Exactly a year ago, my brother and I had finished up a business trip in Geneva and were maxing out a Swiss Rail pass on a whirlwind tour of a good chunk of the country. Here’s where my photo library says I took pictures:
I finally put together “the slideshow”, which is probably too long for anyone except the two of us to enjoy:
Lausanne – home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters.
Nyon – A good place for pastries while waiting for a ferry to Yvoire.
Yvoire – a beautiful medieval city in France. Almost everything was closed.
Veytaux – home to Chillon Castle, made famous by Lord Byron who carved his name on a pillar in the dungeon and wrote the poem The Prisoner Of Chillon (1816) about François de Bonivard.
Gimmelwald – beautiful mountain area with fun cable car rides. According to Rick Steves, there’s a saying: “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.” The locals (population: 130) have kept ski resort developers out by getting the place declared an avalanche zone.
Grindelwald – I have a rough time remembering where Gimmelwald ends and Grindelwald begins, but both are beautiful and fun to say.
Spiez – Crazy-pretty village in the mountains.
Montreux – home to the jazz festival and Freddie Mercury monument.
Zermatt – the ski village that all other ski villages are modeled after, with a great view of The Matterhorn. The mountaineers cemetery is fascinating!
Sion – It’s unfair for a town to be this beautiful. We took a short hike to Tourbillon Castle and Basilique de Valère.
Leysin – We took a cog wheel train straight up the mountain with a bunch of spoiled American kids who had no idea how lucky they were to go to school there. It was a perfect ending to the trip with a great view of Lake Geneva and mountains in every direction.
And here’s one more little clip to reminisce about:
These guys were outside our hotel window in the wee hours of the morning.
Last week I had about a day and a half of free time around a business meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The city offers free bikes (for 4 hours — 2 francs an hour after that) so I borrowed one and rode over the French border to a cable car that took me up Mont Salève, the “Balcony of Geneva”.
There were trails all over, so I followed the signs that looked the most interesting: Mont Blanc Panorama, Observatory, and then Alps Panorama.
I spent some time in a Tibetan Temple, listening to a monk chant.
I passed what looked like strips of miniature golf turf and realized it was a series of hang glider jump-offs.
An hour or so later I ended up in the middle of a cow pasture, surrounded by ringing cow bells, with breathtaking views of the Alps in the distance. In the words of Ralphie’s dad on A Christmas Story, it was indescribably beautiful.
On the way back I passed a group of elderly hikers and briefly envied their lifestyle.
If you only have a day in Geneva, here’s what I recommend:
Borrow a bike from Geneveroule. They’re free for four hours and cheap beyond that. They have several locations and you can drop them off at any of them when you’re done.
Ride the Mont-Salève Cable Car and just wander around up there. I planned on 30 minutes and spent a couple of hours. You can ride your bike down Route de Florissant from Geneva to Veyrier, France, and follow signs to the Téléphérique du Salève. Or you can take the #8 bus to Veyrier-Douane from the Cornavin train station in Geneva. Pray for clear skies. I went on an overcast day, but I could see Mont Blanc and the Alps.
Buy a passport for 7 private museums. I had time for the following, in descending order of how interesting I found them:
Bodmer Foundation – private collection of very old books, including Egyptian Book of the Dead scrolls, a 1623 Complete Works of Shakespeare, handwritten Gospels, copies of the Koran, and a perfectly preserve Gutenberg Bible.
In Zermatt, Switzerland – the ski town from which you can see the Matterhorn in the distance – there’s a fascinating and moving little cemetery behind the St. Mauritius Catholic Church. It memorializes those who died climbing (or descending) nearby mountains.
1) Metz, France (info)
2) Chambéry, France (info)
3) Grenoble, France (info)
4) Dijon, France (info)
5) Nancy, France (info)
6) Lyon, France (info)
7) La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland (info)