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Swiss Diary: Lausanne

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The view from the Hotel Angleterre onto Lake Geneva.

LAUSANNE: SUNSHINE ON THE SWISS RIVIERA

I
took a Swiss train this morning (using my Swiss Pass) from Zurich to Lausanne, from the
German-speaking area of Switzerland, to the French speaking canton of
Vaud. The closer we got to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), the sunnier it
became. The fact that Lausanne was celebrating a Fetes du Soleil, a
festival of the sun that is this city's version of Carnival, seemed all
the more appropriate.

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Fetes du Soleil.

Carnival
in May? Why not February, during Lent, when every other
Carnival-celebrating city has a party? You can apparently credit
age-old religious differences between Protestants and Catholics.

No
matter, after four days of cloudy Swiss skies, the sun was mercifully
shining on this French-speaking city. Coming from Zurich, it's like
entering another country, not just another part of Switzerland. The
look, the flair and the attitude of the inhabitants are markedly
different from their cousins to the north. The streets are filled with
flower gardens, the cafes spill out onto the street, the three kisses
to the cheek — the classic Swiss-style greeting — seem that much more
exuberant.

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Hotel Angleterre, Lausanne.

I've just checked in to the Hotel Angleterre, the sister hotel to the
Beau-Rivage, and I'm fortunate to have a terrific view of the lake, the
French Alps and the sleek sail boats here for the Challenge Julius Baer
race tomorrow. Tonight I'm off to explore Flon, the rehabbed industrial
area that is a kindred spirit to Zurich West. Here's to sun in
Switzerland.

NIGHT, NIGHT WATCHMAN

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Renato Hausler, the night watchman of the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Lausanne.

For
four hours a night, five days a week, Renato Hausler stands on the
parapets of the medieval Cathedral Notre Dame in Lausanne, which has a
panoramic view of this city along the shores of Lake Geneva. Four times
a night, he walks to each side of the bell tower — on the hour, as the
big bell strikes –  and announces: C'est le guet; il a sonné l'heure — "This is the nightwatch, the hour has struck."

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Lausanne's Cathedarl. Renato Hausler can be found in the left hand tower five nights a week.

 
When the cathedral was built in the 13th century, night watchmen were
essential. They scanned the city for any sign of fire and rang a bell
to report one. Nowadays, Hausler is simply carrying on a tradition. He
began as a substitute night watchman back in 1987 and took over the
role in 1991. Someone has done this job — with a few breaks in
tradition — for 600 years.

Tonight, as I climbed the 153 gently
worn stone steps to the tower to meet him, the wind was blowing softly,
there was a bit of rain, and a few pigeons were cooing to keep him
company.

"The most difficult nights are when it is cold and
windy," he confessed. He sleeps up here when he is on duty, in a monk's
cell of room that has been constructed for this purpose, with a tiny
desk, chair and bed, all of it just a wall way from the 5.6 ton
Marie-Madeleine bell.

"Does you wife join you up here?" I ask,
sacnning the spare chamber where a novel by Emile Zola sits on a table
and a small picture of Mahatma Ghandi hangs on a wall.

"No, no," he answers. "She stays at home."

Is that the secret to a happy marriage?

"Perhaps," he answers, looking out at the lights of Lausanne.

THE SWISS POSTER IS ALIVE AND WELL

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At a moment in time when everyone's eyes seem glued to their iPad or iPhone,
it's remarkable to see the poster — a delivery system embedded in 19th
century technology — thrive in one of the most technologically savvy
countries in the world.

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Clearly,
it's an effective way to promote the Swiss culture — museums,
concerts, films and exhbitions, for example. Otherwise, the poster
would have been abandoned long ago.

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I shot these images this afternoon while strolling through Ouchy, at
the foot of Lausanne on Lake Geneva.Those who love great graphic design
can rejoice — the Swiss have long been among the most adept at this
art — think Muller-Brockmann, Herbert Matter, and Wolfgang Weingart —
and they continue to produce provocative and eye-catching posters.

Here's a quick selection:

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Lausanne3 002 

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UNDER THE ARCHES IN LAUSANNE

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The Arches, Lausanne.

At
the edge of Flon — a former industrial area in the heart of Lausanne
that has been redeveloped and   re-imagined with bars, restaurants and
residences — is the Grand Pont, a bridge supported by a series of
stone arches. The space under the arches was "formerly the haven of
vagrants," says architect Pierre Winthrop, a 30 year old Parisian
architect who was hired to reimagine and reclaim the space under the
arches.

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Wonderful spaces in The Arches.

His
simple solution was to keep the arches as they were — it helped that
the city would not allow many changes to be made. His additions were
subtle — wood flooring platforms, aluminum tables and chairs, a
minimalist rectangular bar., and a healthy respect for the stone block
architecture of the arches themselves. The space opened two weeks ago
as Les Arches and is already the hottest spot in this city along Lake
Geneva. 

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Pierre Winthrop.

  Winthrop, who runs Specific Architectural Solutions, is half-English and half-Swiss. Perhaps the most clever aspect of this project is the bar itself.

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The bar at The Arches.

There are no doors to The Arches, but above the bar is a metal box that
descends at night, effectively securing the contents of the bar in what
amounts to a container. During opening hours, it is suspended above the
patrons, a sword of Damocles that is an effective way of saying "Time,
ladies and gentlemen."

For more information, visit the Lake Geneva Region.

Read Montreux Diary and Zurich Diary.

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1 Comment

  1. June 14, 2011 at 1:10 am — Reply

    Very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep posting on it

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