Saturday, June 18, 2005

A trip to Switzerland (part 2)

[Continuation ...]

We arrived in Geneva in the evening and settled down for the night in the flat where my sister is staying. Next day was a Sunday so decided to get down to the business of serious sight seeing in central Geneva before we go to church in the evening. We walked along the promenade of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) and imbibed the beach-like atmosphere. Sun was fiercely hot which made all the summer clothes and activities come out in force. Nothing like a fiesta ambiance to perk your mood. Lots of ducks, swans, sunbathers, rollerbladers, ferry tours to keep us occupied.

We walked around the old cobbled-stone area of Geneva. Saw the old Cathedrale St. Pierre - one of the dominating presence in the old quarter. It was sparsely decorated inside probably echoing the Calvinist doctrine of non-indulgence of wealth which was prevalent here in the 1500s. We also saw a lot of United Nations (UN) buildings and its agencies. Though when we tried going to the main UN HQ building, it was such a long walk from the car park that we decided not to.

Geneva is a pleasant city to walk, very clean and orderly with lots of smart upscale shops. General feel of the place is that of a small cosmopolitan city. Now and again you see the reminders of one of Switzerland's main industry - banking. Prices of everything is so expensive - it's true! And that's coming from me living in costly London.


Next up in our itinerary is that castle precariously built on a promontory in Lake Geneva near Montreux - Chateau de Chillon. It gained fame when Lord Byron wrote about a supposed prisoner in its dungeon in his poem The Prisoner of Chillon. For me, what's notable about this medieval structure is its beautiful silhoutte like that of a fairytale castle enhanced by its romantic location at the edge of an equally beautiful lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Unfortunately we did not choose to go inside because of the prohibitive entrance toll. But we were more than satisfied enough with just touring outside.


The following day we were up earlier than usual for we have to drive up to Broc near Bulle to see one of the big highlights of our trip - a chocolate factory. I blogged about this in my food blog so have a peek there on the culinary side of the visit. Highlight of this was being able to eat as much chocs as we can in the tasting room. I wish I brought a plastic bag with me. ;-) Also here we met up with our friends Helen & Ellery and their kids who were all with us throughout the day's touring.

We then proceeded to the tiny cute town of Gruyere built with a castle on top of a hill. Nice to see a typical Swiss village with its wooden houses with intricate carved decorations. Local delicacies like its meringue were very nice, too. The surrounding areas are very green farmlands it conjures up that cow-milk-pasture image of Switz. What it doesn't include is the stink of cow dung fertilisers hanging in the air. Iiikkksss!!


It was getting late but the sun was still up so we drove on to Bern. The old part of the city had a medieval feel about it what with the cobbled stone streets, lots of old buildings even in the shopping area. Its got a dramatic setting as well with the river Aare running thru it. UNESCO has included it in its list of World Heritage sites - I'm not surprised. We were not able to explore it as much as we wanted to because of the late hour when almost everywhere is closed. Above left is the 600-year-old clock tower that used to mark the western entrance to the city. On the right is the tram lined flag-festooned main street. I bet that place is delightful to do a complete walking tour.


More pictures from Bern ... on the left is a communal water fountain/tap. We found these taps almost everywhere in any town or city centres in Switz. Most of the time the water is drinkable. During the days when it was scorching hot you can find us wetting our faces and arms with the cold mountain waters from these fountains to cool us down. Picture on the right shows what big horn he has! An old man giving a free performance in the cathedral square.

By the time we left it was already dark and drove 2 hours back to our soft beds in Geneva. It was a long, tiring but enjoyable day.

[To be continued with the 3rd and last part ...]

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