Remembering Switzerland

Posted by in Culture, Travel

Geneva; mystery and majesty.

CHOCOLATE TRIANGLES, ROUND CLOCKS: SHAPES IN THE LAND OF THE SWISS CROSS

Not one of my biggest players on the blog in terms of visitor numbers (compared to Germany or France) but nevertheless let me turn our attention to Switzerland! It was in April 2006 that I visited following on from Berlin the month previous (both with Easyjet).

It seems I have no written record of my time in the land of alpine, chocolate and clocks other than the poem GVA which appears in Terminal Wanderlust (plug plug…) Trying hard NOT to think of TOBLERONE right now as I nibble my fingers instead.

The hostel was near the central train station (you can see the electric overhead lines from my picture) and ok if a little devoid of character. I suppose that way it was very Swiss; neat, pleasant but not too exciting. 

This means that there was plenty of time to explore the city. In no time I’ve found the lake and its famous fountain. I find an old quarter with eateries and refined people dining on the finest pastries and cafe. And the UN. 

300*252

ALONG THE LAKE BY TRAIN

Geneva is pretty but seems a tad dull, a thought shared by my English roommate who is a day ahead of me and suggests Montreux. Seems like a good idea. In Switzerland the trains run like clockwork. They are also bloody expensive! 

Nonetheless I ended up on heading east past Lucerne and Vevey (Nestle-ville) to Montreux which I remembered for its legendary Pop/Rock festival in the eighties. I think nowadays they only do the more refined jazz one to prevent riff-raff congregating in their midst.

Montreux serenity and a church with a view!

It’s a serene town, the lake is calm beneath an overcast sky that dithers between white, pale grey and whisps of blue occasionally break through but not much. Almost immediately I find myself climbing twists and turns in a hill against an alpine railway. 

PEARL IN THE SHELL

Not one of my smartest moves. I am way out of breath but the view they say is worth the climb and my efforts are repaid by an old church with breathtaking views of the lake and opposite mountains. Returning to the lake I promenade by the water and see the steps used in the Howard Jones video Pearl in the Shell – shot in the town on an eggshell sky day way back in 1984.

Back in Geneva I catch a bus and walk into France and take the cable car to view the city from above. On the way up a mountain goat lies on a ledge, I have no idea how it got there! Remarkable creature. My ride is shared with people I think are backpackers. However, when we alight their motive becomes clear. 

Geneva from the hill and the menace of Mt Blanc.

SHE IS LIKE THE SWALLOW (EXCEPT THE SCREAMING)

From the top I can see the city and facing the other way the imposing stature of Mt Blanc. The backpackers meanwhile have assembled their kit – they are paraglider’s and in moments they take a casual walk then a mild trot off the edge of the cliff. The wind takes them like rag dolls as they swoop up and down like swallows.

As a finale back down in the city and with an hour or so to spare before I need to be at the airport my walk takes me to a nearby park. It’s also ‘pleasant’ with other walkers greeting me with a ‘bon jour.’ The park doubles as an almost de-facto city zoo. A round aviary comes into view and I can’t resist a look at its feathered inhabitants. 

WARNING: If it’s serenity you want, don’t take this parrot’s picture!

Let’s see, from memory there were shagging budgies; the male seemed most perturbed he had to get off when the keeper made an entrance. Most memorable for me was the pink parrot I mention in my poem GVA who isn’t too happy with having its picture taken and screams with no let up!

A FUNNY THING

In 2018 en-route to Barcelona, my Flixbus routed through Switzerland where in interesting travel anecdote occurred at customs. Everyone sighs with affection when the drug doggie boards to sniff out any potential narcotics but that’s not all. The customs patrol guy boards to hand back everyone’s passports. 

‘I-ES’ He says. No-one says anything. ‘Who is from England?’ He says. Then realising he is looking at my passport I put my hand up. He delivers it, I try and correct him, it’s HAYES and I am from Wales! To no avail as he struts back down the bus. Oh well, I tried.

Twelve years later, a postcard from the night and a bus full of Swiss red!

It’s amazing what I recall from my visit 12 years prior. I see Vevey from above this time in a hazy afternoon. By the time we make Geneva night has fallen but I still know where I am. The lake to the left and the park back a touch to my right. I wonder if that parrot is still there. 

It was sad not to have another proper look at Geneva but it was a mere interlude in the dark. As a fitting epilogue the bus out lights up in Swiss rouge, how perfect.

ZURICH, EXPENSIVE?

2022 really was a rollercoaster and I unexpectedly found myself in the land of milk and honey (and soon saw why my notes said SWITZ $$$$$). Most cities – even London – have a budget option, but not Zurich, it’s £4 for a croissant – this is standard and there are next to no hostels/hotels below £100per night, Zurich is a city who assumes everyone is loaded and gives a finger to anyone that isn’t. 

Even the Youth Hostel is expensive. I asked a hostel in Winterthur (north of the city) if their price included breakfast and it seems the owner was surprised I was asking, suffice to say, nope it didn’t.

Like Geneva the city lies on a lake, has a great tram service but is otherwise like HK or Vienna – a bit up its own arse. Nice if you happen to be able to afford it. Oh, did I mention it was £6 for a latte at Starbucks and no I am not making that up.

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA and UNIVERSITY pages.

Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Blog originally posted August 2016 and includes an affiliate link. Playlist and credits follow…

PLAYLIST (Based on what I can remember of the Montreux Rock Festival in the 80s)
The Seventh Stranger – Duran Duran
Electric Blue (live version) – ICEHOUSE
*they still perform it in this key today!
Oh Patti – Scritti Politti
Will I Ever Understand You – Berlin
Separate Lives – Marilyn Martin/Kenny Loggins (standing in for Phil Collins)
Man with Two Hearts – Men at Work
Concrete and Clay – Martin Plaza
It’s Over – Level 42
Just Around The Corner – Cock Robin
What You Need – INXS
A Kind of Magic – Queen
Take on Me – A-ha
..and finally (not from the festival)
Linger – John Foxx/Harold Budd
Swiss Radio International – OMD

Photos: KH