Not So Buried Treasure Hunting in Switzerland

The aspect of military life that I've enjoyed the most has been the opportunity to travel. Besides taking trips all over the world for my husband's job, we spent an amazing two years living in Bern, Switzerland. I'm not kidding when I say that I've been trying to figure out how to move back there ever since we left. Here is a photo from one of our favorite hikes from First to Bachalpsee.

I used to hunt for furniture, art, and other Swiss mementos in nearby brocantes. If you haven't heard of a brocante, it's somewhat the same as a thrift store here in the U.S.

One of the brocantes I visited often was Interbrocken Haus in Thun. I found beautiful furniture, colorful pitchers, unique baskets, and wooden shoes on my many trips there. When driving up to the store, there were usually paintings and other items for sale on display outside to draw people in. My best 'find' was sitting out in the sun for everyone driving by to spot but somehow it waited patiently for me. The price was written in marker right on the glass and was the equivalent of ten dollars.

I didn't pay attention to the signature but was happy to have found a piece painted in 1924.

This is a photo of the label on the back of the painting:

The title written on the back of the frame on the label reads, "Der Kleine Bernina- See" which I believe translates to The Little Bernina Lake and displays the artist's name, Hans Beat Wieland.

This painting immediately reminded me of the beautiful view pictured at the beginning of this post, from one of our favorite hikes in the Swiss Alps. Because of that I brought it home, completely unaware it was painted by a renowned Swiss artist. We went into the store and passed by this painting as it sat outside on the side of the busy road. On the way to the car to leave, I looked at it again and decided to buy it.  It's amazing to me that photographs I took of alpine scenery, no matter how breathtaking, don't capture the essence of the mountains and the way the sky seems to meet them as the brushstrokes on this canvas do. Here is a closer look:

After we had the painting for a month or so, one of our friends from the embassy in Bern noticed it in our house and asked if he could bring one of his Swiss friends by to see the painting. She was completely taken aback when she saw what I had found at what is essentially a Swiss thrift store. She told me about the artist,  and was a mix of astounded and disappointed to hear what I'd paid for my painting. She told me to take care of it as it was something special and made it clear that she wasn't happy it had been put out on the curb at a brocante! I've never had it appraised but it would be very hard for me to part with regardless of what it may be worth. Since it reminds me of one of the most beautiful views I was lucky enough to lay eyes on and sat in plain sight at the brocante for anyone to notice but went untouched, I feel like it was meant to be mine.

I'm a little embarrassed that I hung the painting in my house and went on my way without thinking to research the name signed on the canvas or displayed on the label on the back of the frame. I like to think I'm a more seasoned thrifter now and that I'm more careful to notice, at the very least, details like the artist's name! Although lucky for me it appears I'm not the only one that wasn't paying attention to that.
What about you? What treasure hunt find means the most to you?


  1. Wow, it really is a beautiful painting. I think it was meant for you too. That sounds pretty amazing to live in Switzerland. Has it been your favourite place? Hopefully you'll get a chance to take your kid(s) to these wonderful places too!

    1. Thank you Shawna. Switzerland is just such an amazing place to live. I am still not over leaving! I would love to take our family back there for a visit sometime.

  2. My son and family spent a Christmas in Switzerland a few years ago when he was stationed in Germany. That first picture took my breath away. It's one of those places that makes me tear up it's so beautiful. And what a wonderful find of a beautiful painting.

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