Geneva’s Bucolic Beauty

Why drive to visit a brewery when you can hike there?  We had visitors who were up for a little physical activity so we set off.  We arrived at the Brasserie des Murailles after they had closed, but had a wonderful hike.  You may notice that isn’t us.  We had Mr. Rome and Ms. Barcelona with us.  Although we’d never met them before picking them up at the train station, we (and all our friends) loved having them around.

We set off from the center of Geneva.  The lakefront was beautiful.  Once you turn away from the Lake Geneva, there is nowhere to go but up…literally.  Whether on bike or on foot, anywhere you head from Geneva’s lakefront, you climb.  It’s unavoidable.  The good news is that it doesn’t last forever.  Soon, we were higher, cooler and out of the city.

Switzerland is committed to remaining neutral.  Only 1/3 of its land is cultivable.  As a result, farms are subsidized and farmers act as stewards of the land.  It also means that it is almost impossible to build on farmland in Switzerland, limiting urban sprawl.  It doesn’t take long to get out of the city and into farmland.

Geneva’s mountains are astoundingly beautiful.  It’s countryside is pretty all right too.

Although it isn’t as dramatic as the mountain scenery, there is always something interesting to see.  We paused over vineyards, horses, beekeepers, to check out frogs in streams, to examine crops and check out the colza fields.

We loved that behind the fields and vineyards, the mountains were almost always visible.  Depending on the direction, they were either the Alps with Mont Blanc, the Jura or Le Salève.   Not too shabby.

 

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La Saleve

When we first arrived, we took the cable car up to one of the mountains overlooking Geneva, La Saleve.  It is known as the  “Balcony of Geneva” even though it is technically just over the border in the Haute-Savoie region of France.  From there, you can see the Jura mountains, the PrealpsLake Annecy and the Mont Blanc.  Even on cloudy days, the top of Saleve can be sunny!

It wasn’t until later that we learned people will hike and even bike up it.  It also has a nice view of the city and decent trails. Once up there, there are many outdoor activities to take part in, rock climbinghikingmountain bikingparagliding (who jump off the carpeted area in the photo below), hang glidingmodel aircraftspeleology and skiing (at the Col de la Croisette).  We looked out at Geneva and found where we live.  I would love to camp up there and watch the sunset and sunrise over the city. Shedrub Choekhor Ling Tibetan Buddhism center is located on the Salève.  They have a normal building, but it was their yurt that attracted our attention.  Their building is only 200m from the Cable car station. This authentic Tibetan Temple was consecrated and opened by the Dali Lama in September 2011.   I read an article about a Russian arms dealer has property next door to the Buddhists.   The irony. The tower is visible from the city of Geneva.

Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein  was written on the banks of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  In it title character climbs up the Salève  after fleeing.  Salève is mentioned several times by name.  

  • “It was echoed from Saleve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy…”
  • “I thought of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in vain, for another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont. Saleve, a hill that bounds Plainpalais on the south.”
  • “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?”

Saleve itself isn’t in the alps, but what is known as the French Prealps.  Note the Alps in the background of the above photo.  The ride down in the cable car was our first cable car experience since moving to Geneva.  At the time, we had white knuckles, now, we’re old pros.   Another view of Saleve from the city.  

 

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!

 

No Body Bags in this Morges

 
Sorry for the bad pun, I just couldn’t help it.  I’m also sorry for the excessive “Cute Swiss Towns” posts.  You might have guessed.  We’ve had visitors and have been busy showing them around.  As a visitor, I really appreciate anything my hosts do to show me or teach me about where they live.  I, perhaps erroneously, assume that the rest of the world appreciates this as well.   As a result, staying with us can be a sort of boot camp.  If you give me the slightest indication that you want to see and do things, it’s on.  You were warned.
 
When my mom was here, we went to Morges.  It’s located between Geneva and Lausanne, near Nyon, on Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).  Some people commute from there to Geneva (the housing is so tight in Geneva that some people don’t have a choice, others like this adorable town).  
It is adorable and while it doesn’t have lots of fancy museums, it has cute streets, nice cafes and beautiful views.
 
 
Boot camp looks really rough

It’s Switzerland.  Of course they have a castle.  He, as always, liked the cannons best.

Don’t plan on attacking Morges; they have at least two cannons.  Vaud is the name of the canton (the Swiss version of a state).

Geneva Expat 101 Lesson 3 – The Best Fondue In Geneva

Finally, I have gotten to the really important things for expats in Geneva.  The Buvette at the Bains de Paquis has the best fondue in Geneva.  As much as I want to bring you the scoop, I am certainly not about to eat every fondue in Geneva.   Regardless, I stand by my statement.  Here’s why.  It is really good fondue.  At 20 CHF, it is reasonably priced.  The best part though is the location, its wonderful view and relaxed atmosphere.  This is your view.  Outstanding.  I rest my case.

It is a great place to bring out-of-town guests.  When my mom was visiting, we brought her here (by boat from Eaux-Vives) for a very memorable evening.  She ate it up.  Heck, I ate it up.  Literally.

 

Mountaineering Deaths

I try to read the paper every day to practice my French.  Almost every week, there is an article about some sort of mountaineering or hiking accident (usually resulting in death). Sometimes, the paper will note the discovery of a body from an accident decades ago.

 

When we were in Zermatt, we happened upon the town’s cemetary.  Four of the first seven people to successfully summit the Matterhorn died on the descent when a rope snapped.  Since then, over 500 people have died attempting to climb the Matterhorn.  Currently, about 12 people a year die at the Matterhorn.  These deaths are usually due to falling rocks, falls, bad weather, inexperience and the mountain’s difficulty. 

He Is In Love…With Zermatt

When we went to Zermatt, he fell in love with the town.  It is touristy, expensive and everything revolves around a single mountain (the Matterhorn).  Nevertheless, it is very pleasant and still has loads of charm.   They have kept some of the original buildings, which are very distinctive because they have giant stone discs in the pillars.  Their function was to keep the mice out!
 
 
Although there are lots of hotels and some larger ones, they are definitely cuter than hotels on the Vegas strip.  The Swiss use tons of wood in building and as accents, Zermatt is no exception.  There are also tons of flower boxes and small plantings.
 
 
Zermatt seems to welcome everyone from the ultra rich, to backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts.  For the number of people who visit, Zermatt is surprisingly calm and peaceful.  There are no cars. Vehicles are small electric vehicles.  We left our car in the valley and took the train to get there.  It felt as though you were, literally, leaving it all behind.

People use these baggage trolleys to walk their luggage from the train station to the hotel (some hotels will send one of the little electric trolleys shown above).  

It is public art in the form of a beaver fountain!  In case you are wondering what he is doing, he is having a drink.

I love public art.  He probably wouldn’t say that, but I do think it adds to the general beauty and pleasantness that he picks up on.  Finally, there is this.  Need I say more?

The Matterhorn from Zermatt