UPSTAIRS & DOWNSTAIRS IN LAUSANNE

UP AND DOWN THE STREETS IN LAUSANNE.

Lausanne, Switzerland is an old resort town on Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman in French. It is home to many international organizations, well-known banks, imposing hotels, and numerous places where people can relax, have a great meal, go shopping and sightseeing. The buildings are predominantly white, or brightly colored. There are lots of churches, beautiful parks and gardens. The 13th century Cathedral of Notre Dame dominates the city. The university was first founded as a college in the 16th century, and became a university in the 19th century.

Getting around in Lausanne, however, is different. It was the one and only town where I saw lifts strategically placed right in the middle of the street. People use them to get from one level to another or even from one side of the street to the other, the difference in levels sometimes being 500 meters. One can walk down to the lake and enjoy the view, with the calm water stretching forever, and the surrounding mountains. I would strongly recommend using the transport when going back, as the climb is quite steep and very long, besides going on and on in winding circles. Grandmothers, very often with prams or with young grandchildren in tow, seem to have no problems busily going up and down the streets and to the lake (but mostly down, so presumably they use a bus or some other kind of transport to get back).

Upstairs and downstairs are so common, nobody even thinks of mentioning it to a visitor beforehand. We knew our hotel was five minutes walk away from the train station. But we had no idea it was rather a short high climb up the stairs, or a long roundabout walk. The hotel itself looks like an old villa which probably was converted into a modern hotel tucked away into a pretty little street. The windows open into a lovely garden. Surprisingly, one can find accommodation for any budget, though the feeling of this being a wealthy city accompanies one wherever one goes.

At first glance, it seems that Notre Dame is right across the river, but we could not figure out how to get there. They informed us at the reception that it was better if we used the metro, and then the inevitable stairs. Now, the Lausanne metro was a seriously scary experience! The platforms are not flat, but sort of sloping down to the trains, and you get a feeling that you may really slide down. Not only that, the trains lean down to one side before disappearing into a tunnel. The locals clearly do not notice it, but we had a tough time just making ourselves go inside. Luckily it is a very short ride, followed by a very long climb. The cathedral is amazing, and the city panorama with the lake and the mountains from such a high point is worth all the trouble.

As Lausanne is also the place where chocolate is produced, and where zillions of bakeries sell wonderful fresh pastry, be sure to try them all! In hotels and cafes, somebody usually speaks English. In the city, one may see tourists from all over the globe, but not everybody would speak English, so it is better to learn a few key phrases in French and German, and to write down the name of your hotel somewhere. Naturally you can always ask the way to Bahnhof, train station, stazione, this word is understood in any language, and you can get the directions simply from gestures. One cannot get lost in Lausanne: you can see the lake from any place in town. If you have it behind you, the town is right in front of you.

© gretag 2012

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