Sometimes there is simply nothing to be said, and everything to be seen and felt. Such was my experience as we drove along the lake from Lausanne to Vevey, home to Mathias and one of the most beautiful scenes I have laid my eyes upon. On the right, the savoy alps diving into the lake. On the left, the steep stairs of the vineyards (this human accomplishment has been awarded the Unesco world heritage).
Sometimes it is simply the feeling in the air and the resonating mood that a time and place create. Such was Gruyères, where we stopped for the night. I was immediately taken with this medieval town, shrouded by mist and inhabited by vagrant cats. For dinner we dined on a grand feast of fondue (we were in Gruyères after all) and fell asleep to the trickling of the fountain outside the window.
In the morning a blanket of fog covered the landscape as we toured the Château, a walk into eight centuries of architecture and history. In complete contrast to the grandeur of the castle, we delved into the fascinatingly twisted mind of HR Giger, the Swiss artist famous for creating the effects for the film Alien. He bought one of the old houses in which he showcases his unique style of sexualixed surrealist visions, extending this imagined world into his Alien-style bar next door. I did not want to part with this mystical town but it was time to return to the lake.
In the early afternoon I arrived in Bern, the capital of Switzerland, in time for lunch with a Zurich local who I had met in Hanoi many months ago. Bern is a tiny city of 130,000, considered one of the most charming in Switzerland. unmistakably the sandstone buildings create a uniformity of green. The perfectly preserved medieval street plan, with its arcades, street fountains and clock towers persuaded UNESCO to deem Bern a World Heritage Site. What I found most appealing was the Paul Klee Museum, a grand edifice constructed by architect Renzo Piano. Klee is my most revered artist and reason enough to come to this city where he spent much of his life. After many hours lost in the fascinating mind of Klee, I was met by a friend from long ago with whom I had shared many travel adventures. And now our Swiss chapter was about to begin…
The rain was falling in Geneva and I decided it was time to head to the mountains. Four hours aboard a train winding deep into the snow-peaked mountains, destination Zermatt, one of the great skiing and climbing centres of the world. Stepping into this mountain village, nestled in a deep valley surrouned by Swiss peaks, dominated by the gracefully curved point of the Matterhorn, I felt a replete calm. In this place so far removed from the world there exist no cars or congestion, merely a tranquil scene of ski-bound pedestrians amidst the barns and chalets leading into hidden cobbled streets.
I had heard much about Geneva from Swiss friends and all those who had traveled to this city of prosperity and elegance. I was most impressed with the old part of the city, where time (as precise as it was) seemed to stand still. Amidst the cobbled streets only the placid sounds of water flowing from a fountain could be heard, mixing with the occasional ring of a church bell. The air was crisp as I spent many hours walking around the lake, gazing at the mountains beyond the grand industrialization looming in all directions. One afternoon I took the street car to Carouge, the Mediterranean style village in the middle of Geneva. I was lost in tranquility. At least for a moment.