Evian Ice Sculptures; The Deep Freeze of Beauty and Death

Having never really suffered from cold back in Australia with more than the need to switch on an electric blanket for an hour or so before going to bed, or throwing a track suit on when I jumped out of bed on a South-east Queensland winter's morning, the European cold snap of the last week has been pretty challenging. Reports across the eastern bloc countries of the highest snowfalls ever recorded, temperatures in excess of minus 33 degrees, has been destructively intensified by the addition of polar winds and the deaths of hundreds of disadvantaged people. This one week has made the first winter we experienced here in Switzerland in 2010-11 seem more like being accidentally locked in the Colin James fromagerie in Maleny overnight. Totally un-newsworthy.

Last Monday morning, after reading online news reports of the weather deteriorating later in the week, I put on three layers of running gear for a run to Lutry and back while I had the opportunity. Besides looking and feeling like a piece of Bratwurst and the need to adjust to sucking in some cold air, I must say I enjoyed the hour of physical freedom.  On the return journey to home I found out why the air felt so cool as snow flurries filled my eyes and mouth at every turn on the lakeside pathway.

Tuesday was definitely not conducive to running, with a few centimetres of snow and ice lining the pathways around Pully and the introduction of what the local Swiss call the 'bees' wind. There weren't too many bees to be seen but plenty of b's to be heard coming from my mouth because the introduction of the breeze had made it bloody cold. Still, shamed into action by the many mothers and grandmothers I spotted outside our apartment pushing babies in prams, I strapped on the Canon and walked into Lausanne and back managing a couple of photos but nothing really spectacular.

By Friday, although the snow was now reduced to a few centimetres of scattered residue, the car temperature gauge read minus 11.5 celsius. The b......, bees wind increased intensity throughout the day and every where I drove the footpaths were littered with frozen noses and bewildered monkeys.

Saturday morning Jo and I made a move early to go grocery shopping in Amphion France. In the car  the temperature is a record for us of minus 13.5. As we drove through the snow bound villages lakeside below the French Alps I could see that my failure to throw in my camera would nag me for eternity, if not longer. The wind was whipping through the breath taking moist air from the north east and flinging the frenzied shore break over the incumbent boulders and foliage that separated the road from Lake Geneva. The end result was some very spectacular ice sculptures to off-set the inconvenience, death and destruction of the widely spread, adverse weather conditions, commonly known in Europe as winter.

Jo and Layla with some of their new 'Playmobile' friends

Cutting edge Swiss fashions

A really warm, two dog fur coat
On the way back some of the scenery was so amazingly surreal I refused to look at it whenever Jo tried to get my attention. I had even contemplated buying a small digi cam at Cora to click on the return journey but was unsure if the batteries would be charged. So here is the bit where I make a long story short. Later that day, while we were touring a local museum with our neighbours Silvia and Gerardo, some of their friends as well as our friends Layla and Lubna, Jo suggested we take Layla and Lubna for a drive to France to celebrate the two of them receiving their Permit B's (there's those bees again), to see the ice sculptures. The bells rang and within an hour we were in Evian freezing and clicking (not flashing, it was way too cold for that), and being blown away by what nature can do so brilliantly without man's help.

Lubna's first photo in France

Ice crevettes (prawns)

Jo and Layla being attacked by the ice crevettes

It saddens me that in this twenty first century of technology and excess, that societies poor are the ones still at the most risk of freezing to death in their own homes because they lack adequate heating. Already this week two hundred of the world's poor and homeless here in Europe are reported to have died as a result of the weather. Switzerland is pretty well insulated from this problem. Especially in cities and provincial towns, where you are more likely to suffer from being slowly baked by the central and in-floor heating like a Hogg's Breath prime fillet. The fact that some asylum seekers in Switzerland who are housed in temporary, suburban underground bunkers after arriving here from their own war-torn countries, are turfed out into sub-freezing, shadowy streets every morning at nine am and forbidden to return to their shelter until seven pm at night, highlights the fact that the Swiss, like many other parts of this one world we all share, need to continue to do a stock take of the collective sum of our emotional intelligence.


  1. Amazing story rob, nature is incredible.

  2. seems so far away from life in Singapore at the moment. Thanks Rob for making it real.

  3. Amazing pictures!! I've never seen such landscape while living here. Love the ice crevettes!

    bees = bise in french


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