Thursday, June 14, 2018

At the Meadow - Zermatt, Switzerland

The Matterhorn caught in the clouds
During my night's stay in Lausanne, I reached out to my host Silvia in mountain town of Zermatt to tell her about my change of plans.  I shyly asked if I could stay an extra night being I was not going to be pedaling my way around anymore.  To my surprise, she offered her home to me for multiple nights and I could have not been blessed to stay in that valley for a few days!  After a quick walk about Lausanne in the morning to snap a few more shots, I hopped on the train to begin the next adventure - see the Matterhorn!  As the train skirted along the shoreline of Lake Geneva toward Montreux, the valleys were growing more and more shadowed by the heights of the Valais Alps.  Watching the lake fade from view, my attention shifted to the remarkable peaks and the villages that the Swiss had built on the sides of them!  I was entranced by everything that I was seeing from my window seat that I nearly missed getting off the train in Visp to switch lines!  I quick grabbed a pastry to help pass the time while I waited for the train to arrive at the last platform of the station when I looked up the valley that I was going to be going up.  At that moment, I was partially thankful that my bicycle had gone missing for the road up was a steep one!  Throughout the windy train ride, there were half a dozen times that the train required cog track to pull us up the narrow valley and my appreciation for the comfort of the train ride grew stronger by the second rather than me struggling up the road on my bike!  After a series of tunnels blasted through the sides of the valley, the train finally reached the end of the line "in the meadow".  The name Zermatt comes from Wallischer German 'zur Matte' meaning "at the meadow" which could not fit this picturesque mountain village anymore perfectly.  

After walking about the narrow streets of the central area toward Silva's house, I began to notice that there were only these golf cart sized vehicles occasionally driving about the town.  Come to find out that there are no cars in Zermatt!  The streets were established centuries before and intentionally built narrow so that the eaves of the buildings would keep as much snow off the walkways as much as possible.  Plus, not having traffic adds to the tranquility and gives a sense of time travel.  That was not the only interesting aspect of Zermatt that caught my attention... Chocolate shops!  I swear they were on every block as I made my way southward through the town.  When I finally stopped craning my neck at the displays of confectioneries,  I looked up to see one of the most recognizable mountains in the world shrouded in a blanket of low clouds.  Even then, I knew that was the mighty Matterhorn before me and I could only stand there in awe of the mountain's beauty.  After a few moments of standing there and taking a few pictures, I realized I needed to keep on going to make my walk to Silvia's to shed my pack and get ready for my adventures in this breathtaking alcove of the Alps.

Friday, January 5, 2018

City of Stairs - Lausanne, Switzerland

Cathedral of Notre Dame
in Lausanne, Switzerland
I had a forlorn feeling as Geneva grew smaller from my train window knowing that somewhere back there my AWOL bicycle was without me.  However, the adventure must continue and my host Vidal had a long list of 'angles' to help me see and understand Lausanne life.  Before I departed from Geneva, I messaged him about my misfortunes that morning and my new arrival time and method.  Once that message was sent, I disconnected from the electronic world for the duration of the lakeside ride.  Setting foot in the gare de Lausanne, I strapped on my pack and pulled my bike cart out into the afternoon sun of the Olympic Capital.  When making my arrangements with Vidal, he warned me about the confusing streets of Lausanne.  He preemptively apologized for living on one of the most puzzling parts of the city and I told him not to worry.  I had looked at the map on my phone while I was in range of WiFi while in Geneva and told myself I would be able to manage easily in the matters of navigation.  Regardless, Vidal gave me as detailed instructions as anyone could possibly give and yet, once I was faced with this maze of streets I quickly understood his concern.  He had warned me about the bewildering situation that surrounded his apartment and being surrounded by the web of Avenue de Morges and Rue de Geneve - quite literally a web!  Some segments going north-south and others going east-west and all one after the other!  See the map below and to the right to get a feel for this labyrinth of Lausanne!   After I had found my way to Vidal's I was warmly welcomed with his request to relax and enjoy some wine from local vineyards dating back a thousand years before we set out to explore the city and I gladly took him up on that offer!  After expressively telling him of that morning's three-ring-circus situation and a glass of wine, we were ready to go get a taste of Lausanne.  

Map of Vidal's neighborhood in Lausanne
While we walked, Vidal shared with me the fascinating history of Lausanne and the area, bits and phrases of the Arpetan dialect of French, and tips on getting around Switzerland inexpensively.  Wandering around for an hour or so, our stomachs started to tell us it was time for sit down and eat.  Being a courteous host, he asked me where I would like to eat but I really could not pinpoint my craving.  Vidal then suggested go to a place he recently heard about which was a Thai restaurant and immediately my taste buds seconded that idea!  Our stories continued as the courses of fiery and flavorful food came and disappeared until we both could not fit anymore.  Needing to burn off the feast we just devoured, Vidal took me around the city, although it was more up and down rather than around as we climbed what felt like 40 flights of stairs in the matter of a few hours!  He jokingly said that the International Olympic Committee chose Lausanne being getting around the city is a perpetual workout!  The following morning after Vidal headed to work at the hospital, I wanted to make a quick trip to the Notre Dame cathedral atop the "hill" in Lausanne before I ventured back to the train station.  Just a few hours prior, my city host had taken me up to the walls of the cathedral and I did not recall the way being so stair heavy as the route that I chose that morning!  But, the end result was rewarding as I nearly had the Notre Dame de Lausanne to myself and the view from the "front door" was astounding over the city and Lake Leman onward to the Alps as I was about to embark onto one of the most famous of her mountains - the Matterhorn.