With one giant step from Maleny to Lausanne on the Lake Geneva shoreline, my view of life was changed forever.
Most of the important lessons that I learned came via my asylum seeker family at EVAM Crissier.
Now, sitting back in the land of plenty, it is time to put into practice what I have learned.
Quo Vadis? ... Oh! You mean Montreux!
Here, I could have been predictable and started the line with ‘We all went down to Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline’. But as it was only Jo and I, ‘we all’ might sound a bit too deep south of the USAfor this Oz-Europeexperience.
Half an hour by train to the east of Lausanne you will end up in Montreux in what is called the Swiss Riviera region. For about nine franks (using a local train), you can glide between grapevine ladened hillsides and and the expansive waters of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). Your journey will include panoramas of the Swiss Alps reflecting the seasons and a variety of sailing vessels, sails patiently set for an afternoon across the lake to Evian. In Evian the crew will probably sample some of the local estate with a suitable fromage before filling up their water vessels with the curative liquid we know as Evian water and finally reaching home before sunset at around 21:30 hours.
The Montreux train will take you through old lakeside towns such as Lutry, Villette, Cully, St Saphorin and Vevey. All these villages have a history and life of their own, dating back to the Roman times and beyond, when Lac Leman was fortress lined to prevent the wrong type of visitors from spreading their unwanted ideals. From Montreux railway station it is all downhill steps and escalators to the old town and lakeside. The lakeside promenade and walkways are well designed to absorb the meandering hordes of day trippers and holiday makers which swell the local population of 23,000. According to the local information brochure the Montreux Jazz Festival is only one of many Festivals and exhibitions that take place here annually. They include art, photography, cinema, music of all tastes and desires and even a Freddie Mercury (think Queen) day in early September.
Again I was driven by songs and their lyrics to track down the ‘gambling house’ (Montreux Casino) and the Grand Hotel of ‘Smoke on the Water’ fame and equally as naturally to take photos. Their are seven kilometres of paved walkways/bikeways in the Montreux area. All the hotels have built and maintained spectacular exotic gardens the length of the lake in this area. Locals and visitors alike can plunge into the clear shallow of the lake here without permission at any time of year however I would suggest you check the water temperature in winter before doing so.
Montreux has been a magnet for creative artists for many centuries. Those well-known names who have lived here include Charlie Chaplin, Henry James, Victor Hugo, James Mason, Graham Greene, Clara Haskill, Anna de Noailles, Ernest Hemingway and Henryk Sienkiewicz. Many of the artists who made their way here ended their earth bound days here and their names now add to the headstone artwork of the local cemeteries. The Montreux-Vevey tourism body has documented ‘The Poets’ Ramble’, a five hour self guided tour retracing the footsteps of the famous writers, poets, artists, sculptors, singers, musicians and actors, weaving its way between lake, hillside and village. In this way you can experience the tranquility, wistfulness and inspiration that held their imaginations and record it in your unique style.
Every food taste and budget is catered for in Montreux. Many visitors bring their own picnic hampers to the lakeside and wash it down with one of the abundant local drops. Or you can do what Jo and I did. Go to the local Migros grocery store (sadly it is located right behind McDonalds), buy bread,cheese,ham and fruit and make your own. And if you are driving or wanting to keep your mind clear, grab one of the three flavours of the Swiss soft drink they call Rivella. It has an interesting taste and is also rumoured to have health enhancing qualities.
After three hours in the Swiss Riviera town of Montreux we caught a train back to Lutry for another swim in the inviting Lac Leman. There are three trains an hour to and from Montreux which makes it highly accessible. If you don’t want to catch the train back to Lausanne, there is an amazing walking path along the lake’s waterline between Montreux and Lausanne. This hike could take three to four hours or more, depending on how many cafes or patisseries you were forced to pit stop at.
An interesting anecdote about Montreux for me was this. Sometime during the latter months of 2009 Jo and I were looking at what we were going to be doing work-wise in 2010-2011. We stumbled across a property on the internet in Kyogle in Northern NSW which was interesting and also what we thought would be a great place for a rabbit farm. Early one Saturday morning as we headed out of Witta to look at this property, the words ‘Quo Vadis’ flashed into my thought. I never took Latin at school and had no idea what it meant so Jo googled it on her Iphone. We both laughed out loud when we found out it meant ‘Where are you going?’ Right there and then we knew for sure that it would not be Kyogle. Last week when we were visiting Rolle I found a 2010-2011 Andy Warhol diary with the words Quo Vadis on the front cover. I bought it. The final piece of the Quo Vadis connection came through when I was reading The Poets’ Ramble on the way back to Lutry on the train. Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916) who won the Nobel peace prize for literature in 1905 lived in the Hotel du Lac in Vevey (near Montreux) from 1914 until he died in 1916. He was buried in the Church of St Martin in Vevey. His most successful piece of literature was called ‘Quo Vadis’, which was later adapted by Hollywood. Kyogle....Montreux? I can now as in a glass darkly see why my Creator was challenging my thinking this time last year.
Jo looking to Montreux
Now all I need is my inspiration to bear some ‘Quo Vadis’ fruit of it’s own.