Archive for January, 2013
Lucerne, located in central Switzerland at the foot of the Swiss Alps, is simply stunning. From the minute I stepped off the train and caught a glimpse of Lake Lucerne, reflecting snow capped peaks in its swan-filled waters—the city perched at its edge—I was smitten.
The train from Lausanne to Gruyères cut through vineyards, golden in the morning sunshine, with just the slightest hint of snow accenting all the mediterranean colors. The train wound its way up and up through the grape fields, rising high over Lake Geneva, until the vineyards became stacked layers balancing over the lake, seeming ready to spill right into the water. It was a landscape just like this that first enchanted me with Switzerland. As the train made a final turn inland toward Gruyères, the landscape changed entirely, and suddenly everything was coated in a layer of snow—even the cows and sheep.
Today I visited La Maison du Gruyère (The House of Gruyère), a cheese dairy near Gruyères, Switzerland in the Fribourg countryside, where you can learn the entire cheese making process and do a cheese tasting afterwards!
Milk from Cows who Vacation in the Swiss Alps
It all starts with milk, from cows who spend their summers feeding on grass up in the Swiss alps, a vital part of Swiss culture marked with colorful traditions (see more about this below under “Fast Facts”). Gruyère cheese is still made according to a traditional recipe dating back to 1115 AD. At the cheese dairy, the milk is delivered by farmers twice a day and the cheese is made 3-4 times a day. You can watch the entire process and see the cheese makers at work—a perfect way to immerse yourself in Swiss culture.
I was drawn to Lausanne by a distant memory. Back in my college days when I was studying abroad in Italy, I took an overnight train to either Barcelona or Paris. On the way I remember waking up early in the morning and looking out the train window. I was so stunned by the beautiful view that it’s still etched in my mind. The day was crystal clear and there was a big blue lake, reflecting the sky and snow capped mountains in its waters. The hills were exploding with green and tumbled straight onto the water’s shore. I looked for a sign of where we were: Lausanne. I vowed to come back here one day, stop, and linger, instead of just passing through.
Finally today I caught a train back to Lausanne.
We caught the (too) early morning Glacier Express train out of Zermatt. This time the scenery was completely different: it had gone from fall to winter overnight and now it was all snow covered trees and even snow-laden cows! Signs were piled high with a dusting of powdered snow, all the rocks had snow mounds stacked on them. When the train reached Lake Geneva’s wine country, some of the vines stacked on the hills were even covered in snow, their golden leaves peeking out beneath the white.
The next day I awoke to snow flurries. Perhaps no big deal, but for this Southern California gal, I still get excited catching snowflakes in the palm of my hand. Then again, I can still count the number of times I’ve seen snow.
I knew the minute I crossed the border from Italy into Switzerland. First, the train announcements switched from Italian to Swiss German. Then, the look of the houses began to change. Train station names and road signs ceased to be in Italian. The most striking change came when the drink cart vendor switched languages—he went from speaking flowery Italian to roaring by with an urgent Achtung!
In these photographs of Picasso, shot in 1949 by LIFE magazine photographer Gjon Mili, Picasso traces a light pen in the air, effectively painting with light. You can feel his iconography subtly shining through in these glowing air drawings: bulls, centaurs, figures in flux, crooked cubist profiles, and of course African masks. Beautiful.
Nestled beneath the Alps in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, the beauty of Lake Maggiore is legendary. Here you’ll find a lakeside getaway filled with flowery villas and gardens, perfect for lazy days of aimless wandering. Boat rides and sunshine are obligatory. Seafood and relaxation mandatory.