23 June 2013

(updated) on Lake Geneva - Lausanne, Morges, Vevey, Montreaux

Pictures of Switzerland usually show a land of brilliant white snow covered mountains, green pastures and sparkling blue lakes. Having spent all of one week there, I'm not sure if this spring was representative, but we got a lot of mist and subtle grey instead. Apparently there are mountains on the other side of the lake. I'm not really complaining, it was lovely.


It's a weird country, so different from what I'm used to. So much money, so many resources, so much public infrastructure, but fairly modest lifestyles for most. Yes, there are a fair number of luxury cars, but it seems most people would rather pay their taxes and use public transport most of the time.

The Swiss are famously risk averse. They really don't ever jaywalk, everyone drives carefully, and never after more than one drink. And yet everyone smokes. I mean everyone. Young and old, all the time, chain smoking non-stop. You'd think they'd have figured out that that was the one thing that would make them sick and dead surer than ignoring a red pedestrian light with no cars in sight. Go figure.


The local market. Morelles from Turkey, Chaneterelles from Portugal, Shitakes from France. Local Spring asparagus was around, but three times the price of bigger bundles from southern hemisphere Peru. It's no wonder the seasons don't bother to come on time anymore.

Cheese at least definitely from Switzerland.

The tulip festival was supposed to have started a week before, but the long cold spring put paid to that. Only the beginnings of leaves and no buds. This small patch of crocus was the only sign of colour.

But everywhere on this trip the magnolias were out, huge fragrant flower buds ignoring the late winter.


The lovely Rosie.

The huge fork in the lake outside the food museum.

In Switzerland you do not need to lock your bicycle.


There was of course local produce around. Ramp and radicchio.

Barba di Frate and mâche.

Rosie loved Switzerland. I liked it. A lot. But down a little side street, an Italian mechanic's workshop got my heart beating a little faster. It was time to head over the border.

04 June 2013


Quick. Word association - Swiss Alps? Cheese and Edelweiss right? Well, at least the cheese. And as we were mere hours by train from Gruyères, at least one day had to be spent in cheese country, complete with cheesy museum tour and bus trip to the top of the hill to potter around the medieval town and castle that give the famous cheese its name.

We discovered that artisanal Gruyères cheese-making involves more automation and stainless steel than one might expect, but that expert cheesemaker, cheese cultures and seasonal cow pastures are happily still crucial.

The Swiss are not scared to do touristy...

...which means raspberries and cream all year round and eye-wateringly expensive, soggy rösti that bear no resemblance to the gloriously crispy real thing. Luckily I knew better than to order Swiss-German food in French-Swiss territory, and had glorious Gruyères fondue instead. Even tourist restaurants cant fuck up melted cheese.

After I got home I did a CSI type analysis of the view photographs and determined that there were in fact big mountains beyond the grey veil.

But the fantastic thing about travelling is that none of the touristy stuff matters. It's the little things that tell you you're in a different part of the world.

A bench lurking in a hidden corner, off the main street, with a back carved just as Heidi would have known.

A church with a particular kind of steeple.

A sculpture you knew about but didn't expect to see on that square of all places, outside an entire Giger museum.

And just a little further outside the town, house styles that haven't changed in centuries.

Barns and farm life.

Fields for the cows that smell completely different from cow fields here (dramatically more intense than our gentle local cow poo).

Happy chickens, even if they're Rhode Island Reds and a symbol of creeping global uniformity. They're still happy chickens, and delightfully pastoral. Can you tell I love chickens, and especially Rhode Island Reds?