Pictures which served as an inspiration to the novel
Painting by Harry Polkinhorn
The unfinished painting Karla Bocellli, the heroine of the novel, struggles with. It becomes the Leitmotif in the book.
Locarno, a city in the canton Ticino in the south of Switzerland. It is also the place of Karla’s and Andreas’s first stormy encounter when the quick-tempered stonemason almost runs Karla over in his car.
Photo courtesy of Renato Spiegel, Agno, Ticino
Chestnut trees, one of the landmarks of the canton Ticino. Noble chestnuts used to be the staple food in this southern canton. In spring, the blooming chestnut trees dominate the landscape.
My niece, Eveline, who grows and sells the most beautiful roses in the Maggia Valley. In the novel, she becomes Lena, a close friend of Karla’s.
After their less than friendly initial encounter, Karla and Andreas meet again at the local cemetery, where Karla puts down roses on her mother’s grave and Andreas plants a new tombstone.
This is the kind of gravestones Andreas, the sculptor, would carve.
A picture gallery in Locarno, which could have been the site of Karla’s first art exhibition.
Monte Sosto, the mountain in the Blenio Valley, which served as inspiration for one of Karla’s painting. Andreas, the stonemason, grew up in the Blenio Valley. The painting and the exhibition bring the two a little closer.
A rustico (rustic house) in Avegno, Maggia Valley. These houses made of natural stone used to be stables for animals. Later people converted them to living quarters and they became the favorite vacation places in this southern canton. Karla lives in one of them.
Sculpures in front of the Scuola di Scultura di Peccia, a sculpture school in Peccia (at the very end of the valley Maggia near a large marble quarry). Andreas took sculpting classes here.
The sculpture school in Peccia
Part of the attraction in the small village of Peccia is the sculpture path. The path leads through the village and the surrounding area and each year, sculptures from different artists are displayed. They are so well integrated into the surroundings that you sometimes miss them. If you look closely, you can see the sculpture of a face in the middle of the creek. Andreas takes Karla to Peccia to show her the sculpture he created for the path.
A pristine river in Peccia
Switching to Peru. The death of an artist friend and a dream prompt Karla to travel to Peru, the country of her paternal ancestors, to meet and finally get to know her biological father, Arturo. Karla is the product of a short and passionate love affair between a young Peruvian from Cusco and her mother during a trip to South America. Andreas accompanies Karla on this trip.
Lima, Peru, the boardwalk in Miraflores overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The sculpture “El Beso” (The Kiss) by Victor Delfín in El Parque del Amor has particular significance for Karla and Andreas.
The second stop on Karla’s and Andreas’s Peruvian trip is Arequipa. The convent Santa Catalina is a painter’s paradise. Karla delights in the vibrant colors and takes tons of pictures.
More pictures of Santa Catalina.
In Arequipa, Karla and Andreas take to trour through the desert to Toro Muerto, which is full of petro glyphs from the Wari people, a pre-Incan tribe. Andreas, the sculptor, gets carried away and wanders around the large area, forgetting time.
In the meantime, Karla delights in the mysterious colors and does some sketching. All of a sudden, she realizes that Andreas is gone. Karla whose nerves are rather fragile to begin with thinks she has lost him. She panics and has an outright emotional break-down. No wonder, as beautiful and mysterious as this area is, it is certainly no place you would want to be stranded without water.
The destination of their Peruvian journey is Cusco, where Karla meets the family from her father’s side. As is to be expected, it marks the beginning of an emotional time for everyone involved.
This is one of the narrow streets in Cusco on the way to the San Blas, the district in Cusco where Arturo, Karla’s father, and his family live. The drive up and down those narrow roads with the stone steps on both sides is a real challenge.
Plaza de Armas in Cusco near the travel agency which Karla’s father owns.
This could be the house where Arturo and his family live. In reality, it is the home of a relative of my niece’s husband.
This little boy reminded me so much of Antonio, Karla’s half-brother. He is as naughty and lovable as Antonio. His real name is Enrique. I brought him a t-shirt from Los Angeles which he proudly wears.
Karla and Andreas take an overnight trip to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel. The peasants offer their ware to the tourists on the train passing by.
Machu Picchu rising out of the fog. In spite of the many tourists, it is still one of the miracles of the world. For Andreas, the stonemason, the intricate and ingenious architecture of the Incas is an eye-opening experience.
See how the shape of the stones in front mirror the mountains in the background.
If you look at the landscape and the rocks with the eye of a sculptor, you discover interesting shapes: Doesn’t this stone look like the head of a monkey? Andreas and Karla think so.
The middle one of the mountains looks like a turtle. If you have trouble seeing the shape, you might want to try a little chicha, the drink of Pachamama or Mother Earth. It’s made of fermented corn and it tends to open up the door to your perception?
A few days later, Arturo takes Karla and Andreas on a tour through the Valle Sagrado, the sacred valley of the Incas. The mountain above the town of Pisas is called Condor Mountain by some. They claim that it has the shape of a condor. At the top are the head and beak and the agricultural terraces on the left and right form the wings. It’s a little difficult to see in the rather small photo. But, again, a little chicha might help.
The next stop on their outing is Ollantaytambo. The face you see in the rock is, according to some, the face of Tunupa, the legendary Inca pilgrim preacher of knowledge. Perhaps more important for the novel is the fact that Arturo tells Karla a little more about his relationship with her mother, his former lover, as they sit here, gazing at the mountain.
While rocks and stones inspire Andreas, the stonemason, Karla, the painter, delights in the colors, light and shadows of the landscape at different times of the day. This kind of picture makes her want to drop everything and paint.
The day before Karla’s and Andreas’s departure, Karla’s Peruvian family organizes a huge farewell party. Friends and relatives take part and there is a lot of eating and drinking, talking and laughing. It could have looked something likes this.
Back home in Switzlerland, Andreas moves into Karla’s rustico. After a while, things don’t go so well for them. Karla is faced with a serious case of “painter’s block” and depressive moods. It begins to affect their relationship.
In order to overcome her artistic paralysis, Karla takes a workshop with a painter and teacher in Florence, Italy. She shares an apartment with a friend of hers near the Duomo.
On the first day of Karla’s workshop, she and her friend, Claudia, walk to the studio on the other side of the Arno river. They pass by the Piazza della Signoria with the many sculptures and art works, among others a copy of Michelangelo’s David.
On their way to the studio, Karla and Claudia cross the river Arno on the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge with the many jewelry shops.
This looks like the building where the workshop takes place. It’s the studio of Jean Philippe, the painter and Karla’s art teacher
Karla notices that the current of the river Arno changes almost daily. Sometimes it flows smoothly, as in this picture. Sometimes, it is a yellowish twirling mass rushing beneath the bridges. Jean Philippe calls it a “moody river.”
This could be the restaurant beneath the studio where Karla and Jean Philippe, her teacher, have a heated discussion at the beginning of Karla’s workshop. This marks also the beginning of an artistic break-through for Karla and, at the same time, a crossroad in her relationship to Andreas. Jean Philippe becomes an important person in Karla’s life.
A view of the Arno from Jean Philippe’s apartment. Why is this important? You have to read the novel to find out!
After the emotionally intense time in Florence, Karla comes back home to the Ticino. The turmoil in her life is, however, far from over.
Lago Maggiore with mountains in the background. Surrounded by the beautiful landscape, Karla and Andreas carve out a life for themselves. It’s a life full of struggles and conflicts but also of passion, love, and mutual support.
This church plays an important role in Karla’s and Andreas’ lives. This is the actual church in Avegno, a town at the beginning of the Maggia Valley. It’s where some of my relatives live and it became Karla’s hometown.
Photo courtesy of Glenda Powers, Bigstock.com
A few years have gone by and children become part of Karla’s and Andreas’s life–tomboy and trouble-maker, Laura, and Tonio, her younger brother.
The Maggia river near Karla’s and Andreas’s home has lots of shallow pools ideal for bathing. But there are dangerous spots with powerful undercurrents. A near fateful accident in the river bring Andreas and his abusive father closer together.
Many years have passed and Karla and Andreas take another trip, this time on the small train from the Maggia Valley via Domodossola, Italy, to Montreux, Switzerland. The occasion is an art exhibition of Karla’s paintings in Montreux. This is part of the view of from the train which drives through a picturesque landscape.
Chateau de Chillon on the way to Montreux.
Montreux, the city where Karla’s exhibition takes place. It’s also the location of an unexpected reunion.
Photo courtesy of Bigstock.com
And this is the canvas of the painting Karla has been struggling with from the beginning of the story. She finally painted in white over the earlier gloomy picture with the timid, self-effacing girl. Now, Karla will paint a strong, self-assured woman and so her development as artist and human being has reached a new level. What will the future bring? But that’s the stuff for a new story.
I hope you enjoyed the journey through Karla’s and Andreas’s life. Come back to my blog and leave a comment, if you’re so enclined. And thanks for sharing the tour with me!