America’s Cup Winners from a Landlocked Country

Switzerland has many large beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains.  Even though it is a landlocked country, the Swiss can sail. They had a team, Alinghi, win the America’s Cup in 2003 and 2007.  They sail on Lac Leman, the lake on which Geneva is situated.

Alinghi is the syndicate set up by Ernesto Bertarelli, racing under the colors of the Société Nautique de Genève.  They set it up “to win the America’s Cup, while earning respect and recognition as a world-class sports team as well as sharing our passion”.    Not surprisingly, not all the team was Swiss.  They hired Russell Coutts, the successful skipper and helmsman of Team New Zealand (who won the America’s Cup for New Zealand in 1995 and successfully defended in 2000) and several other important Kiwi sailors, (including tactician Brad Butterworth and Grant Simmer).  Apart from New Zealand, the Alinghi team consisted of members from: Germany, the United StatesCanada, the NetherlandsFranceItaly, Spain, the U.S. Virgin IslandsPortugal,TurkeyIreland, the UK (from Scotland and Wales), BelgiumSouth AfricaAustraliaUruguayArgentinaDenmarkEcuador, and Switzerland.

Not only did they splurge on the team, they shelled out for boats  (SUI-64, the race boat, and the SUI-75).  They were developed specifically for the race by the Alinghi team in close collaboration with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne , were developed.

On March 2, 2003, Alinghi sailed to a 5-0 victory against Team New Zealand (ironic, huh) winning the America’s Cup.  They were the first team to win the Cup on its first attempt.  They were also the first European team since the 1851 inaugural race to return the Auld Mug.

Immediately prior to this, After winning they (via America’s Cup Management) changed the rules to prevent any team members from moving between teams until completion of the next America’s Cup (which as the holders, they could do) and promptly fired it winning Skipper Russell Coutts.  The rule change prevented him for sailing for another team in the cup.

In the 2007 America’s Cup, the team had many highly experienced members including: Brad Butterworth as tactician, Jochen Schümann, Peter Holmberg, Ed Baird, Juan Vila, Jordi Calafat, Warwick Fleury, Simon Daubney, and Murray Jones.   Although they did well in the Match Race, they were defeated by Emirates Team New Zealand in the second race, but won their final race, defending the America’s cup with 5 wins to Team New Zealand’s 2.  They won their last race by only 1 second!

As a result of this win, the International Olympic Committee awarded them the Coupe Olympique, the Olympic Cup, in 2003.  One of the highest honors in sports, it is awarded to awarded institutions or associations with a record of merit and integrity in actively developing the Olympic Movement.

Alas, we couldn’t see them race in this year’s cup (even though there’s been plenty of publicity about there only being two teams competing, why the race was different this year, and opinions of the changes) which just took place in San Francisco.   The team was disbanded in July 2010,.  Don’t worry, there is still lots of sailing on the lake.  If you’re not in Geneva, there’s sailing on other lakes so you can see it in Zurich, Lugano and other cities too.

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Morges Tulip Festival

Every year since 1971, the Lake Geneva Horticultural Society puts on The Tulip Festival from mid-April to mid-May in Morges, Switzerland.  It lasts six weeks and presents 150,000 tulips of 250 varieties in every available size, shape and color.  Last year, we walked the lakeside, checked out the tulips and stopped for lunch (they have a tent with decent food lakeside).

Lots of places have Tulip Festivals including: Netherland’s Keukenhof Gardens, Holland (in Michigan), Ottawa, Kashmir, the Skagit ValleyIstanbulAmsterdam, and Perth Morges is a cute town with a beautiful lakeside.  All the flowers make the already beautiful lakeside park feel it festive.

The festival appears to be a group effort.  The city of Morges and the regional tourism office assist the Lake Geneva Horticultural Society.  Apprentice gardeners assist the city workers and volunteers with the planting.  Cities as diverse as Istanbul and Yverdon-les-Bains have donated bulbs.

By the way, Morges is known for its connection to Audrey Hepburn.  She lived for years in the nearby town of Tolochenaz, where she is buried.

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.”

Stopping At Lavaux

I like to stop along the way.  If I can get off a train and nose around a town for a couple of hours or pull off the highway to see something cool, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.  When we had Mr. Rome and Ms. Barcelona visiting, they hiked from Chateau de Chillion (near Montreaux) to Vinorama in Rivaz.  I picked them up there.  Although the lakeside is beautiful, I love the views from  Lavaux‘s terraced vineyards.  It was a gorgeous day and I couldn’t let them miss the view of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and the Alps.

Another Cultural Difference…Men In Spandex

We’ve reported on the fashion in Europe and in Geneva, but never on workout wear.  Spring is here and people have taken off a couple of layers so you can actually see their workout attire.

Runners here wear a lot of spandex.  More specifically, male runners here wear a lot of spandex.  I’m not saying that we don’t wear spandex.  I’m guilty of it on occasion.  We both wear bike shorts when cycling.  However, most male runners in the US don’t wear spandex.  If they do, they usually wear shorts over them.  It is definitely something we aren’t used to seeing.

We’ve had great weather and I’ve been running along the lake.  On one run, I counted 29 guys running in spandex shorts (I had to entertain myself somehow).        If you come to run in Geneva and forget to pack your spandex, don’t worry.  You can buy them everywhere.

We spotted these puppies at the auto show. You can get them everywhere.

 

How Do You Pronounce Ouchy?

How do you pronounce this?

 

Ouchy is a town on Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) near Lausanne.  It is known for hosting Byron (and Shelley), the Olympic Museum next-door its castle and its beautiful lakefront.

 

Ouchy fontaine

Ouchy fontaine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When we went with Pitbull, it was gray and freezing cold.  Last year, we were able to enjoy the beautiful waterfront.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ooo-she? Ew-she? He likes to pronounce it like a minor injury, ouch-ee.  I’ve been trying Ew-chi.  After a bit of research, I found out Ouchy is pronounced ūshē‘.  How would you pronounce it?

 

Getting even more advanced, how would the French pronounce this?

 

 

 

More Pictures of the Versoix, Switzerland Ice Storm

Last week, I posted pictures of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)’s ice storm.  I took them in  the Eaux-Vives area of Geneva, Switzerland.  The post included a picture that was widely circulated (it went viral) of a car covered in ice after the ice storm in Versoix, Switzerland.  Versiox is about 20 minutes up the lake from Geneva.  I couldn’t resist going to see and take some more ice pictures.

Courtesy of the Telegraph and AFP

I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see it.  There were adults with cameras and children sliding on the ice.  Other bloggers have also posted pictures.  Clearly, I am not as talented as the AFP photographer who took the shot above.  Nevertheless, it was impressive.

Car covered in ice after the Versoix ice storm

Apparently, ice storms like this are not a regular occurrence here.  You can find pictures on the internet from one in 2005, but this could very well be the only one we see.

Someone placed a mannequin on the dock

 

Geneva (And Europe’s) Cold Weather

It is the middle of winter so I wasn’t expecting warm weather in Geneva, but I wasn’t really expecting this either.  Europe is experiencing extremely cold temperatures.  The weather forecast: more severe cold.  The bitterly cold weather will continue  through the weekend thanks to a dip in the jet stream that has allowed a large area of high pressure to move west from Siberia.

freezing in Geneva

Cold weather gear, check.  Hats, scarves, sweaters, coats, gloves, mittens, long underwear, wool socks, boots, I have been wearing it all.  At once.  While drinking hot tea.  Sitting underneath a blanket.  With the radiators blasting.

The Jet d’Eau is off until further notice for obvious reasons

This weekend,  it was -12 C (10.4 F) when we got on the chair lift to head to the much colder mountaintop.  While the chair lift wasn’t warm, we are lucky because the cold snap hasn’t created major problems for us.  Others have not been so fortunate:

  • Occupy Geneva has been disbanded, not because the government is broke it up, but because someone froze to death.

A Death In The Stronghold Of Occupy Geneva

An Eccentric Distantly Related to Occupy Geneva Dead At The Camp

Courtesy of World Bulletin.net

  • In Hungary, people combed through a disused mine’s refuse pile with their bare hands to get coal.

Courtesy of MSNBC/AP

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

There have also been some more (and some less) humorous stories about people’s experiences with the cold.

  • Our friend from Poland told us that they are leaving their cars running overnight because temperatures are so cold that they won’t start.
  • Bosnian snowboarders took advantage of a record snowfall and snowboarded down the streets of Sarajevo. People also snowboarded next to the Colosseum.

  • When I opened the paper yesterday, I saw a story about someone who went swimming in Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)!

courtesy of You Tube

  • In Belgium, temperatures of -10 C kept intoxilyzers, machines to test motorists’ alcohol levels, from functioning.

    courtesy of BBC and AFP

  • Cars parked by Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) have frozen in place.  They are stuck because scraping ice off can take the paint with it.  Today, someone told me a story about this happening to an expensive sports car.  The owner elicited professional help to melt the ice so he could get his baby to a garage.

 

We’re Surrounded!

map

We are surrounded by France, literally. The yellow spot at the bottom of the lake is the city of Geneva. The dark green area surrounding it is the Canton of Geneva (like a state). As you can see, it is wrapped in shamrock green. That shamrock green is France!

To us, that means it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to spend money in a cheaper currency, the Euro. In other eras, it’s meant something quite different.

We met our nice neighbor who has lived in our building since 1938.  When France was occupied by Nazi Germany during WWII, Geneva was virtually surrounded by it. Germany had drawn up plans to invade Switzerland, but never acted upon them. The RAF even bombed Geneva once on accident!