lake Geneva

#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