They Broke The Mold When They Made Brunswick (But Copied the Monument)

DSC_0055

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick (1804 – 1873) (aka Charles d’Este-Guelph) inherited the throne as a child after his grandfather and father died fighting (the battles of Jena and Waterloo).  Prince George (of the United Kingdom and Hanover) became his guardian.

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Between disputes his age of majority  Charles’s invalidation of some laws (made during his minority) caused friction.  Apparently, he had his fair share of “indiscretions” too. In 1830, he lost his throne and was exiled.  Obsessively focused on recovering his lands, he allied himself with anyone he could to get it back.  He moved to Paris, where he built a huge palace that was way ahead of its time.  While it didn’t have a moat, it had tons of security features including giant walls, hidden spring guns that guarded valuables, and other unique apparatuses.   It didn’t, however, have a cook.  Since the Duke was a bit paranoid, he ate out.  Since he sounds like such a normal guy, such an average Joe, you won’t be surprised to learn that he had a memorable appearance.  He was a heavyset fellow who wore elaborate costumes that were lavishly decorated with diamonds.  Once, he told some broads that he even had diamonds sewn on his undies!  No word on whether they accepted his invitation to see his bling.

When the Franco-Prussian War (between France and Germany) broke out, Brunswick moved to Geneva.  He died in the Beau-Rivage Hotel there in 1873. He left his bequeathed his fortune to the City of Geneva with one condition.  He requested they build a monument to his memory and specified that it be a replica of the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy.   The city used the money to build the golden gates of Parc des Bastions and the city’s opera, the Grand Theatre.

Verona, Arche Scaligere

Verona, Arche Scaligere (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why Geneva?  Although he had an illegitimate (but acknowledged) daughter, he broke ties and removed her from his will when she converted to Catholicism.  Some say that the lawsuit he lost requiring him to support her was the real reason he left Paris.  Paris’s loss was Geneva’s gain.

Brundwick Monument in Geneva

Brundwick Monument in Geneva (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1979, Geneva built the Brunswick Monument near his final home at the Beau-Rivage Hotel (also near the other five star hotels the Richemont Hotel and the Hotel de la Paix).  It is impossible to miss if you walk along the Paquis side of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).

DSCN1130

The inscription on the monument reads: “The Duke of Brunswick, Charles Frederick August William, was a distinguished linguist, horsemen and musician was born 1804. He dethroned and chased out in 1830 and thus, took refuge in Paris, but spent his last three years back in Geneva. Mr. Charles Frederick August William was an eccentric and a paranoid. 

His death in 18 August 1873 provided a tidy sum for the city Geneva. But in his will, Geneva, as his residuary legatee must provide his final resting place that is in ‘an eminent and worthy location, executed according to the established concept by the finest artists of the time, without consideration of cost”.

Thanks old chap!

Advertisements

The Giger Bar, One Cool (And Slightly Surreal) Joint

DSC_0058

Most people have seen Hans Rudolf “Ruedi” Giger‘s work, even if they don’t know who he is.  Giger is best known as the designer for Ridley Scott‘s Alien movies, for which he won an Oscar.   Incredibly creative, he paints and sculpts too.   Giger was way ahead of his time in foreseeing the increasingly close relationship between the human body and machines.

DSC_0048

The Château St. Germain in Gruyères (yep, like the cheese), Switzerland houses the H. R. Giger Museum, which is a permanent repository of his work.  The nearby Giger Bar is a stunning, slightly surreal bar designed by him.   Built in 2003, it was way ahead of its time, foreseeing the increasingly close relationship between the human body and machines.  There are two Giger Bars; the other is in his hometown of Chur in the  Graubünden Canton of Switzerland.

DSC_0061

Giger excels at represent human bodies and machines in a cold, but connected, intriguing way.  Sitting in the bar, you feel like you’re in the belly of the beast.  It is an incredibly imaginative and slightly surreal mixture of skeleton and fantasy.

DSC_0055

While it’s dark, structural and even biomechanical, it’s not cold.   We went early and at an off hour so that we could fully explore the place.   We oohed and aahed as we discovered details everywhere.  It definitely makes for an unforgettable drink.

DSC_0049

DSC_0050

The ceiling has the skeletal structure of vertebrae, like a fantastic ossuary.

DSC_0064

DSC_0062

DSC_0051

Once upon a time (the 1980’s), there was another Giger Bar in Tokoyo.  Unfortunately Giger wasn’t as involved in that one.  Its design was constrained by earthquake codes.  Perhaps most damagingly, it became a hangout for the Yakuza.  Giger disowned it and never even entered.

DSC_0043

By the way, Giger is spelled with only one ‘e’.  Hans Geiger, known for his work on the radiation measuring known as the Geiger Counter, was German.

DSC_0063

DSC_0026 DSC_0027

 

Why The Swiss Love The Red Cross

The Red Cross is one of many international organizations founded and/or headquartered in Geneva.  About 250 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have their seat in Geneva.  They include: the United NationsWorld Health OrganizationWorld Trade OrganizationWorld Economic Forum, and Doctors Without Borders.  Switzerland’s international nature and history of neutrality are two reasons for this.

Henri Dunant and a group of Geneva in Geneva founded the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863 (near the spot where this photo was taken).  Switzerland’s lack of land and natural resources forced its young men to go abroad as mercenaries to fight Europe’s wars.  Those that returned home were inevitably affected by what they had seen and experienced.    In 1859, Henri Dunant, moved by the human suffering he saw at the Battle of Solferino (in the Second Italian War of Independence) while on a business trip, wrote a book about what he had seen and began advocating for a neutral organization to care for wounded soldiers on the battlefield.  His work led to the First Geneva Convention and the establishment of what became the Red Cross.

Henri Dunant won the first ever Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. This bust of Henri Dunant stands at the edge of Geneva’s old town, near Parc des Bastions.  Ironically, and perhaps fittingly, it sits on the spot where Geneva’s guillotine once stood!    Apparently when Geneva was part of France (annexed as département du Léman), all French cities required to have one (Geneva joined the Swiss Confederation in 1815).

Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross/the ICRC is located in Geneva. Although you can see the outside of the building, the museum is closed for repairs until sometime in 2012. Nevertheless, you don’t have to look far to see signs of the Red Cross in Geneva.

By the way, there is a reason the Swiss flag below looks like the Red Cross flag.  It is an inversion of the Swiss flag, which is a square with a white cross on a red background.   The First Geneva Convention in 1864, decided that to protect medical staff and facilities,  they needed a clear neutral sign on the battlefield. They chose the exact reverse of the flag of neutral Switzerland.  It was both easily produced and recognizable at a distance because of its contrasting colors.  A Swiss lady living in the US told me that she often tears with pride when she sees the Red Cross flag.  Being Swiss, she is very conscious and proud of what her countrymen started, its Swiss connections and the good that it has done.  Plus, it makes her think of home.

Frankenstein, A Swiss Character?

Once upon a time in Switzerland,  some English tourists spent an unusually cold, wet summer in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  The tourists weren’t just any old tourists, they were the romantics.  They wrote masterpieces, this dunce writes this blog.

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One dark and stormy night, the literary group bet that they could write as a gothic fiction novel that was as good or better than the then-popular cheap works.  The others, Lord Byron, Percy Blythe Shelley and Claire Clairmont were all able to come up with a story quite quickly.  Mary Godwin was not.  After an evening of conversation about reanimating human bodies using electrical currents, 18 year-old Mary Godwin dreamt of corpses coming back to life and the image of Frankenstein.  She woke up and wrote a short story about her dream.

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philo...

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philosophy from William Godwin’s Political Justice. (Amelia Curran, 1819) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She ended up marrying Percy Blythe Shelley, becoming Mary Shelley.  He encouraged her to expand the short story into a full-length novel.  It became one of the greatest literary creations of the regency period and the first gothic novel.

Mary Shelley was taken with the area’s beauty, describing color of the lake, “blue as the heavens which it reflects.”  She visited many of the area’s tourist attractions and they feature in the story.

  • Victor Frankenstein is from Geneva.
  • She took the traditional iron tram from Chamonix to the The Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) on Mont Blanc.  According to legend, she used this spectacular, icy landscape as the backdrop for the meeting between Victor Frankenstein and his maker.
  • Victor Frankenstein’s home is called “Belrive.”  Villa Diodati, the manor where Byron, Shelley and company stayed, was originally named Villa Belle Rive.
  • Safie flees to Switzerland.

Romantics Like Byron On Lake Geneva Write Masterpieces, This Dunce Writes This Blog

In the spring of 1816, Lord Byron left England in a self-imposed exile.  His aristocratic excesses, which included huge debts, numerous love affairs and rumors of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, made London to hot for him.   He journeyed up the Rhine to Switzerland, ending up in time to summer on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).

Percy Blythe Shelley, John Polidori, Mary Godwin (who later married Shelley becoming Mary Shelley), and her step-sister Claire Clairmont.  Because my nieces and nephews read this blog, let’s just say they were a bit scandalous.

Wanting to be away from gossipy English tourists, Byron rented Villa Diodati in Cologny on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  Due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia,  the weather turned from the typical gorgeous Swiss summer to storm clouds and rain.  It became known as the summer that never was.

They had an intense summer, staying up late talking.  It was also a productive period for them.  Byron finished the third canto of his epic poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” at Villa Diodati.

On the way back, they stopped in Ouchy for a night.  Freshly inspired Byron and Shelley (who visited with him), immediately began writing.  Byron worked on  “The Prisoner of Chillon” and Shelley the “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.”

Who Is This Betty Bossi Lady?

 

We all know that I am no Julia Child in the kitchen.  When we moved to Geneva, I saw the name Betty Bossi everywhere. I saw recipes, often heard the name and saw prepackaged Betty Bossi items for sale in the grocery store.   I began to wonder who is Betty Bossi?  I thought she was probably a Swiss celebrity chef, like the Swiss Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver.

Guess what?  The joke’s on me.  She’s not a real person, more of a marketing concept, kind of like a Swiss Betty Crocker.   Since my unfortunate kitchen accident, I’ve sworn off kitchen appliances (especially immersion blenders).   As a result, I won’t be making any of her uber-Swiss recipes that are available on myswitzerland.com.    May you have better luck in the kitchen than I do.

 

A Sherlockian’s Pilgrimage To Meiringen

Of course they have “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” by Sidney Paget prominently displayed.

Traces of Sherlock Holmes are all over Meiringen.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the town and nearby Reichenbach Falls.  He had grown tired of writing the stories and was so impressed by the falls that he though they were an ideal setting to kill off his hero.  Meiringen even has a Sherlock Holmes trail in the center.   Even if you don’t do the trail, signs of Sherlock are everywhere.

It would have been so much cooler if I had a deerstalker on instead of a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.

Hotel Adler…get it? Irene Adler. “To Sherlock Homes she is always the woman”

The Sherlock Holmes Museum opened in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes death in the old English church with the support of  the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.  It has objects here related to the history of Doyle and Holmes as well as a “recreation” the parlor of 221b Baker Street.  Okay, okay, I know that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were never alive, so it’s not really their things in the museum.  It contains items that belonged to similar people of the period (the nineteenth and early twentieth century).

In addition to Watson’s rugby gear, they have a walking stick of the type used for walking mountains at the end of the 19th century, Holmes’ hats, a statue of Sherlock, and a view of the falls.  One thing I learned from this case was that Scotland Yard uses an IT system called HOLMES.  It’s an acronym for “Home Office Large Major Enquiry System.”  Clever.

 In addition to the usual memorabilia, this case has a copy of The Times from 1910 with a story about the Swiss Federal Railways banning the sale of “novels of the detective type” in their station bookstalls.  It notes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stated “there was nothing in his detective stories to shock anybody and he was in no way responsible for the bad literature and worse morals of the stories that have inundated the continent.”  That’s why I love to read him.

The “recreation” of 221b Baker Street.  Items specifically included because of their mention in a story include: a violin, the picture of Henry Ward Beecher, the Persian slipper where Holmes kept his tobacco, the slightly bent poker, and the bearskin hearth-rug.  “It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.”   

I would have bought the deerstalker hat in the gift shop if it hadn’t been so expensive (note to him, now you know what to get me for my birthday)  They had some pretty cool stuff.  I purchased a book of some of the best Sherlock Holmes stories.  The cool parts are one page is in English, the opposite page is in German.  The employee who sold it to me stamped it with a stamp from the museum.   “Excellent!”  I cried. “Elementary,” said he.

Elementary, My Dear Watson – Reichenbach Falls

The Evil Genius and I went to Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland to see Reichenbach Falls in Meiringen (Switzerland).  We’d planned to go before the unfortunate finger incident with the immersion blender and decided to go anyway.  We lucked out with great weather.

Although you can hike up to the falls (and beyond) we took the nostalgic Reichenbach funicular (a historic cable railway) which climbs through the deep gorge to the thundering falls.  At the top, there is an amazing view of rugged peaks and the surrounding countryside.  If you go, check this view out first because the rest is even more impressive.

Heading back to the viewing platform, you have a great view of the main falls. Dramatic and impressive, Reichenbach Falls is actually a series of seven waterfalls.  You can hear them from far below and the noise increases the closer you get to the falls.  They are over 250 meters (820 feet) tall.

To see more of the falls, we hiked up to view some of the higher falls and see the main falls from above.

You walk over the falls on a bridge.  I was a bit scared and didn’t want to look down.  Curiousity killed the cat.  Thankfully, I survived one quick peak as I scurried across.

While beautiful and powerful, they owe their fame to fictitious events set there.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the area and found it an appropriately dramatic backdrop to stage the death of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty there.

In the book, The Final Problem, Sherlock Holmes fought with his nemesis before both tumbled over the edge into the turbulent waters on May 4, 1891.  Every May 4th, Sherlock fans make a pilgrimage here to celebrate the his memory.

We hiked down to Meirengen on a path that skirted the falls.  It was beautiful, but I was glad that it was dry.  It seems like it would be pretty hazardous during heavy rains or snow melt.  The adjacent gulleys must become gushing rivers.

One of the benefits of hiking down was that we passed by the plaque marking the ledge where the fictional fight was set.  It also went by part of the main plunge.  From there, we had an outstanding view of the falls and of the star painted on a rock next to the fall to pinpoint the exact place of a struggle.  It marks the spot where Sherlock Holmes and his enemy Professor Moriarty went over the edge.

While steep, the hike down was picturesque and made me want to see more of the area.  On the way down, we stumbled across more anti-tank, Toblerone-style fortifications.

Long live Sherlock Holmes!

P.S.  If you have any good theories about how Sherlock survived his fall in BBC’s “The Reichenbach Fall,” I’d love to hear them.  I confess, I’m stumped.

Related articles

Swiss Immigrants

A couple of Swiss immigrants

Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of foreigners of any country in the world.  Tons of famous, and not so famous people (us) have moved to Switzerland.  They have a very, um, generous tax policy.

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population (30.6% of the population is either an immigrant or first generation). Famous Swiss immigrants include: *

Courtesy of Top Gear and Hublot

Courtesy of jsp31’s Blog

Courtesy of Why Not? and OWN

For centuries, people have immigrated to Switzerland.  In general, its immigrants have been highly skilled and/or educated.  The Swiss watch industry was fed with French Huguenot’s who fled persecution in France.  Immigrant German professors started Zurich University.  Many Italian immigrants worked on Switzerland’s great engineering projects in the Alps.

courtesy of Leopard Trek

*For you cycling fans, famous cyclists who have lived/trained in Switzerland include: Fabian Cancellara (a Swiss child of Italian immigrants, until recently he was my most popular post), Oscar Freire, Francisco Mancebo, Jan Ullrich, Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans, Markus Burghardt, Andreas Klöden, Linus Gerdemann, Thor Hushovd, Daniele Nardello, and Thomas Frei.

 

Skiing in Sunny, Snowy Crans Montana

Last weekend, I met some friends from Belgium in Crans Montana, Switzerland.  They were lucky enough to vacation there for a week and I crashed with them for a couple of nights.

Their apartment had an insane view. I can’t imagine waking up to a sunrise over mountains like this every morning.

Although I’ve been to Swiss ski towns (Grindelwald, Zermatt) and skied in France (Contaimines, Clusaz) and Italy (Courmayeur), it was my first time skiing (and renting skis) in Switzerland.  Typically, it runs about 18 Euros ($24).  When I rented skis at Crans Montana, I gasped at the price.  It was 64 CHF ($69) for one day!   You would think that I would be used to Swiss prices by now.  They haven’t lost their ability to shock me.

English: Lac de la Moubra in Crans-Montana.

English: Lac de la Moubra in Crans-Montana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess I should have expected it, Crans Montana is a tony town where wealthy Russians, private bankers and the occasional celebrity (Roger Moore, the Sarkozys, Celine Dion, Princess Caroline) congregate.   In addition to skiing, it is known for its golf course (redesigned in 1999 by Seve Ballesteros), meeting facilities and hotel school.

Crans Montana is on the north side of the valley in the Valais region of Switzerland, the sunniest part in all of Switzerland.  It was a glorious sunny day, with plenty of snow and stunning views of the Swiss Alps on the other side of the valley.  It’s snowed in Geneva, but the mountains have received even more of it.  The snow report: lots of it.

These guys were brave enough to go off piste and look good doing it.  Seriously,  they were hopping around like little bunnies.  I was just happy to just not fall (on piste) and embarrass myself even more than I did.

Once again, I was (by far) the worst skier in the group.  Thankfully, everyone was very patient and encouraging.  I gathered my courage and tried a black run for the first time over here.

At the top of the run, notice the pole with the black in the background

The good news is that it was tons of fun and I made it down in one piece.  The bad news is that I was incredibly slow and slid about 40 feet down on my back, head first).

I slid down like the panda in this photo from Arkive.org

On second thought, that panda doesn’t look sufficiently panicked.  He looks like he is enjoying himself and isn’t worried about the possibility of death or serious injury.  Good thing I wear a helmet.