting for our return trip to California on September 27. During September 25 and 26, we enjoyed:

1. a visit with V&G's daughter Maria Teresa who lives in nearby Locarno. We feasted on a lasagna prepared by G and got to know Maria Teresa's boyfriend "Tino" who spent much of the day painting the eaves of V&G's house while we were able to enjoy a leisurely visit with Maria Teresa. Maria Teresa speaks English allowing me to be less dependent on Dad's translating -- though there were still plenty of fun opportunities to explore the nuiances of translating certain words. It was clear to me that it is far easier to translate activities (coming, going, working, driving, flying) than it is to translate "feelings" (attraction, caring, loving). Even in English it is hard to sometimes convey feelings to another English speaker. For example, when we use phrases like "body chemistry" to describe one's attraction to another person, we really aren't talking about body "chemistry" -- or the "odor" a person may have. Another example might be our use of the term "soul-mates."

2. a dinner at Fernando's that included his brother Pierangelo and wife Flavia and Michel, one of their two sons (the other was in military training for the weekend) and Michel's girlfriend. As with Maria Teresa and Rein and his family, there was a special comfort and fun for me in visiting with Fernando, Pierangelo and Flavia both because of the ability to communicate in English, because this was the third visit in as many years and all have had an opportunity to meet Deb, our daughters, our grandkids and our son-in-law.

3. the weather changing to rain -- and adding the first dustings of snow to the mountain tops. We had enjoyed 6 or 7 days of spectacular sunshine and warmth, so the change to rain and cloudy skies were a rather welcome change -- an opportunity to see Valle Maggia in yet another way. The rain reminded me of the sometimes frequent rain we get at home near Portland, OR, another place I love as well.

4. going on a hunts for a possible Tognazzini connection to the village of Cevio (about 10 miles up the valley from Gordevio). Dad has a religious booklet that contains what appears to be youthful scribblings of the Tognazzini patriarch to indicate receiving the booket in Cevio. Dad wanted to explore possible Cevio connection in both church and municipal records and we set out to do just that. Dad made some headway and has sufficient information to followup by mail/email -- but the short business hours for such records searching in the offices precluded any conclusions.

5. getting to watch Rein and Nathalie teach table tennis to some of Gordevio's youth. Because of Rein's own personal passion for the sport and his observations of the positive impact it had on his own children and children's friends when they were growing up, he has established a table tennis club in Gordevio. He and Nathalie give freely of their time and knowledge to expose the sport to Gordevio youth.

6. getting to meet and visit with more family that I had not met before including: (1) Giannetto Martinetti who is related to us in the same way that Claudio (which I've previously described). His mother was a sister to Claudio's mother; and, (2) Claudio and Teresita's daughter Paula, age 30, who is fluent in 5 languages and travels worldwide in her job as a nurse.

7. having many of the people we had visited with during the week come by G & V's to offer their best wishes in our return travel and ask us to pass on good wishes ("saluti") to mom and Deb. The love and warmth shown by all was incredible -- still bringing tears of happiness to my eyes as I write about it.

In these final days of the trip, it constantly felt as if time were running out for there is never enough time to do that which brings so much pleasure -- enjoy Gordevio, the surrounding area and, most importantly, all the family and friends there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Family Connection - Laloli

I need to write a new chapter to my family tree briefing. A chapter that includes a family connection here in Gordevio which is not a Giorgi descendant but rather connected to a spouse of a Giorgi:

On Sunday we enjoyed a wonderful family meal at the Gordevio home of Claudio Facchi and his wife Teresita. Claudio's family connection to me is through my Nana's mom Giuseppina Laloli (wife of Bernardo Giorgi). Giuseppina Laloli's brother was Claudio's grandfather (his mother's father).

Deb and I had not had an opportunity to meet Claudio nor his wife and two children during our prior visits so it was very special to finally put faces with names I had heard so many times. During this visit I learned that Claudio had been to the USA three times beween 1970 and 1983, the first two times by himself and the last time with his wife. During this last trip they visited mom and dad and developed a closeness that grew during mom and dad's trips to Gordevio.
It was fun and informative to be able to get to meet and spend time with Claudio and Teresita, and meet their son. They also have a daughter who I didn't meet.

Wonderful Days - Sept 22, 23, 24

I've kept brief notes on each of these days, but I can already tell that I won't find time to complete daily additions to the blog. Therefore, I am going to summarize all these days. First let me start by saying that the weather has been absolutely beautiful. Previously I noted that we had enjoyed an 84 degree day -- but I have since learned that my conversion was not correct. All our days have been sunny and warm with temperatures in the 70's (I mistyped 20 degrees celcius as 29 degrees to get the conversion of 84. The correct conversion should have been 20 degrees C equals about 68 degrees F). Each day has been filled with many wonderful family visits along with ample time by ourselves to explore the local marketplace -- which is always fun. Rather than chronological order, I am going to just summarize these days' activities:
1. Our routine has been breakfast with G & V. Sometimes only G has been there because V has been busy about picking grapes for the production of grappa. The breakfast has been the standard of bread and wonderful cheeses, and coffee.

2. We've been to the local department/grocery store several times as both dad and I enjoy browsing the shelves comparing and contrasting what is the same, what is just similar and what things are completely different. Same for the prices. I have likened the store to a Target in the USA. It is a rather complete department and grocery store combined on two levels. Dad goes his way and I go mine -- with an agreement of where and when to meet. The store is called Carre Foure. Visiting there has been great fun.

3. We've enjoyed wonderful meals with G&V, Marco and Emma, Rein and his family (all familiar to me from Deb and my prior trips) and an additional family member Claudio Facchi and his wife Teresita. I'll write a separate entry about Claudio because he and his relationship to us is not covered in my previous posting about the Giorgi family tree. The meals have been both the familiar (polenta and pizza) and a first time experience of eating horse meet prepared 3 different ways. All meals have been delicious.

4. We visited the waterfront area in the town of Ascona -- a relaxing and beautiful area.

5. We walked around the village of Gordevio -- taking time to more closely examine the houses and flora.

6. Rein and I spent an afternoon in Locarno visiting the central plaza and strolling along the waterfront, the train station and some of the city streets. I also visited Rein and his family at Nathalie's house one evening.

7. We sat in front of G & V's house sipping wine and visiting with Gordevio locals -- some family, some not.

8. We attended church in Gordevio with G & V and Marco and Emma, and afterwards visited with Marco and Emma's daughter Doris and her husband Orlando and their youngest child Giuseppi (who is Neal's age).

9. In our travels/walks we ran into and had brief conversations with the Giglio sons Mauro and Enrico and Enrico's wife Myriam, as well as Marco and Emma's daugher Monica and Monica's husband Mario.

10. We've enjoyed plenty of delicious food and wine, many laughs and incredible warmth and love from everyone. Dad seems to have been completely energized by the visit -- and it is easy to see why people here comment that he hasn't changed or grown older since his last visit years ago. Every moment I am here I wish I knew more of the language -- but I also enjoy a comfort level with both the people and the driving that is familiar from this being my third trip in as many years.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Traveling the Dead End Valley - September 21

After breakfast with Vittorio and Giuseppina, dad and I headed out to Bosco-Gurin, a village at the end of one of the off-shoot roads along Valle Maggia. The village is only about 20 miles from Gordevio, but it is a curvy, sometimes single-lane, climb into the alps. The road has many switch backs that are such sharp turns that even the GPS announces them as U-turns. It was yet another gorgeous day here -- with deep blue skys and the cooler morning temperature climbing to about 84 degrees by mid day. The village is somewhat distinctive by its historical German culture/language here in the heart the Ticino where, as I mentioned before, Italian is the primary language -- or as I have learned a Swiss dialect of Italian (some words, idioms, expressions are unique to the Swiss area).

Bosco-Gurin today is like many of the other villages here, a mix of old and new -- but it is even more apparent because of the modern ski lift not far from the center of the village. Of course during our visit there was no snow -- just magnificant mountains. After enjoying the area, we sat in the outside seating area of a local "Osteria" -- a simple eatery known for local specialties and enjoyed some lunch.

The trip back off the mountain was equally thrilling -- not knowing whether you are going to come upon another vehicle in the one-lane areas or in the U-turns, makes for an exciting trip. We stopped at Cevio, the village at the floor of the valley where we reconnected with the main valley road. In Cevio dad found some shade in the central plaza/park area to take a nap and I ventured over to the local grocery store (COOP) to find some candy and water.

After a short break in Cevio, we decided to continue up the valley to Mogno where there was a modern church designed by a well-known Ticinesi architech. Dad remembered visiting the construction area with Giglio during a prior visit and he wanted to see the finished church. The road to Mogno is exactly like the road to Bosco-Gurin -- with plenty of hair pin turns to keep our attention along with such wonderful beauty. We had to walk a short distance from the parking near the road to the church and enjoyed touring it. Dad and I agreed that the structure reminded us of a massive water culvert turned up like a stove-pipe -- and though the stone work was beautiful, the inside of the church seemed stark and tiny. Mostly it seemed out-of-place in the village of stone and wood houses. Certainly a "different strokes for different folks" kind of place. Decide for yourself by seeing a picture of it here:

As we left the church parking area, we decided that we were only a few minutes from the end-of-the-road village Fuzio...and so our next stop was there. The village, hanging precariously on the hillside, is a fascinating sight -- an instant reminder that life here at the end of the dead-in-valley has existed here for centuries. I took advantage of the local telephone booth and made a call to Deb. I love the public phones here in Valle Maggia -- quite booths with both telephones and email terminals that are easy to understand and use, operated by easily slipping a credit card in and out. I especially love the fact that the phone's display shows you exactly how much the call is costing while one speaks...and the calls are very cheap. I probably spoke to Deb for 5 minutes and the call was less than $2.

We made our way back to Cevio where we stopped for dinner, then made our way home to Guisseppina and Vittorio's for a short visit before heading off to watch a table tennis tournament that Rein was playing in. It was fun to watch the intensity of the competition/players -- and we enjoyed watch Rein win easily in his matches.

Another wonderful day in paradise.

Friday, September 21, 2007

First Full Day - Sept 20

I was briefly awake to hear the church bell ring 2:00am but otherwise slept soundly through the night. I again heard the church bell at 6:00am and decided to get up and write a little before dad awoke. Around 8:00am I decided to head to the shower and dad awakened as I entered his room where the shower is. We were ready to head to breakfast with Vittorio and Giusseppina's around 8:30am. Vittoria had readied the typical bread and cheese breakfast as Giusseppina was a physical therapy for her knee replacement.

It was a wonderful day of visits including with Rein, Marco and Emma, and Claudio and his wife Teresita. In the evening we drove to Someo (a few miles up the valley) to visit the cemetary where many related Tognazzini's are buried. We made our way to an ATM in Ascona, stopped at a local market and arrived back at G & V's to find Fernando there. We had a great visit with him extending until we headed to bed at about 10:40pm. We both were ready for the pillows when we finally turned the lights out about 11pm.

Dad did an amazing job with the language -- especially considering he has had little use for it in the many years since his last visit here. We enjoyed good laughs all around comparing English to Italian on words like stubborn and jokes. Thankfully, Rein and Fernando are expert English speakers and their visits gave me an opportunity to understand every word. With the others I increased my knowledge of Italian as a good listener.

On a personal side, it still seems a little like I'm living a dream being here with dad...and driving around and seeing again the beautiful, movie-like scenery -- only adds to dream-like qualities.

Traveling to Switzerland - Sept 18/19

It was one of those special days when I took pleasure in reminding myself that this experience was really happening. All the doubts about whether we would actually make the trip vanished -- and the only doubts that remained were whether I had made acceptable choices about the logistics. A tinge of sadness accompanied our otherwise happy departure as we said our goodbyes to Deb and mom. It would be an even happier day when we might someday begin such a trip all together.

It had been my choice to drive to LAX rather than flying as dad had encouraged -- mostly because I hoped it would be a more relaxing start to the trip to not have to worry about airline delays and inter-airline connections. I must also admit that a part of my motivation for planning to drive to LAX had been to minimize the financial impact of having to cancel the trip should that have happened. In hindsight I was overly cautious, but as the departure day approached I decided that we might also take advantage of the driving trip to make a few additional stops related to our journey.

Our first stop was the mausoleum in San Luis Obispo where my paternal grandparents are buried. My reflections extended both to pleasure of beginning the trip by visiting those who are my very connection to Swiss heritage and to sadness: knowing that "Nana" never got to return to her birthplace after she was a teenager and that my "Grandad," born in Australia, never visited Switzerland. Nana and Grandad are in side-by-side crypts in the mausoleum not far from the crypt for the bodies of my brothers Dale and Henry. Dale, my parent's second child, died at age seven from appendicitis complications and Henry, born sixth (after me and before Mark) died within hours of his birth having been born without the top to his skull. Visiting there has always brought reflections of the fragile and seemingly random nature of life itself -- a place where all of life's usual irritations, complications, disappointments, angers, find their appropriately insignificant place in my thoughts.

Next stop was in the town of Guadalupe where dad was born and raised until his parents moved to Greenfield when he was in 7th grade. While I had been to Guadalupe before, this is the first time I had visited with dad -- and it was fun and informative. We talked about his paternal grandmother moving to Guadalupe from the nearby homesteaded Pt. Sal property, and passed by the location of his first home and first school, and discussed his dad's ownership of a car repair "garage," and service as constable and on the school board. Guadalupe is to dad what Gordevio was to his mom -- his birthplace and first hometown. The difference is that today there is no Tognazzini/Giorgi connection in Guadelupe except in the Guadalupe cemetary which we also visited. There we visited the graves of dad's grandparents, Noe and Maria Tognazzini. Maria's maiden surname was Zanolli. Her mother, also Maria Zanolli, is also buried there along with several other related Tognazzini's including some of dad's uncles.

The entire trip to LAX was relaxing as we had allowed ourselves plenty of time -- even stopping near Carpinteria to enjoy some salami and cheese that Deb had packed for us along with a milkshake. We arrived in plenty of time to proceed through the labrynth of check in and security without any "airport behavior" -- a description my children created to describe my sometimes too common display of tension and anxiety that accompanies "getting through" the mess that airline travel requires. I'm pleased to report that neither dad nor I displayed any "airport behavior" and we were sitting at the gate with plenty of time to "people watch." And while we couldn't avoid the officiousness and inefficient security checks, my online check-in allowed us to skip Swiss Air's long economy line and be checked in without delay through the "business" check-in line. Boarding and departure was ontime with a full flight -- and though our seating space reminded us that we were in economy seats, the service of two meals and complimentary alcohol was a step above the usual domestic airline flight service. The plane (an Airbus 340) was outfitted with individual video displays/controllers with an abundance of individually controllable movies, music, documentaries, video games and flight information with both forward looking and downward looking camera displays. These devices gave plenty of distraction when we weren't trying to catch a little sleep in the 10 hour flight (favorable winds allowed us to shorten the trip by about an hour). A "little" sleep is about all we got.

Arrival in Zurich could not have been more pleasant. Here we enjoyed a beautiful and spacious airport, luggage arrival before we had walked from the gate to baggage claim and quick, almost cursory, examination of our passports and no customs inspection as we self-selected a "no declarations" aisle. Car rental service was immediate and we were navigating the nearby roads within a half hour of landing. Thanks to my trusty GPS, we quickly made our way -- about 139 miles -- to Gordevio through the Gotthard pass and tunnels -- including the main one which extends approximately 13 miles (sort of like driving from Morro Bay to San Luis in a tunnel). The views were spectacular.

We arrived in Gordevio at around 7:30pm (our bodies were reminding us that it was 10:30am -- approximately 24 hours since leaving home with only a little more than an hour of "sleep" -- if you can call it sleep when you are cramped into a tiny airline seat. We were greeted warmly by Vittorio and Giuseppina with whom dad seemed to speak fluently without difficulty. An hour of good conversation and a little "vino" and we made our way to bed. I heard the bell on the church ring 10 times just before I fell asleep -- thinking just for a moment that it was likely that both my Nana and my grandad's mother heard the same church bell when they were growing up here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Enroute to CA - Meeting Giorgi's in Sonoma

On September 12, 2007, Deb and I began our 1000 mile driving trip to California with plans for two nights on the road. We had decided to take the more scenic Highway 101 by departing I-5 at Grants Pass, Oregon and taking Route 199 to Crescent City, CA where we spent the first night.

During our travel on the 2nd day, an idea came to me that we might slow our trip down and try to meet some of the Giorgi's in Sonoma, CA. You may recall that in the last paragraph of my prior posting entitled "Giorgi Family Tree - Cliff's Note Version," I noted that I did not know the offspring of another of my "Nana's" sisters: my Aunt Lena Giorgi who emigrated to the Sonoma, California area, but the trips to Gordevio left the desire to know them. So, while enroute I called dad and got the contact information for Aunt Lena's oldest son Melvin. Upon arrival at our accommodations, I placed a call to Melvin and inquired about the possibility of meeting him the next afternoon. Melvin was warm and welcoming -- and we agreed to meet at his house the next afternoon.

When we arrived at Melvin's house on September 14, he and his brother Ray welcomed us as if we had known them all our lives -- and the time flew by as we delved into their branch of the family tree, their travels to Switzerland and Melvin's pictures, both historical and current -- learning about both his and Ray's offspring. All was fascinating -- as I began to understand more about the family -- theirs, mine, ours. Some of the discussion helped clarify and confirm things I already had heard from dad -- other parts provided new information. As with all conversations -- some I probably heard correctly and some I may not have grasped just right -- but every minute was precious and fun, and we left with both the satisfaction of having stopped -- and the desire to return again to both continue the conversations and meet more of Aunt Lena's branch. Some interesting tidbits included:

1. Sisters speaking with different accents: As a child I had noted that Aunt Lena Giorgi spoke with what I perceived as a heavy "foreign" accent and I thought it was unusual that her sister, my "Nana" spoke with no such accent. Why? Nana was 10 years older than Aunt Lena Giorgi. Their parents emigrated to the USA when Nana was around 5 and Lena was not yet born. The family settled and resided in Coal City, Illinois where Nana was schooled during her formative years -- it could be said that English was her primary language. Nana's and Aunt Lena's father, Bernardo, died when Nana was in her teens and their mother returned to Gordevio where Aunt Lena, then in her formative years, was educated and where Italian became her primary language. As might be expected, Aunt Lena's children benefitted from learning Italian at home.

2. Sometimes "official" documents reflect life -- sometimes we make life fit the documents: Ray's birthdate in the family tree document I had was listed as one date -- the date that he was told and the date celebrated until he had to apply for a passport and found that his official birth certificate showed his birthdate as one day prior. No one knows for sure which date accurately reflects the fact (he was born at home and the notion that the birth certificate was correct is just as plausible as the day/date he had been told).

3. Names Come and Go: The Giorgi surname, a very common name in Ticino, currently has but one related male who, by current naming traditions in the USA, MAY carry the name on as a surname to future generations in the USA. This male is Melvin's grandson.

All in all, a wonderfully satisfying afternoon -- and, hopefully, the beginning of more family contacts to come.

[Note: While I didn't know any of Aunt Lena Giorgi's offspring -- it should be noted that such is not the case for my other brothers and sisters who have stayed closer to home. My opportunities to get to know Aunt Lena Giorgi's family were limited by the choices I made which took my life's path away from my hometown and California thereby limiting the opportunities for contact.]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why Did My Ancestors Emigrate?

I've always been fascinated by this question and have often tried to find a single, simple motivating factor that would give complete satisfaction to my inquiries. However, I've come to a growing realization that like my own life choices and those of everyone I know -- there is usually a great multitude of motivators that impact any given decision but especially those decisions about residence and work. To visit Gordevio and the surrounding area today, the question is even more puzzling: Why would anyone ever want to leave such majestic beauty, such apparent economic vibrance (one of the highest standards of living and weathiest countries in the world), such invitingly warm mediterranean climate, all in a country respected for its peaceful neutrality? But life wasn't the same in the 1800's. It didn't matter how beautiful the country was when there was widespread famine.

As previously noted, my "Nana's" family emigrated directly to the USA -- but my grandfather's family emigrated from Someo to Australia and then to California. One web site reports that the first two Ticino migrants to Australia arrived in 1851 and paid their own way. Two more left in 1852 and "it was perhaps the successful return of two of them in 1854 which caused the general exodus of 1855 when 1073 arrived in Australia...[T]he Ticinesi who migrated to Australia were, mostly, from the ... the villages in dead-end valleys."
(See: )

Another web site gives some interesting perspective to emigration from Switzerland (of course, like most web sites -- it's impossible to determine the accuracy): .

Why do the Swiss-rooted family trees spread to Holland, Australia, Illinois, California? Was the Catholic church involved in either making funds available, encouraging or directing such emigration as has been suggested? Were ancestors motivated by the lack of food -- or was the desire for adventure, perhaps riches, even homesteading among the motivators? It's fun to continue to research the question and to ask for the opinions and knowledge of all family members -- but I fully expect that there is no easy, single answer. Indeed, I can only wonder about the conclusions some descendant of mine might try to make when looking at my own relocations around the USA some 100 years from now.

Gordevio - Where Is That?

Throughout my life, persons hearing my surname for the first time would frequently ask the question: "Are you Italian?" Except when I considered the questioner insincere, I would immediately answer in a manner similar to what I had heard my dad respond since I was young: "No, I'm Swiss. My ancestors were from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland." Sometimes I would even explain that my ancestors were from Swiss villages that are around 30 miles from the Swiss border with Italy. It was always my sense that those who asked were generally uninformed about the fact that there is no "Swiss" language -- and I often took the opportunity to explain/educate just as I had heard dad do. However, until I began to study and plan for our first visit to Switzerland in 2005, I was ignorant of the fact that only about 8 to 11% (depending on the source) of the population of Switzerland speaks Italian as their primary language. Geographically, Italian is the primary language only of residents of the Ticino canton (cantons are easiest thought of as roughly equivalent to a state in the USA). Ticino is one of 26 cantons (3 are divided into "half-cantons") which is south of the Swiss Alps and borders Italy. The municipality of Gordevio is estimated to now have a population of around 800 and is located in one of two so-called "dead-end valleys" in the heart of Ticino. Someo is about 6 miles deeper in the same valley (called Valle Maggia). The two valleys are referred to as "dead-end" because they do just that -- come to dead-ends south of the Alps.

This link will take you to a map that shows Gordevio and Someo -- and you can zoom out to get a perspective of the rest of Switzerland -- including the city we are flying into, the largest city in Switzerland - Zurich:,+switzerland&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=35.684144,81.738281&ie=UTF8&om=1&ll=46.262968,8.813782&spn=0.243526,0.63858&z=11

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My First Connections - Google Assisted

When Deb and I were readying for our first trip to Switzerland in 2005, I did my usual procrastination in getting contact information from dad and Jane. Both dad and Jane had suggested that Rein and/or his daughter Nathalie might be the best to contact because of their excellent ability with English. Because of my own delay in requesting email and phone information, the trip grew closer without me having established contact with anyone in Switzerland. So one day I decided to see if I might be able to find an email address or phone number of Rein and/or Nathalie on the internet. Probably because of their unique names (like my own), my very first Google search resulted in finding an Italian language web site where both of their names appeared with phone numbers. Using the Google language translating tool, I was able to discern that the web site involved some sort of table tennis association.

With the phone numbers in front of me and after doing an additional internet check of the time in Switzerland (9 hours ahead of me), I decided to call the number shown for Nathalie. It was a moment of "what have I got to lose" type of thinking. My call was answered by a female voice speaking Italian -- and I began to try to explain (in English, of course) who I was and why I was calling -- hoping that I had gotten lucky in finding Nathalie. You can imagine my relief when Nathalie identified herself, acknowledged that she knew who I was (remember, we had never met -- but "son of Wilmar" seemed to do the trick -- with thanks again for another unusual name!) and said that she was with her dad, Rein. She passed the phone to Rein -- and the resulting brief but warm conversation launched my own connection with the family in Gordevio. It was a wonderful moment that that has led to all that has followed. Dad wrote in his autobiography of his meeting of Rein, his wife Elly and their children Nathalie and Mathieu: "It was one of those situations where one instantly feels a bonding." My experience was the same.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Giorgi Family Tree - "Cliffs Note" Version

I hesitate on the use of "Cliffs Note" reference expecting that more recent generations may be wondering what I am saying. I guess in more recent parlance I should have entitled this "Family Tree For Dummies." In either case, it is not my intention here to provide the details but to provide the most brief overview for reference to the names that may appear in this blog. For any who may be interested in the details, I'd be happy to send you an electronic copy (Word file) of a descendants charting of the Giorgi tree starting with first known patriarch Carlo Giorgi born in 1803 (compiled by Dad and which I have updated with information I have collected during my trips).

Carlo had seven children but the descendants whom I have met are the offspring of only two, born 3rd - Maria and 4th - Bernardo.

The Holland branch: Maria Giorgi married a man with the same last name and their first child was Silvestro Giorgi. Silvestro, born in 1877, emigrated to Holland where his fifth child (born in 1919) had three children in my generation: Kryn (Rein), Johanna (Joke) and Elisabeth (Els). I'll devote a separate posting to Rein and his family because of his/his family's significance to our journeys to Switzerland. In addition, Deb and I had the pleasure of meeting Joke and her husband and son when they traveled to Morro Bay. We hope to someday travel to Holland (or have them come visit us) to get to know them better.

The Switzerland branch: Now back to Carlo's 4th child, Bernardo. Bernardo oldest child was my paternal grandmother, Olimpia Maria, born in 1888 -- this was my "Nana" whom I wrote about previously. Bernardo's third child (my Nana's sister) was mother to several including:

- now deceased Giglio (who I previously wrote about -- the first one to greet dad in Lucerne) and who has three children Enrico, Mauro and Anna in my generation.
- living in Gordevio with their husbands -- Giuseppina (husband - Vittorio) and Emma (husband - Marco). Giuseppina, Vittorio, Emma and Marco are the only four remaining in Gordevio from my dad's generation. I'll be writing more about them and their children because of their significance to our journeys.
- now deceased Felice Geremia (referred to as Geremia) who has three children, Marie-Therese ("Teresita"), Fernando and Pierangelo. We have not yet had the opportunity to meet Teresita but like Rein mentioned above, Fernando and Pierangelo figure prominently in our journeys and I will be writing more about them and Pierangelo's wife and sons.

[Note: It is the above noted Holland and Switzerland branches that I'll be writing about in this blog but I must also note that there is another California branch: another sister of my Nana, Adelina Giorgi, also emigrated to California and settled in the Sonoma area. She died in 1990 but has many descendants living in California. I always knew her as Aunt Lena Giorgi which distinquished her from another Aunt Lena, my grandfather's sister. I do not personally know Aunt Lena Giorgi's offspring -- but know of them and know that some of them have kept up their Gordevio ties as well. My journey's to Gordevio and getting to know the family there has made me want to similarly make the effort to know the Sonoma part of the family as well.]

Swiss Family Connections Nutured

My dad's mother (my "Nana") emigrated from the village of Gordevio, Switzerland in her teens (twice -- but more on that story later) and though she never returned to her homeland as an adult, she kept up correspondence with relatives there. Dad inherited these correspondence connections. In 1977 dad planned his and mom's first ever trip to Europe -- on a multi-country guided tour along with one of mom's sisters, the sister's husband and a family friend. Because of the controlling nature of the guided tour, the closest they were going to get to Gordevio was the much visited city of Lucerne (currently about 2 hours from Gordevio -- then probably more). Dad wrote to the Gordevio relatives to tell them of his plans -- but was not sure whether circumstances would allow for any personal contact. Mom and dad tell of their excitement when Giglio, his wife Gemma and their then son-in-law met them at their Lucerne hotel and took them for a fondue meal -- during which they were overwhelmed by the warmth and love shown them. This meeting -- nutured by the extra effort of Giglio and Gemma to seek out mom and dad during their tour -- really planted the initial seeds of warm and loving contact inspiring mom and dad to want to return again and again to Switzerland. Over the following 16 years, mom and dad returned 3 more times -- in these times proceeding directly to Gordevio -- the last time being in December 1993 - now 14 years ago. In addition to mom and dad's trips to Switzerland, some of the relatives there visited mom and dad in California over the years -- and the family connections stayed strong. Dad describes his contact and visits in detail in his autobiography "This is My Life" beginning on page 115. One of dad's paragraph's includes this: "The memories of the glorious visit in Gordevio coupled with the photographs we took, constantly remind us of some of the happiest times in our lives."

While I have seen pictures of several of the Swiss cousins in California, Deb and I only had the opportunity to meet Giglio and his daugher Anna when they traveled to California. They visited us when we were living in Diamond Bar -- so the date would have been sometime between 1983 and 1989.

Of my brothers and sisters, only Jane and Todd have had the opportunity to visit Switzerland. Todd's visit was very short but Jane's was for a longer time -- and in 2005 when I was planning Deb and my first ever trip to Europe, Jane's detailed and most current knowledge of the cousins and the area were tremendously helpful to my planning and making connections there. She wrote me some detailed letters and sent a package of materials and maps, all of which were invaluable in preparing for the trip. And her son Drew, who has relatives from his father's side of the family in the nearby town of Bellinzona -- and who has traveled frequently to the area -- was very helpful in reassuring me that the logistics of the trip (like driving there) would be easy (he was right).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why This Blog About the Trip

Once the airline tickets were purchased and other planning was underway, I thought it might be fun to try to maintain a diary of the trip. Initially my intent of the diary was to just share the "personal" trip experiences with my immediate family (Deb and the kids). But as I thought about it and began to write the introductory background in the prior posting, I realized that a larger audience of family might find such a diary/blog interesting. So that's now my focus and intent -- write it to inform and educate Deb and my kids about the experience -- but with sufficient circumspection that it could be shared with anyone.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Father-Son Trip - The Idea Begins

In September 2005, an unusual opportunity allowed Deb and I to visit the homeland of the roots of my paternal grandparents - Switzerland. It was truly a dream-come-true for me to travel into Switzerland and experience the towns of Someo (roots of my paternal grandfather - the Tognazzini's) and Gordevio (roots of my paternal grandmother - the Giorgi's). The absolute highlight of the trip, though, was meeting and connecting with Giorgi-related cousins in Switzerland (the only related Tognazzini's still in Switzerland are in the cemeteries).

The Giorgi-related cousins were warm and welcoming from the very first meeting -- opening their homes and hearts to our visit. It was apparent that Deb and I were enjoying such a warm welcome because of the wonderful relationships that were created and nurtured by my mom and dad. More on that history and the family tree in a future posting. Suffice to say for now that we loved every minute of our time in Switzerland and departed with a feeling of closeness to our family there that we could not have even imagined before our visit.

In October 2006 we were able to return to Switzerland -- this time with our oldest daughter, her husband and their two children (during their 6 month stay in Germany in connection with the son-in-law's work). This second trip was even more special as we got to know the cousins better as well as meeting more of the cousins -- without the prior worries of not knowing what to expect. Again we left feeling blessed to have such wonderful family in such a beautiful part of the world -- and we left with the desire to return as often as we could.

Prior to each of these trips, we had encouraged my folks to travel/visit with us. Various circumstances precluded their travel, but my hope continued that a future opportunity would allow such a trip.

In the summer of 2007, a dear friend recommended that Deb and I watch the movie "The Thing About My Folks." It is a delightful comedy about family relationships with the usual outrageously funny behavior interspersed with poignant observations of the assumptions and realities of those relationships. Central to the story is a spontaneous trip by a father and son. It is this father-son trip that planted the seed of the idea that I might propose a father-son trip to Switzerland. Don't get me wrong -- there isn't much else about the movie or plot that I considered similar to my dad or my relationship with my dad -- with the possible exception of the common notion that a son should not make assumptions about his dad -- and in the case of this movie, about his dad's relationship with his mother. But the movie did plant the idea of a father-son trip.

It is with this background -- and after discussing the idea with Deb and getting her approval -- that I proposed just such a father-son trip to Switzerland to my dad. I really had no idea of the response I might get -- because I had never been sure of all the reasons my prior suggestions of traveling to Switzerland had failed. Sure I knew of serious health-related issues by both mom and dad -- but I also suspected there was a good deal of the regular ole' post-9/11 fears.

To my pleasant surprise, dad seemed enthused about the idea from the first time I mentioned it. Being suspicious by nature, I wasn't without my own doubts as to his intentions as he initially seemed to want to expand the idea of a simple, shorter trip just to Switzerland to include multi-country tourism ("if we are going to make the trip, we should also see/visit ...."). I wondered if dad wasn't shrewedly saying yes while making the undertaking seem overwhelming so as to kill the idea -- three weeks of playing tourist in Rome and Venice in additional to visiting Switzerland wasn't what I had envisioned -- and I suspected dad knew that.

I was delighted when dad remained interested and committed to a trip to Switzerland even as I limited the tourist expectations. Knowing that flight costs might also be a deal-killer, I proceeded cautiously -- doing extensive internet research to find opportunities to make the trip both affordable AND convenient. I've traveled enough to know that the cheapest flights often require the maximum amount of inconvenience and patience (a virtue of which I often display a shortened supply). In my mind, the best case scenario for a successful trip would be non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Zurich -- and the only carrier that does that is Swiss Air. Good fortune shone on me again when I was able to find excellent fares on the non-stop Swiss Air flights on acceptable dates -- leaving September 18 and returning September 27. Dad voiced his support of the dates and I bought the tickets -- and as I made the purchase I finally was convinced that the idea of a father-son trip to Switzerland was really going to happen.