Take It Eze-y, The Cote D’Azur Town Of Eze

Eze is a dramatic village perched 427 Meters (1,400 feet) above the Mediterranean sea.  Like many ancient hill towns, it is car-free.  We love car-free towns because they are more pedestrian and very peaceful.

Eze’s star attraction is the Jardin Exotique, a cactus and succulent filled garden planted around the ruins of a 14th century castle and filled with sculptures.   They had nice plaques explaining the sights and history of the area.  Very educational.  I loved the idea of filling castle ruins in with plants to make a unique garden.  It was really cool, but the real start of the show were the views.  Amazing.

Eze is so beautiful that it has become a tourist town…literally.  There are almost no full-time residents.  Virtually all the buildings are shops, art galleries, hotels or restaurants.  It has become a popular honeymoon destination.

The private terrace of one of the hotels

The Romans inhabited Eze.  Around 900, the Moors conquered the village, attacking from the door below.  They held it William of Provence took it from them in 973.  Like nearby Villefranche, its strategic position and proximity to nearby Nice meant that rulers built heavy fortifications.  Eze functions as sort of “eagle’s nest” overlooking the sea and surrounding mountains.   The Phoenicians, Turks and the Principality of Monaco also occupied the city at different points in time.

They weren’t the only ones who came to Eze.  The philosopher Nietzsche spent time here.  The trail you can hike down to the water (in the town of Eze-Sur-Mer) is called the Nietzsche Path in his honor.  We had on hiking clothes, but it was raining so hard that a hike down a steep (and possibly muddy) path didn’t sound like a ton of fun.  Walt Disney also spent time here.  He doesn’t have a path.

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Swiss Languages, What is Romansh?

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that Switzerland has four national languages: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansh.  Swiss German speakers make up 63.6% of the population, French speakers make up 20.4%, Italian speakers make up 6.5% and Romansh 0.5%.*  In fact, Switzerland’s diversity, particularly it’s diverse languages, is one of the primary ways it differentiates itself from its more homogeneous neighbors.

Romansh is only spoken in a few valleys in the southeastern alps, but is one of four national Swiss languages. It is a national language, but not an official language.  Therefore, it not used in Parliament, government and the army.  Also, laws do not have to be translated into Romansh.
When the Romans conquered the area in about 15 B.C.E., they latinized the area. Today’s inhabitants of the area speak Romansh, a descendant of Latin.
The area is very remote and isolated. As a result, five different versions of the language exist.   Notice the lack of roads (due to the Alps) in the southeast, where Romansh is spoken.
These are some of the largest, most easily accessible and well-known areas.  You can see how transportation and contact with the outside world might have been (and still be) difficult.
It is a unique phenomenon to have so many dialects in such a small area. In fact, Romansh is spelled many different ways including: Romansch, Rumants(c)h, Romanche, Romansh, Rumantsch, Rumantsch, and Romontsch. To help keep it alive, a standard written form was developed in the 80’s.
Check out the Romansh keyboard.  Despite my frustration with them, French keyboards are starting to look a lot easier.
*Those who add will note that this does not total 100%.  Other language speakers make up around 9%.  Expats, like us, are a good example.

 

Lavaux

If you are a wine person, or even if you are not a wine person (merely an incredibly beautiful views person), when you come to Switzerland spend a day hiking around the Lavaux  vinyards.  They are amazing and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The terraces can be traced back to the 11th century.  In the 12th century, the Bishop of Lausanne gave various lands to the Cistercian Order.  They have grown wine here ever since.  In fact, this is one of the best-known wine producing regions in Switzerland.  The sunlight reflected off the lake and the heat that remains stored in the stone walls and lake help the grapes.

Franz Weber helped to get them declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ensure their protection from development.  He continues to oppose their development calling it the “concretization of Lavaux.”  Can you imagine Del Boca Vista Phase III here?  

Yep.  That’s France across the water.  I hear they make wine there too.

Warning: The wineries are not usually open earlier in the day. Check their schedules if you want to go inside and meet someone.  We were perfectly happy to walk through their vineyards and see their grapes, which you can do at any time.




Swiss Wine

The Romans were in Switzerland and they liked wine. A lot. As a result, it has a long and rich history of wine-making.Now, Switzerland produces a lot of wine. The Swiss are virtually obsessed with quality.  They make wine like they do most things, very well. Unfortunately for those not in Switzerland, nearly all of it is drunk within Switzerland; less than 2% of the wine is exported.

Switzerland is bordered by Germany, Austria, France and Italy. They each produce a few bottles. Switzerland has a widely varied climate. As a result, it has a wide repertoire of grape varieties and winemaking styles.

Switzerland isn’t exactly known for its temperate climate. How can they grow wine? The Föhn, a weather phenomenon that influences the climate in Switzerland, makes it possible to grow grape varieties in regions that are otherwise inhospitable. On hikes, we have seen firsthand how the Swiss will make the most of the cultivable land at lower altitudes to grow grapes.