Day 23: Versoix to Geneve – And On To France!

Considering yesterday’s experience, we jumpstart today’s walk with a train ride to Chambésy.

And after a couple of miles of morning commuter road walking, we are very glad we did!

Along the way we did take in a few sights, but the constant traffic and noise was quite annoying.

Finally we dodge down away from the main thoroughfare and into a quiet chateau grounds

Well, here we are in Geneva, with tons of traffic, almost there, but what?? No water spout to great us? Oh well.

And right in here we meet up again with Martin (remember the Pilger we met in the rain our third day?).

Passing through Carouge, the Greenwich Village of Geneva, we are focused on our goal.

We leapfrog with Martin right up to about a quarter of a mile from the border, then we part: he has much farther to go!

In parting, he congratulated us, and said we should be very proud of our accomplishment. Reid clarified: “you mean for old guys?” He laughed and said yeah! Young whipper-snapper!

After a brief rest, we head down the last stretch to the French border.

Backtracking a quarter mile or so, we eventually catch a bus and a tram back to the city center, and a well-deserved sit down before we find our hotel.

We did it!

Day 22: Rolle to Versoix

This is along day to be sure: according to our guide it will be our longest day.

We start with a walk along the lake.

But soon it is back up the hill away from the lake.

We have now walked deep into Swiss wine country, with Lake Geneva on our left and vineyards hanging down towards the lake and vineyards climbing up the hills on our right.

Between the villages of Gland and Nyon we encounter the Toblerone Line, a 10 km defensive barrier stretching from Lake Geneva to the Jura mountains.

Built in 1935 in anticipation of a Nazi invasion, it was fortunately never put to the test.

There is now the well maintained educational Toblerone Trail following its entire length, but sadly we still have miles to go so must leave that for another day.

A little farther along the way we walk by a small airport with a grass runway. This old Russian bi-plane catches our eye.

And then there are orchards and more fields.

Finally reaching the town of Nyon, we take a detour to look around. Previously settled by the Celts, Nyon is the first Roman city built in Switzerland, founded in fact by Julius Cesar in 45 BC (then called Colonia Iulia Equestris). In addition to the Roman forum still visible, we find a statue of Julius himself.

“Hey Cesar! How many hotdogs did you have at the forum today?” “Et tu, Brute.”

Then on to Versoix, or so we thought.

As we finally come to Coppet we realize that we are not only reaching the 20 mile mark, but are still 2 or more hours away from our destination.

And look, a thunderstorm!

So we take the prudent path, head to the nearest train station and hop a train to our final resting stop for the night. When we arrive, the rain sets in.

And so to bed. One more day!

Day 21: Lausanne to Rolle

We leave the old city hoping to have a nice gentle walk down to the lake. Being the Jakobsweg and Switzerland, that does not happen. First we climb a hill to see another church (we have noticed this theme throughout the walk – go the most indirect way to see churches or chapels).

On the way to the lake we walk through numerous neighborhoods and parks.

We pass through the Promenade Archeologique, a large public space with many reminders of a significant Roman presence in Lausanne. Today the ruins of the Roman forum, temple and original harbor wall can still be seen (barely, hidden in the grass).

The stroll (march really) along the lake shore, while level, is long and almost entirely on pavement.

We come to the village of Morges, where remains of Neolithic and Bronze ages stilt-houses have been discovered.

Stilt house communities were common along many Swiss lakes in prehistoric times, but archaeologists have noted large gaps in habitation in this area. A likely explanation is that these communities were periodically wiped out by huge lake tsunamis. These were likely caused by enormous rock slides which dislodged vast quantities of river sediment in the upper lake, displacing enough water to create waves up to 15 meters high which could sweep the length of the lake with devastating effect. The most recent example, known as the Tauredunum event occurred in 563 AD when a massive wave broke over the city walls of Geneva, inundating much of the town.

A quick glance over the shoulder as we walk seems like a good idea, right?

But enough of stilt houses and tsunamis. Right off shore a strange ship is anchored. Is it it a replica of an old lake ship or something else (we would try to Google it, but don’t have the energy right now).

After a long walk next to a trouty looking stream in a shady wood, appreciating the time out of the sun, we completely the requisite hike up a steep set of stairs and finally we se that we have entered into the heart of Swiss wine country.

We are in the canton of Vaud, the second largest of the Swiss wine regions, and Morges is known as the capital of Vaud wines. Today many grape varietals are being grown, but the predominate white is still the Chasselas grape (from which Fendant is made), and Pinot Noir remains the most produced red.

And then we have another few mandatory climbs and descents, but the views are great.

This was a very long day, but after settling in to our nights lodging in the town of Rolle, we look for a taste of the local wine.

Swiss wines do not enjoy a wide following outside the country, partly because before the 1990s they were mostly not so great, though the biggest reason for their obscurity is probably the fact that less than 4% of all this wine is exported!

For a good article on the subject check out Swiss Wine – By Sue Style

Day 20: Moudon to Lausanne

Sorry about missing yesterday’s post, but just as we were reviewing the final draft WordPress decided to delete everything. After a nearly 20 mile walk we were too beat for a do-over, so now we will try to catch up with a leaner version.

Our hotel in Moudon was down by the river and railway station, so we set out to climb through the upper town.

We stop to fill our water bottles at one of the fountains. The house next to it is especially beautiful.

Most of the day involved walking around or through farm fields that are much larger than ones we have been used to.

If anyone is interested, the mystery crop from the previous day was rapeseed (thanks to Bruce for helping to identify it). It looks good next to the red poppies.

Then through the clouds we see large mountains in the distance, certainly in France though Lake Geneva remains hidden.

We did have a few creek crossings (with steep up and downs) and at the bottom of we found a Australian Shepherd playing in the water…made Mark a little homesick!

Finally we catch a glimpse of Lac Léman.

There is quite a lot of suburb-walking to do as we approached Lausanne, but in the middle of a small forrest we come upon a tall double- helix tower.

Reid decides to climb it to confirm the lake sighting.

Mark wisely chooses to guard the packs.

Finally descended to the old city we find our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral, to get our passports stamped to be sure, but really to visit the tomb of Otto de Grandson, perhaps the most important Swiss historical figure no one seems to have heard of. Living to be 90, he was a confidant of kings, a leader of Crusaders, a Templar knight and (perhaps?) the Father of Switzerland!

You will find a detailed but rather dry account of his remarkable life on Wikipedia (it is worth the read for anyone with the time and interest). A much more entertaining take on Sir Otto is provided by author and blogger Grigor Fedan, who connects the dots between kings, popes, Templars, crusaders and Swiss peasants to discovers the “true” roots of the independence and founding of Switzerland! Conspiracy theorists out there will love this: Otto de Grandson – Swiss Templar

Our hotel is a little hard to find, and the four flights of stairs are daunting at the end of the day, and there is no breakfast tomorrow because it will be Sunday, but we made it.

Day 19: Resume Walking – Romont to Moudon

This morning we leave Gruyeres by train and return to Romont to resume our walk where we left off.

It is obvious that Romont is a growing place, based on all the construction cranes (but that seems to be true of every town in Switzerland).

Moving along the path we are once again presented with wonderful vistas.

And we come across a farmer with a different way to spread his manure – individual hoses spaced evenly behind his tractor providing a more controlled application and much less chance of backsplash on innocent hikers!

And then more fields (while beautiful, the walk was mostly over and around fields today). As an aside, if anyone can identify this crop, please let us know – we have no clue what it is and there are large fields of it that we have been walking for days.

And then more scenery.

And why would there be a picture of a rock you say? Well, this stone apparently migrated (with some help from a glacier) from way up valley.

And on we go.

Under the birch trees, castles in the distance.

After a fairly easy day’s walk, we reach our destination for the night, the medieval town of Moudon.

For our friend Maria, who was asking for pictures of cheese, here is one from the local COOP (grocery) store.

And what about a cheese Automat?

Since our hotel is right next to the church, Mark will sleep well with the bells chiming every quarter hour.

Tomorrow will be a longer day, but will end on the shore of Lake Geneva!

Day 18: Rest Day – Gruyeres

Today is a day for rest, not for spending what’s left of our energy chasing after William Tell or climbing Alps! So what are we planning? Can you say cheese?

In fact, last night’s dinner was (what else?) Fondue!

But before we get to that, and before the tourist busses arrive, we take advantage of the calm to walk around the village

and then tour the castle.

Built in the 13th century, we find the castle to be well preserved and quite interesting. The apex of its influence came in the late 15th century when the count joined in the Burgundian wars on the side of the Swiss Confederates. Certainly worth the look, but what are these things hanging just inside the entrance? Another representation of good and evil, heaven and hell, or something else entirely?

And the views from the castle walls are great.

Leaving the castle we walk back into the village center. Could too much cheese cause hallucinations? Walking down from the castle we come across this!

Turns out that H.R. Geiger, the creator of the superstar aliens in the films Alien, Aliens, More Aliens, etc. is a Gruyere homeboy! And he even has a museum, which this time we simply cannot guggenheim.

As expected, it is bizarre! But, we do guggenheim the Geiger Bar.

Now back to the cheese.

Of all the cheeses in the world, Le Gruyere is Mark’s favorite: smelling, eating, cooking…it’s the best! So this too is part of our pilgrimage, to the shrine of Gruyere! If you want to know more about the cheese that caused an international incident, read on: The Wild History of Gruyere Cheese

After the Geiger experience it is time for lunch, and none too soon: another thunderstorm is on the way.

As we eat lunch and wait out the rain we see something which strikes us as odd, or at least new. Here in Gruyeres at least, fondue is served with thick slices of bread, to be torn by hand at the table, and a bowl of boiled potatoes. It’s as if they want to make sure you are not disappointed if what you really meant to order was raclette!

We get back to our room between raindrops and settle down for a nap just as thunderstorms resume. This is a good day to not be walking!

After a wonderful non-cheese Fondue Bourguignon for dinner, we retire for the night, wishing we had another rest day or two. Tomorrow it is back on the Jakobsweg!

Day 17: Posieux to Romont – Train To Gruyere

Today’s walk will end at the walled town of Romont, where we will leave the path for a side-pilgrimage to the village of Gruyere. But first we have to get there.

There was rain overnight, so the morning is reasonably clear and cool. We are again reminded how the landscape and farming has changed from just a few days ago.

The path leads around a small airport and the end of the runway before entering a wooded section. We are surprised to see that there are no fences, other than the cow fences, to keep anyone from walking across the runway (not a smart idea, but you could if you wanted to).

And then more awful scenery.

In the small village of Farvagny outside of Posat we walk past a small chapel with scallop shapes surrounding the door.

On the side is a small fountain, and we stop to refill our water bottles.

Farther along we pass through a small wood and a beautiful stream. The day has gotten warmer, so the time in the woods is much appreciated.

And then it is into the fields again.

Along the road we encounter not a bee hive, but an entire bee house. Apparently the beekeeper can access all of the hives within the single house. It was certainly active with bees!

And it was a good day to spray the “Mist”. We passed a number of fields being actively sprayed, or just recently sprayed.

Eventually we approach Romont perched on the top of a hill.

We first come to the Cistercian Abbey at the foot of the hill and get our stamps. Then we face the climb up to the old town.

Romont is a beautifully preserved medieval walled town, so before departing for Gruyere we take a quick look around.

Unfortunately a thunderstorm is approaching, shops are shuttering, and we are suddenly in a hurry to get down to the Bahnhof.

Consequently we guggenheim the castle and renowned glass museum. This is a very appealing place, and it would be a pleasure to spend more time exploring. Though we will return in a couple of days to pick the trail up where we left off, it is unlikely we will climb back up that hill! We just outpaced the storm, and now it’s off to catch the train to a rest day Cheese Land!

Day 16: Schwarzenburg to Posieux

Yesterday we walked over 16 miles, which was a long day and OK except for the steep downhills in the last few miles, where Mark’s knees suffered. Our plan for today, either from extreme optimism or stupidity, calls for about 18 miles with two big sets of down/up to start us off. To set the stage further, we woke up to a hard steady rain.

Being old enough now to have acquired a little bit of judgement, and remembering well the experience of walking long in wet boots, we went off script, and hopped on a Post Bus. (Any medieval pilgrim with sufficient means would have found a wagon going in the right direction, surely?)

So, riding in our wagon for about eight miles in the rain, we disembark in the town of Tafers. Tafers we find to be largely German speaking, even though located in the French speaking canton of Fribourg.

Beside the town church we find two chapels. In front of the St. James Chapel the paving stones are laid in the shape of a scallop shell.

And on its façade eight panels tell the story of the hanged man and the chicken. Painted in 1769, it illustrates one of the most often-heard miracle legends on the Way of St. James.

Before continuing, we opt to put on our rain pants – the rain, while lighter now, has not stopped.

The landscape has definitely changed from the previous days. The hills are more rolling and we do not encounter the steep ascents and descents of earlier.

Continuing on we reach the outskirts of Fribourg, capital of the canton of that name.

Much of the old town walls are still here, including the Red Tower, Cat’s Tower and Berntor, parts of the original battlements.

In medieval times all pilgrims from the east were required to enter the city via the Bernbrücke, but we can’t help but notice that it is way down there and there is a very serviceable bridge right here in front of us.

And right here we cross the linguistic divide between German and French speaking Switzerland: the Röstigraben, which translates roughly to “hashed-brown potato ditch”! Röstigraben

Passing through the heart of the Old Town, with its more than 200 Gothic facades, we pay a visit to the Fribourg Cathedral, dedicated to St. Nicholas, the same Bruder Klaus we got to know back in Flueli-Ranft.

If you look close on the facade above, you will see what your future could be – on the left is the righteous side, on the right the other option. Which do you choose?

All of the stained glass windows in the church tell a story about someone. The panels on the left of this window seemed a little creepy.

Leaving the city, and having a little time in hand thanks to our wagon ride, we split a pizza for lunch. Continuing on, and finally out of the suburbs, we come to the Stone crucifix Belle croix, on the edge of the woods near Moncor. Dedicated to St. James, this has been an important pilgrimage stop since at least 1480.

Just inside the forest trail beyond the cross we find a totem to pilgrims obviously made by locals.

And then we pass through a couple of forest trails and over an old stone bridge as we head to our destination in Posieux.

This path appeared to be an old mule trail, with a rocky base and steep sides.

As we approach Posieux, we see an interesting wood carving celebrating the Camino.

And finally we arrive at our hotel for the night and a welcome rest. Tomorrow is a short 12 mile walk to Romont where we will catch a train for out final rest day in Gruyeres.