Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Castles in the Lausanne, Switzerland area

I live in Lausanne, Switzerland and was asked if there're any castles in the area. "Is the Pope catholic?, I replied. More than two dozen dot the landscape. This is Chillon Castle, the most visited historical monument in Switzerland and, one of the most visited medieval castles in Europe. Built on a speck of an island in Lake Geneva, Chillon dates back to the 13th century.  
For centuries the only way into the castle was via a drawbridge. Now, there's a covered entry. 
The waters of Lake Geneva provide a natural moat.
This is Vufflens Castle. This medieval beauty overlooking vineyards was built between 1420-1430.
Vufflens Castle overlooks Lake Geneva and is privately-owned, In other words a family lives here.
Oron Castle dates back to the 13th century and overlooks the town of Oron.
The entrance gate to Oron Castle.
Backside to Oron Castle. Since 1936 it's been owned by a conservation association. 
St. Barthelemy Castle is hidden away out in the farmland.
It's owned by Fondation St. Barthelemy and the complex house adults with intellectual and/or  psychological disabilities
Backside view of St. Bathelemy Castle
In the highest point in central Lausanne stands St. Maire Castle. Built between 1397-1425 by the Bishops of Lausanne and served as their fortified residence. However, in 1536 Bern captured Lausanne and booted out the bishop--who moved to a splendid palace a bit down the hill. 

Backside of Saint-Marie Castle. Since 1803 it has been the seat of the cantonal government in Canton Vaud. In the USA we have states, in Switzerland there're called cantons. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Adelboden, Switzerland (mountain resort)


So, I'm still in central Switzerland and the Bernese Alps. In my previous post I was in Kandersteg and after cycling down the mountain I hung a left and went up the other side of the mountain to Adelboden.
Adelboden (population 3,300) is a traditional Swiss mountain village similar to Kandersteg in that you've got skiing, hiking (over 125 miles of hiking trails), mountain biking and mountain climbing. View of Adelboden's main shopping street.
Street heading to downtown.
View of Adelboden's main shopping street taken from other end. 
Looks like the public swimming pool was recently closed--though it's in the low 90's today. 
View from main street to other side of valley. 
Tunnel. Sometimes cyclists are allowed through tunnels and other times it's forbidden. In Switzerland they'll usually post a sign showing an alternative route. 
There's only one road to Adelboden and this is the old road section used before the tunnel was built. This couple likes to watch.
I'm assuming the people living in this house were responsible for the couple in previous photo. Can you imagine what it would have been like living here before the tunnel was built with cars trucks, buses passing so close to the house. 
Lots of mountain huts. 
The bike route down the mountain follows farm roads such as the one on the left of the Entschlige river. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Kandersteg, Switzerland (mountain resort)

I'm in central Switzerland and high in the Bernese Alps. It's 8:30 in the morning and the sun is just beginning to reach the mountain resort of Kandersteg (population 1,300).  
You can ski in Kandersteg but, in the summer it's very popular with mountain climbers and hikers.
The sun is finally welcoming a new day. 
Entering Kandersteg's village center. 
Kandersteg's village center. Eagle-eyed viewers can spot the orange cat sitting beside the creek (on the right side)--watching fish swim by? 
Another view of Kandersteg's village center.
Kandersteg dead ends up ahead.

 Cycling down the mountain to the valley floor.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Megeve, France (ski resort)

I'm in the French Alps in the upscale ski resort of Megeve (population 3,000). Wanting to have a French alternative to ritzy St. Moritz (Switzerland), the famous Rothschild family led the exodus in the 1920's to this place.   
Town center with vendors setting up for a market.  
Town center is a pedestrian-only zone. Many of the restaurants have flower-lined terraces.
Upscale shops such as Hermes have outposts here.
View of hillside.
More town center.
A creek meanders through town.
View of another hillside.
Wasn't expecting to find a McDonald's WITH a drive-through here in Megeve. 
Heading down the mountain. 
More heading down the mountain.

 View looking up from the town of Sallanches (population 16,000) on the valley floor. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Fort de Joux (Pontarlier, France)

I'm cycling up through the Jura Mountains and come upon this splendid white marble World War 1 memorial in a small "mom & pop" ski village. I've traveled quite a bit through France and from the biggest cities to the smallest villages there will inevitably be a World War 1 and World War 11 memorial. Does the woman look familiar? Of course you know our Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French. 
Nothing special about Pontarlier (population 20,000) though it does get to brag about being the second highest town in France. It gets pretty darn cold in the winter and the area is known as the Siberia of France. 
I took this picture in Pontarlier for two reasons. The chapel up on the hill and the entrance to a large Nestle factory. Cycling past I could smell chocolate. It turns out this is where Nesquik is manufactured. Nesquik is chocolate syrup as well as chocolate powder you mix with milk. 
Perched atop a steep and rocky hill about two miles from Pontarlier stands Fort de Joux. Since the 1400's this fortress has been guarding the narrow passage--an important trading route from Italy to the rest of Europe. Back in 1813 the Austrians attacked and after being besieged for 21 days the castle surrendered. Why? The Austrians revealed a serious weakness in the fort's defenses. See Fort Larmont higher up to the right on the other side of the narrow passageway? That wasn't there back in 1813 and the Austrians lugged artillery up there and proceeded to fire down on Fort de Joux. 
Making my way up the road.
Here's the entrance.
The fortress had not one, not two but, three drawbridges. So, if one section gets breached then the soldiers fall back to the next drawbridge. 
This casemate (a vaulted chamber which can resist bombardment) was built in 1881. The casemate is made of four cast iron plates--each plate is 10 inches thick and weighs 42 tons!
View from top with neighboring Fort Larmont in the distance. 
Tourists going up to last set of steps leading to the prison cells which were located at the top of the fort. Around the time of the French Revolution and Napoleon's reign the fort was used as a prison. Fort de Joux was considered the boondocks of France and a miserable place to be in prison because of its isolation and cold. The fort's barracks could house between 500 to 600 soldiers.
This dizzying very narrow spiral staircase gives me the creeps. Built in 1879 and composed of 212 steps it's about the height of a 10-story building. Feels like it's going to collapse. It goes from the prison down to an underground tunnel. Also used to transport heavy items via a hoist in the middle of the stairs. Had to use the stairs to reach the water well.
The well was originally dug (through the rocks!) in 1690. At 482 feet deep (a football field is 360 feet long) it's reportedly the largest and deepest water well in Europe. 
In 1879 underground tunnels were dug under the castle fortifications to connect opposite ends of the fortress. 

 Medics arrived to transport a young woman (don't know if she was ill, fell or victim of heat exhaustion) Ambulances can't get through the narrow openings so, it took eight firefighters/paramedics taking turns carrying the gurney.