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.

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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.

 

The Toblerone Line, One Sweet Barrier

During  World War II, Switzerland was surrounded by Axis powers (Germany, Austria, Italy and occupied France).  Switzerland worked to avoid an invasion.  Some of their means of doing so, like allowing use of their railroad system connecting Italy to Germany, were controversial.  Others, like the Toblerone Line, were less so. This post isn’t about bribing the enemy with Toblerone Swiss chocolate, (no matter how tasty).  The Toblerone line is 10 km (6 mile) series of fortifications that runs across the canton (like a state, but smaller) of VaudSwitzerland from Lac Leman to the top of the Jura mountains (between Bassins and Prangins).  The Swiss Army constructed it in the 1930’s to protect against invasion. The official name for these defences was the Promenthouse Line.  However, it resembles to Toblerone’s pyramidal chocolate pieces linked together at the base that it became known as the Toblerone Line. Having taken in civilian refugees and witnessed previous confrontations between France and Germany, Switzerland was justifiably concerned about the rise of the Third Reich and possible invasion during World War II.   The Swiss military began preparations and built a series of defenses.  They were concerned about an invasion, an occupation, being divided up after the war, and the general devastation of war.  They had good reason to be concerned.  Hitler actually drew up plans for invading Switzerland.

They are HUGE!

This defensive concrete line made of dragon’s teeth.  Weighing 16-tons each, they are enormous pyramid-shaped blocks of concrete.  They were driven into the ground and covered with earth.  These barriers were meant to stop tank invasions. These sorts of installations are known as tank traps because they present significant difficulties for tanks.  Tanks can overcome these barriers with  ammunition that reduces them to rubble.  As a result, they are more of an obstacle than an impregnable barrier. Although similar defensive installations could be found throughout Switzerland, for obvious reasons they are more common in near Switzerland’s borders.  The preservation of the Toblerone Line makes it one of the best-known installations.   Private individuals began working to preserve it.  They wanted to ensure future generations would know about Switzerland’s wartime defenses.  They got sponsors and worked with the defense department.  In 2006, it became part of Switzerland’s system of trails that crisscross the country.

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.

 

The News From Geneva

A month ago, Geneva (and Europe) was in the middle of a giant cold snap.  Pictures of a frozen car in Versoix, Switzerland made headlines around the world (and was featured on this blog).  Waves and spray from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) covered the lakeside with ice.  While it isn’t exactly warm here, it is much warmer.  The owner of the storied car made headlines when he finally retrieved it this week.

The front page of the paper 20 Minutes with the headline “The frozen car leaves without coughing.”

He had to wait for the ice to melt because chipping it off damages the paint.  We still see little bits of snow here and there, but it is melting fast.  Boats are going back into the lake.  I even saw a girl sunning herself in a bikini top.  She had to have been freezing, but no one was complaining.

The title of 20 Minutes article is “My notoriety is to have poorly parked my car.”

Problems with the weather and natural disasters continue.  Sion and Zermatt experienced avalanches.  Luckily, no one was injured or killed.

Also from 20 Minutes

Also in the Alps, a helicopter crashed near Les Diablerets.  The two people on board survived, but were injured.  This is the second crash there in as many months.  As much fun as the mountains have been, there are daily reminders of their dangers.

In other news, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss President, received a pie in the face after attending  the opening of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights.. Actually, it was a Black Forest Cake.  She is not pressing charges.

Also from the paper 20 Minutes

a photo of the article in 20 Minutes

A 66 year-old Swiss retiree gave birth to twins. She was artificially inseminated at a clinic in the Ukraine.
In Switzerland, just like just about every other country, women make less than men for doing the same work. Today is Equal Pay Day, the day women break even with men… for the work they did last year. The average woman worked all last year through to today to make the average salary that a man made from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.

from 20 minutes

From 20 Minutes

From 20 Minutes

Finally in sports, Swiss superstar athletes (Roger Federer and Fabian Cancellara) continue to win.  Skiing is big.  Quel surprise.

 

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.

 

How To Finance Building Roads in the Alps

Every car that drives on Swiss highways must have a sticker (referred to as a vignette) showing that the car has paid the yearly approximately 40 CHF fee.

What if you don’t live in Switzerland? Even better. If you are a foreigner heading south and taking the Swiss roads because they are the fastest, most direct way to your Italian vacation, you’ve got to pony up. If you don’t have one, you have a large fine that must be paid on the spot.

Looking at these photos (I swear I was changing lanes in that one) you can start to get an idea of why roads might be expensive. We aren’t even in the alps yet and you have tunnels, mountains and lakes to contend with.  Please note that even though it regularly thaws and freezes here, there isn’t a pothole in sight!

 

Daytrips from Geneva

Stumped for what to do when you come visit?  We’ve been here and explored a bit.  Here are some ideas for daytrips:
  • Lausanne – It is famous for its beautiful promenades on Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).  It has a beautiful port (Ouchy), an Old Town dating back to the 14th century and is home to the Olympic Museum.  As with all the lakefront towns, there are nice parks along the water and landings for boats that will take you aound the lake.
  • Montreux – It is home to the world famous Montreux Jazz Festival. It offers incredible views of the Swiss Alps, has a beautiful lakefront promenade and is close to the Château de Chillon (see below).
  • Vevey – Although it isn’t the wildest town, it’s an adorable town and a wonderful place to spend the afternoon.  It’s home to Nestle so it has a food museum.   McCarthyism forced Charlie Chaplin to resettle and he chose this peaceful town.
  • La Côte, which is between Lausanne and Geneva, centered around Rolle, and Lavaux, which is between Lausanne and Vevey.  The CGN boats also stop at many of the wine towns, so you could include a trip on one of those in your adventure.  There is lots of information about Lavaux.  Visitors who want to stay closer to Geneva could go to the cute town of Morges (link to post).  Although we haven’t been, we hear that Coppet is nice.

  • Château de Chillon – This is Switzerland’s most famous castle.  Rick Steves ranks it as one of the top ten castles in Europe.  It is situated on the opposite side of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).  It is fully restored and furnished with a collection of excavated antique weapons, chests and other items.

  • Yvoire – if you want to head by boat to lunch in a beautiful setting, stroll around a charming (but tiny) town and pay in Euros, this is your town.  While there are a lot of places on the lake that are larger and more exciting, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon (link to friend’s post). 
  • CERN – If you like science, this is a must.  It is also, incidentally, the setting for the first scene of the book Angels and Demons.  IMPORTANT NOTE: These tours must be booked far in advance.  If you are interested in doing this, pick the day(s), fill out the form (on the link) and send it in as soon as you book your flight.