Sunday, April 21, 2013

Switzerland: A Protest in Lausanne

This was the photo I tweeted from Lausanne, Switzerland during a large and very loud protest.

...Continuing our story from last week's Home from Colombia, Leaving for Switzerland blog post (link) about last month's trip to Europe!

Our previous visits to Switzerland have been more eco-trekking oriented, allowing time to backpack through the Alps near the Matterhorn and also the Italian region near Lugano.  This time, I was traveling solo and only staying long enough to hook up with my buddy Sebastien in the French speaking Romandy region of Switzerland.

The Zurich train station is conveniently located downstairs from the ZRH airport. Even at that early morning hour, the long billette line for the rail tickets moved slowly enough for me to reply to messages and download a map of Lausanne to my phone.

The train ride from Zurich to Lausanne was smooth and peaceful. As Swiss mountains and countryside blurred past my window, I tried piecing together some possible Lausanne itineraries on my phone. The beautiful scenery ultimately won the battle for my attention.

The train dropped me off in Lausanne on Monday morning, leaving me most of a day to kill until Seb got off work.

Hiking in the nearby Jura mountains or through the Lavaux vineyard region would've been doable if there was more time. Seeing sports memorabilia at the International Olympic Headquarters and Musee de l'Art Brut at Beaulieu Castle would also have to wait until the museums were open.

A stroll along the Ouchy waterfront of Lake Geneva made for a serene start to my day. From there, I made my way back up to Old Town to blend my researched finds during the plane/train ride with some of Seb's recommendations.

The steep, winding avenue that leads to Old Town

The Swiss Reformed Church of Saint-François

Notre Dame Cathedral

An orchestra rehearses inside Notre Dame Cathedral

A panoramic view of Lausanne; I hung out with some new friends up here while waiting for Seb to get off work.

Sebastien was planning to meet me after work around 5, so I found his flat and started waiting. He let me know that he was still stuck at work.

Then I had another idea. A worse idea.

Why not text Seb that I would wait for him across from the Church of Saint-François instead? The public square had gelato stands, free WiFi, chairs, benches, and a mellow atmosphere that was popular but not overcrowded...

...But a large group of protesters started filling the square just as I was sitting down, determined to prove me wrong on all counts.

The food vendors shut down and backed away, the WiFi went down temporarily (possibly overloaded from tweets and Facebook posts?), and protesters started climbing over the chairs and benches.  It was chaos.

Spotting Sebastien amidst this mess would be a challenge.  He then texted me that he would be even later.  The chanting and shouting was so loud that playing phone tag would be useless anyway.  As the man with the megaphone raged, I shrugged and waited for it all to blow over.

Eventually, the boisterous mob marched on.

Seb arrived on the scene just as the faint mix of angry and festive shouting had faded away into the streets.  The two of us walked downhill back to his flat, hidden above a trendy clothing store.

From Seb's Facebook page: Anyone who was quick enough to see the original photo that he posted from that night knows EXACTLY why he swapped that pic out for this one!

We shared appetizers and a toast before devouring a delicious curry dish.  We traded crazy stories from our long day and the past year.  We caught up on each other's lives and relationships.  Admittedly, we had probably had too much fun for a work night.

And what would I do on my next visit to Switzerland?
Running the international Lausanne Marathon in September? Finish backpacking the trail through the Alps that we started a few years ago, all the way to the Matterhorn? Skiing in Zermott?

The next morning, I planned to board a train for Zurich to catch a flight out of the country.  How plans change!

Coming Friday on BlogSpot...

Surfing, hiking, and playing at the coast: Celebrating 15 years of marriage!!

...And then, we continue our story in...

Milan, Italy!

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