Sunday, May 11, 2014

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Lake Geneva Region : Geneva, Montreux & Golden Pass Train


Taking you to a visit of this city built on the shore of Lake Geneva and divided by the Rhone River. A city which is bestowed with natural beauty, center of diplomatic activity, built with best architectural structures and a gateway to French experience. It was part of our weekend visits during summer intern at ETH Zurich and was indeed an awesome time spent with friends. So come with me and explore the charm of this Swiss-French region. 



The great Big-bang experiment was trending on the News and it was this time when we were visiting Geneva for a day trip. The great CERN lab where the experiment was undertaken on the gigantic Large Hadron Collider in situated in this region of the world. We took the Bahn – train - from Zurich Hauptbahnof (railway station) on beautiful morning of 2nd August. Again it was the usual gang of me, DU, Akhil and Nitin. As you know from my other posts on Switzerland trips, we used day pass for our travel and hence we always tried to take the earliest of the trains. So we were off Zurich on our train by 8 AM. We were lucky enough to get a direct train partly because of the effort in getting out of our beds early. And it was because of this that the train was pulling into Geneva station in just under 3 hours. One thing that one can never forget is the picturesque nature that one gets to see while travelling through any region of Switzerland. The three hour journey was itself a tourist attraction and one could not start a better start of the day.



We were there in this city on the western border of the country and the French influence on the city was evident. The official language in Switzerland changes with the region and it was Swiss French in Geneva. The French beauty of city gets you in love with it in no time. The beauty is apparent in the scenery, culture, women and the architecture. So, we began our day in the city aiming at taking maximum amount of city with us when we get back in the evening. When the city is said to be in the Lake Geneva region, first point to look out for was obviously the lake - Lac Leman - itself. Thus, with help of free tourist maps picked at the railway station and guidance from locals, we headed towards the lake front and the view was simply marvelous. The area has been nicely developed with toy trains, small nukkad shows and other activities which are enough to keep you engaged. The lake is one of the largest one in the entire continent and covers over hundreds of square kilometer in area. It infact is the source of Rhone river which flows into France.


Next on our agenda was Le Jet d'Eau – a water jet shooting over 140 meters dazzling visitors at the lake shore. The arrangement was originally made as a security valve to release access pressure from the pumping station, but gradually turned out to be a major tourist attraction of the city. Since 1951, an autonomous pumping station has propelled 500 litres of water per second at a speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) to keep this start attraction operational. It was here we saw a booth offering free bikes (bicycles) for tourist and we decided to see the city on two wheels of this eco-friendly ride. We surrendered our ETH I cards as mortgage and took our bikes for the city tour. Armed with the maps we began our excursion. On way we also had a glimpse of the flower clock - "L'Horloge Fleurie". This is the second biggest flower clock in the world with a diameter of 5 metres and comprises of over 6,500 flowering plants. The image of the clocks face is changed every time the season changes. We also passed through the Reformation Wall leaning against the city’s ancient fortifications. A stone’s throw from the Place de Neuve in an exceptionally beautiful park where Protestant reformers are honored with giant statues and bas-reliefs.

The bike ride took us through the streets and roads, through narrow and wide paths, through up and downs and first stop we had was the United Nations Headquarters. The organization we have all grown up reading about, the institution which is globally respected at many levels, the meeting place for nations as a whole, the headquarters of which stood in all its glory in front of us. The massive entry gate with flags of all the nations on both sides of approach road kept us mesmerized. Visit to this Place des Nations, standing in front of the monumental ‘Broken Chair’, you are reminded of Geneva’s contribution to peace and freedom. Nearby this, are International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum which were the next destinations we visited. These museums showcase rich history of these organizations along with stories of their involvement in human life and safety across the world. From there we headed to the old town which finally led us to the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre – a 12th century cathedral. The tower at its highest point offers mesmerizing view of the city far and wide and the 150+ steps are no dampener for visitors. The old town and surrounding area offered enough to take up rest of our day and we soon saw darkness engulfing the earth which anyway is pretty late in general for this area. We asked some locals to identify areas which open through the night. We did not plan to sleep at a hotel and wanted to get most of the night life. Well the area we reached is to be talked about offline but we ultimately ended at a casino where we played, rested and finally passed over on the sofas of a nearby McD.


Next day we stopped by at Laussane and Montreux on our way to absorb some of these beautiful towns into ourselves. At Laussane we were joined by another group from India including some of our college mates which made that part of the day simply unforgettable. In Montreux, Chateau de Chillon was where we visited during the stoppage which is a castle set on shores of the Geneva Lake and displays amazing work of architecture Walk across the streets of these towns takes you deep down into the traditional nature of life, rich culture and architectural beauty all across. For our return from Montreux to Zurich, we took a rather long route as we had decided to experience one of the most scenic and picturesque view of Switzerland on one of the tourist trains on the Golden Pass route. The itinerary looked something like a journey from Montreux to Interlaken with a change in Zweisimmen taking about 4 hours. These trains are designed specifically to provide a panoramic view through large windows and luxury of delicious food on offer. No description in words can express what we witnessed on that train ride and hence I would request you to bear with the initial video and be patient until towards its end to experience it yourself. We took a normal train back to Zurich from Interlaken and were in time back to catch up on the celebrations of the Euro Cup match that day. This was our weekend and end of the wonderful trip to the region.

  • Planning a trip to the region - pour in your plans in the comments and I may able to help you get you itinerary right :)
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