Saturday, June 01, 2013

The literary pursuit of Travel - Along Lake Geneva

The idea for this post has been brewing in my mind for a little while. As a child, my only option for journeys to places unknown were through books and wild stretches of my imagination. I managed to, through my reading see quite a bit of the world, and what can be more fun than to (re)visit those places from childhood figments of imagination?
This has inspired me on several of my trips, so much so that the literary vein runs strong through my sojourns. One such trip took me to the shores of Lake Geneva on an April morning in 2012. I combined the trip with a scenic rail journey through the alps.

I took the train to Montreux aiming to see Chateau De Chillon, but wanted to do most of the journey on the scenic Goldenpass rail, which requires quite a few train changes at Bern, Spiez and Zweisimmen to be precise. The Swiss precision makes these changes within minutes of each other pretty easy, except for at Spiez where a platform switch made me run like the wind to catch the next train.

After my first gasps of wonder and awe at the alps which managed to amuse a German artist enough to befriend me, the train weaved through scenic countryside to offer vistas of Montreux from high up.

Montreux is a riviera town on Lake Geneva which is quite heavily French. It is fancy but not as flashy as the alpine towns we passed on the train like Gstaad. I had a simple lunch of crepes (what else) on the riviera.

The riviera is delightful to walk in and my swiss pass let me board a boat bound to the Chateau from Montreux offering vistas of the french alps on the other side of the lake.

I knew of this little castle on the lake from Henry James' Daisy Miller where the outgoing Daisy goes with Frederick on a first date, highly frowned upon back in the day. The Novella itself is quite pleasant to read with several undertones touching on innocence, societal perceptions among others.

Chillon did not disappoint, it still ranks very high among the Castles I have visited. The level of defense that went into its fortress is amazing. As a literary bonus, you can see the poet Byron's name graffitied into the dungeon walls by Byron himself when he wrote the most popular work about the Chateau, The  prisoner of Chillon.

After this, I decided to take a bus to another literary town, Vevey. Vevey is known to most people as the birthplace of Nestle and the place where Charlie Chaplin lived his last days. The Chaplin graves are still in Vevey. It features in Daisy Miller as well as another favorite novel of mine, Little Women. Laurie falls in love with Amy as they cruise around the lake at Vevey, and that was quite enough inspiration for me to warrant a visit!
The bus travels down the main roads of Montreux via the casino to Vevey in about 15 minutes. It is a delightful town with a nice market square on the lake and more splendid vistas.

After this, I decided to do a whistle stop at Lausanne, the Olympic capital of Switzerland, a 15 minute train ride from Vevey before catching a high speed train back to Zurich via Thun. Lausanne has a pretty old town which demands a steep but rewarding uphill walk.

Tired after a full day of travel, I headed back to Zurich to call it a good night.

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