Quick Trip to Lausanne, Montreaux and Geneva, Switzerland

I was so thrilled today as it was raining all over Switzerland, which allowed me to be entirely spontaneous with my decision on where to visit, as not one city had better weather than another. This is officially the only time, my entire trip, where being spontaneous has been rather fun. I walked to the station and stood in front of the rolling board and went to the major city that was leaving asap, which just happened to be in the direction of Geneve.

I hopped on the train and sat for the next hour trying to decide when I would get off. On the way I listened to “Unison” whose lyrics rung through my ears as an anthem to my summer “I never thought I would compromise…I’ve seen it all, and there’s no more to see.” I decided at the last minute (just as the doors were closing) to jump off at Lausanne. I was excited to have the opportunity to practice my French again! The city is the capital of the canton of Vaud: a hilly city surrounded by wine grapes overlooking Lake Geneva. I took the hike up to the old town and stopped off at the city’s huge cathedral and then continued up the hilly streets to Chateau St. Maire. The main purpose of my visit was to take in the architecture and more importantly visit the infamous Musee de l’Art Brut. The gallery was a fascinating amalgam of art created by untrained artists – the mentally unhinged, eccentrics and incarcerated criminals. A quote from the gallery founder and collector

“Art does not come and lie down in the beds that have been made for it; it runs away as soon as anyone utters its name: it likes being incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what it’s called.”

The pamphlet goes on to explain that the collection consists of self taught creators, who, for various reasons, have escaped cultural conditioning and conformity. These people are marginalized people who are entrenched in the attitude of a rebellious spirit or are impervious to collective norms and values, those who produce Art Brut include prisoners, inmates of psychiatric hospitals, eccentrics, loners and misfits. The gallery was mind blowing. There were many videos of the mentally retarded artists who created these grand and dream like works of art. I was most fascinated by the French blind man who carves huge wooden sculptures (they were brilliant and intricate. So much detail to feel it all with your hands). I cant really explain it all, my pictures speak a thousand words, but imagine walking through a dream. It gives you a glimpse into how the “odd and social outcasts” express themselves, how they feel, in a material and meaningful way. Lausanne also has a claim to fame as it is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and houses the lavish Musee Olympique.

I walked back to the station and bought a few things at the store for my 20 minute lunch/train to Montreaux. I had a lovely bottle of Swiss chocolate milk, a ham salad baguette sandwich, tarte au citron and a gooey Cinnamon bun. Montreaux is the center of the “so called Swiss Riviera”. It offers a marvelous lakeside full of plush gardens, opulent hotels, ornate fountains and Alp views. The city is home to the number one tourist attraction in the entire country, Chateau Chillon. It occupies a stunning position right on the lake. The fortress caught the public imagination when Lord Byron wrote about the fate of Bonivard, a follower of the Reformation, who was chained to the fifth pillar in the dungeons for four years in the 16th century. My trip to Montreaux was compromised by a hectic heroic adventure.

I arrived and walked down to the lakefront which is simply gorgeous. You feel incredibly wealthy and ready to chat with celebrities at any moment. The sky looked very glum. I had avoided all rain in Lausanne but I could see a huge dark blue storm moving fast directly towards this cutesy little resort town. The walk to the Chateaux is 45 minutes and I was dumb enough to think I could get there before the rain really got bad. Half way there it started to spit, then about 5 minutes later the INTENSE thunder and lightening began (the loudest I have ever heard, aka war zone). About 20 minutes from the Chateaux the rain was pouring so hard that I was actually drenched, as if I had jumped in the lake itself. I ran under a big tree in an attempt to “dry off” when the horrible happened. Looking over the lake I saw my first tornado drop down from the sky and spin into the lake. Crash, my heart thudded, thunder bolts and Japanese tourists SCREAMING and running as fast as they could. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park running from the T Rex. I ran away from the massive cone of death wind (well really just followed the Japanese tourists who surely knew what they were doing and where they were going). I turned around a couple times to see it getting bigger and nastier. I thought I might die, and I wasn’t even dressed well! All wet, what a horrible obituary that would be. Thanks be to God I got to the top of the city walls. Just before it hit the boardwalk it disappeared into the air. It still rained like hell and I was dripping like a wet water dog. I headed to the train station as I was not in the mood to see a chateaux (however famous it is, I saw it from across the bay and I decided I’d just google a nice picture and call it my own). I ran into the train station, took off my shoes and rung out my socks which were soaked to puddle wet. I hopped on the next train to Geneva and arrived an hour later.

I was a bit less soaking by the time I got off the train. I fell in love with Geneva for the 2 hours I visited. It is a city full of beautiful flowered fountains, expensive luxury shops, very rich people (I saw a 40 something year old mother with her two kids, they were all decked out in matching diesel outfits). The city is famed for being the birth place of the genius thinker Rousseau, the headquarters for the UN and a huge international city full of rich bankers and financiers. I walked down the boardwalk which sits on top of the Rhone River. At the entrance to the lake there is a famous and huge fountain called Jet d’Eau. Calling this water plume a fountain is a bit of an understatement. The water shoots up 200 km/h, 1360 horsepower to create a 140 meter high jet. At any one time, seven tonnes of water are in the air! Across the largest bridge I walked up to the Cathedral St Pierre which ends at the Place de Bourge Four (which has the most amazing French restaurants.) I contemplated taking the trip to CERN (that nasty organization from Dan Browns “Angels and Demons”) but was too tired and still rather damp. I walked back to the train station and grabbed the luxury express train to Bern which took a wee 1 hour and 40 minutes of my time, full of hilly farm land scenery, rain and cows a plenty.

I walked straight to the grocery store in the Bern train station upon arriving and bought three tubs of amazing creamy and sweet Swiss Yogurt; chocolate truffle, strawberry vanilla and pear chocolate shavings. I hopped over to “Drinks of the World” the store with every beer produced on the planet and filled up a six pack of Euro memories.

Germany: Becks
France: Kronenbourg
Czech Republic: Budweiser Budvar
Denmark: Carlsburg
Holland: Heineken
Swiss Land: Feldschlosschen


Tags: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Quick Trip to Lausanne, Montreaux and Geneva, Switzerland”

  1. Jeff M.
    July 8, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    so I just got back from Montreux.. it was a nicer day than you had 🙂 What an amazingly beautiful town.. We were there for the jazz festival. There was so many food vendors you could eat yourself silly. We had ate at a church tent to get the real swiss cuisine experience with sausages, raclette, and cute little desserts. You will have to go back!!

    • dobbernation
      July 8, 2012 at 9:01 am #

      I’m always keen to head back to Swiss Land! Glad you are having a great time!