I’ve written before about what a handicap it is to write about a setting I’ve never visited. I can read descriptions in books–and in the case of Albert Einstein, some of the biographers are fine writers who provide me with details–but there is just no substitute for knowing how the air smells in a given location. That said, and a trip to Switzerland is planned for next September, in trying to draft a scene that takes place in Mettmenstetten, Switzerland, where Albert stayed with his mother, his sister, and the women of his extended family in August, 1901, I read that the family stayed at the Hotel Paradies. I search the internet, but this pension/hotel is no longer listed. This is not a surprise after 110 years, but it is a frustration. I search the internet for nearby hotels that look old, hoping for pictures. I’m trying to describe the drawing room of this place where the family joined together to play music in the evenings, Albert on his violin, accompanied by one of his many female cousins (one of whom, Elsa, became his second wife). But I have little idea what this room would look like.
I decide to look on Google Maps at Mettmenstetten–satellite view–to see what the terrain looks like. As I zoom in, I switch on the names of the roads. My goodness. At the edge of town, there is a road named Paradiesli. I zoom in farther, and what do I see but the roof of a building that would be large enough to house an extended family. I switch on photos. Oh, my goodness. It seems someone has photographed that very building! I compare the roof lines in the satellite view and the photo, which is not difficult considering the distinctive gables and an arch in the middle. Indeed it is the same! My gratitude overflows from Florida where I sit in my writing chair in winter, to the photographer, griphus3, whoever and wherever you are. This is likely the place–or one very like it–and I have made good faith effort. Now, I still have to imagine the interior, but that’s suddenly easier. Here it is.