lac leman

#26Cantons52Weeks: Vaud

Canton:  Vaud

Destination: Lausanne

Interesting thing: Lausanne is the capital of Vaud and also HQ of the International Olympic Committee. As someone who’s lived in two Olympic cities while Games are hosted (London 2012 and Sydney 2000) this still doesn’t impress me greatly!

Special guests: friends who live there

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Have you tried Lausanne’s famous Seagull icecream? Coasted down the hill in Switzerland’s skateboard capital? Heard the thunder cracking across Lac Léman?

Two of the above are real things about Lausanne*. However, according to my friends and Lausanne-residents, for a city with a reasonably high profile — it’s the fourth-largest in Switzerland, capital of Vaud and the Olympic HQ — Lausanne lacks a USP. It’s pretty, it’s pleasant, it’s of a size. But there’s nothing wildly exciting going on, they say.

Flon is spoken of as a funky shopping district but it’s kind of just a few interesting shops in old warehouses alongside some somewhat average chain stores and restaurants. The nightlife might be amazing but shh! we’re probably a bit too old to appreciate it anymore.

I’ve been to Vaud before. One of our first in-Switzerland trips a few years back was to Montreux, home of the eponymous Jazz Fest (which I’ve yet to attend!). We also checked out Chateau Chillon – Switzerland’s best-known medieval castle. I’ve enjoyed a fabulous summer holiday on the French side of the lake too, opposite Lausanne  at Evian, of bottled-water fame.

Anyway, I was overnighting en route to Geneva and hyped to be nearing the end of my #26Cantons52Weeks project. We enjoyed a bang-up breakkie at Blackbird Café , I bought myself a pink hat at a street market and enjoyed catching up with my Lausanne mate.

She did also mention the Caves Ouvertes event in summer where you get to wander through the countryside visiting wineries and sampling the wares, which sounds well worth doing. Maybe next year!

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

 

*Sadly, there is no Seagull icecream.

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The Caged Lake

trapped behind bars

and rooms with candelabras

watched over by stone lions

hemmed by iron pylons

you laugh a liquid chuckle

claim your sovereignty

in droplets

human greed encroaches

puts you in a bottle

still you slide away

you are me, you say

I’ll destroy your structures

by the molecule

as you build them

I erode

froth, ozone, fog and puddle

cage me if you wish

I’m the undertow

the overthrow

and more

in every pore

you know

the score

 

I wanted to use this line ‘the undertow and the overthrow’ since reading it in a poem by Aurora Phoenix, it seemed to fit here on a poem musing about Lake Geneva, how it’s so big and yet people seek to own it and/or make private property of it. How can we own nature? Water is part of us. And yet clean water is a privilege and a commodity. Not sure I entirely captured it (!) but need a few poems to break up the ‘cantons’ … 

 Photo: the fence of a chateau on Lake Geneva (snapped by me!)

#26Cantons52Weeks: Geneva

Geneva’s Jet d’Eau

Canton: Geneva / Genève / Genf

Destination: Geneva

Interesting thing: the Jet d’Eau (above) is not just a cool, 140-metre water ejaculation, but actually served a purpose: to release pressure from the city’s hydraulic power network when it was first switched on in 1886. Nowadays, OK, it’s just a tourist attraction.

Special guests: all by myself!

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It took me three attempts to see the Jet d’Eau in Geneva, probably the city’s most recognisable landmark and, arguably, one of Switzerland’s most well-known person-made structures. (Some Swiss-based friends and I were trying to think of others since the country lacks an Eiffel Tower / Tower Bridge / Statue of Liberty / Sydney Opera House / Prado Museum…).

Anyway, I arrived in Geneva early afternoon Friday but had an appointment with the Aussie consulate that kept me busy until nearly sunset, after which time I wandered down to the lakefront to find the jet already off. Next morning, I got up before sunrise and went for a 12km run on the lakeshore. I was hoping I might see the ‘switch-on’ but discovered that wasn’t until 10am. So I hoofed back down to see it after breakfast and almost missed my train. It was worth it though. Très impressive.

Geneva is interesting because the city seems to garner the most varied reaction from other Swiss-dwelling people I spoke to. There’s those who find it lovely: the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, prettily situated and with a great atmosphere. Others say it’s dull and claustrophobic (there’s less open space than Zurich and the public lakefront areas give way to private property after only a few kilometres). Some don’t like the vibe of a city full of people dining out on ‘company money’, diplomat-rich-types who aren’t the sort you’d choose to hobknob with. I’ve also heard crime rates for bag snatching and break-ins are quite high, for Switzerland. Others think the home of the UN, League of Nations and CERN is the most ‘international’ city Switzerland has to offer and a global seat of peacekeeping and academia.

I didn’t experience any crime, thank goodness. I felt safe there on my own, even during my early-morning jog, when it was pretty deserted. I couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous displays of wealth though, from the gated Chateaux along the lakefront to all the luxury brands displayed in neon around the lakefront, and the fancy five-star hotels. The city actually reminded me a bit of Luzern, which I’ve visited more often – both are situated at the top of a stunning lake with the mountains just across the water. But the feeling in Geneva is much more money, money, money.

It’s hard to judge atmosphere when you’re on your own. It was Friday night and I wasn’t out late. There was a bit of a buzz but where I was near the lakefront and main station was fairly subdued. If there’s sides to be chosen in a Geneva-Zurich rivalry thing, I guess I prefer Zurich but that might just be because I know it better. Plus my bad German is less-bad than my year 7 French!

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud*

Zug

Zürich

 

*I spent a night in Vaud en route to Geneva. Will write that up next!

Occupying France

 

Lac Leman

Sometimes feels like

everyone’s saying it’s

Nazi Germany

But in fact we’re in

the Weimar Republic

with the internet

and superfast broadband

and actually no wars

in living memory … almost

nearby.

And I read about

the wartime occupation of France

on holiday in France

And my brain only

forms German words

and I live in that neutral land

between the two countries

and it hasn’t even been 100 years.

And I wonder what it all means

Are we

cursed to live in interesting times?

or are they so dull

we’ve overlaid reality

with Pokémon cartoons

and Trump and Brexit and terrorism and guns and refugees are just…

flotsam of news

jetsam of state control

And politics.

This sordid mess

still looks beautiful

from Lake Geneva

And I just don’t know

what to make of it all

Easter Eggs Are Hollow

Angel of Chillon

I wrote this post a while ago but didn’t publish it. What do they say about not discussing religion or politics? The same probably goes for parenting too, but what the hey.

I recently had a experience where one of the parents at my son’s Krippe (nursery/daycare) spoke to me. In English. This is enough of a rare occurrence that I was perhaps overly receptive, or perhaps not. Anyway, the conversation rapidly devolved into her asking me about which religion I followed and when I said none, she persisted in pushing the “But how can you not believe in god?” thing, which made me rather uncomfortable. As you will see from the below, my beliefs are “in progress” and so far rather hazy. It’s not something I think about all that much, to be honest. Although, a few times recently I have found myself craving a bit more spirituality and wondering about how to introduce some sort of religious-type structure or ceremony to my life. Whether this stems from having children or getting older or whatever, who knows? Anyway, here goes.

This year we celebrated Easter with a short hop to the French part of Switzerland (who needs passports when you can drive three hours and be in a different-language region?!) It was great. An ideal little holiday with mountain scenery, Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva) and a day spent wandering around the medieval Chateau de Chillon.

However, when I say “celebrate” Easter, what’s to celebrate? As we were driving home, I started feeling a bit spiritually hollow as I pondered how or indeed why, without being religious and with no family around, do we “celebrate” Easter? If I don’t believe in god or the Easter bunny, what is there to differentiate this holiday from any others? Are we celebrating time off work? I’m not even employed! There’s no break from motherhood, of course, especially without family around to help out. In our affluent lifestyle there’s no need for feasting and non-religious fasting seems a little pointless. We can, and do, eat chocolate all the time. We can, and do, have “special meals” all the time. What is the point of it all?

Essentially, I like the idea of tradition and history. Sort of. Hey, I just spent a day wandering around a medieval castle! But without an underlying spiritual faith and, in fact, with more of a leftwing attitude that religion seems to be involved with more evil than good in the world, it seems a bit, well, silly to try to incorporate somewhat gristly stories of a man dying and being reborn into my children’s lives or my own. Plenty of time for them to hear about it in school (I guess?) I feel like I know the stories pretty well. I actually did a lot of Sunday Scholarship in my time. Would it be too weird if my children grew up not really hearing The Easter Story or other religious tales?

Of course, there’s Spring and the other seasons. And after all, Easter is essentially a pagan springtime ritual dressed up in Christ’s clothing. But all that pagan stuff – well, I like it but I I feel a bit too… uncomfortable? unsure? ignorant? embarrassed? to become especially worked up about it. And without the full commitment, is it worth it?

My modern malaise means I’m also lazy when it comes to spiritual matters. I don’t really want to study just to become spiritual. Although, saying that, I suppose contemplation and bettering yourself, trying to attain a higher sense of being IS a big tenet of most spiritual belief systems.

I want to say it doesn’t feel like I should have to work at it, but hard work and experiencing discomfort is kind of the essence of much religion. It’s not meant to be easy is it? It’s something you are supposed to put time and effort in to. It could even be argued that religions were invented to give reason (and/or reward) for people enduring crap stuff. But our society is all so easy-street and secular. It seems crazy to put up with hardship for the sake of a system of beliefs you haven’t chosen. In the first world, where there’s not grinding poverty or backbreaking work and the food and chocolate flows easily, it’s no wonder religiousness is dying out.

But I was left feeling as though I’d like to do something. I mean, without some sort of framework for the years and the holidays and my life, it’s all bit desolate. Can I put an ad in the Classifieds? Wanted: Non-Religious, non-ridiculous form of spirituality to practise with my husband and kids. Must not require too much serious effort or devotion, however some ceremony appreciated, as is dressing up. Suggestions on the back of an envelope…

Oh, and as for the English-speaking god-botherer mum – I did come up with the perfect answer, about three hours later: Your lack of tolerance for my lack of religion is precisely what puts me off being part of one.

I also like this quote:

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
― Charles Bukowski