Continued from Letters from Geneva, Switzerland [Throwback].
A quick note about this post: I’ve decided to write about some things I checked off the ol’ bucket list before this blog existed. I recently found old messages that I sent to my family upon returning home from a Switzerland trip. I added pictures & links to the messages, as well as shortened some names for the sake of others’ privacy. Other than that, though, these notes are straight from my 19-year-old self.
…We arrived in Lausanne and it was—bummer—raining and pitch black. We had directions to our next couchsurfer’s apartment, which took us about an hour to find. It was so worth it, though! The guy who hosted us, ‘Y’, was this German exchange student who lived in a big exchange student complex (called Planet Bleu), not a lonely apartment.
We were greeted by his friend ‘M’, who comes from Tunesia in Northern Africa, and then by about 27-30 other exchange students from all over the world. These are the Americans, everyone! she exclaimed when we walked in the room, and immediately, we were offered something to drink, our bags were put away, we were shown that we would have mattresses to sleep on, and everyone started talking to us like we were the most interesting people they had ever met. ‘Y’ cooked dinner for everyone, and we had German dumplings and wine (it was his grandma’s recipe that he just decided to “whip up”). So we passed the evening just getting to know the kids at Planet Bleu. There are some kids that were so interesting, that I have to stop just to do them a little justice:
- A German student who, when ending his undergraduate studies in Latvia, decided to go home the long way. Germany is within close proximity to Latvia, but he decided to hike across the Transcontinental Railroad, cross a couple of oceans and trek his way through Western Europe before going home. Essentially, he traveled quite literally around the world, and couch surfed his way through the continents/countries. He told us stories of eccentric hosts, of aloof hosts, of hilarious hosts, and of this Polish lady who begged to do his laundry that he had been carrying on his back for 3 months. He had some interesting things to say about World War II, and the present Germany. He said that it never fails that it will come up in conversation when he meets someone from a different country. He doesn’t mind the questions, and he explained to us how the German children are taught about WWII in a classroom setting.
- A Tunsanian girl with a passion for all things American. She has dreams of one day living in Chicago (I told her that she can couchsurf, chez moi, if she wanted), and she loves the current top 40 hip hop artists. She also has a passion for crepes with Nutella, so when we bought her some as a gift, I swear she almost cried.
- A Canadian who looks like a hybrid between a lumberjack and Nicolas Cage. I didn’t think you could mix the two until I met him.
- A French/English/German speaking Canadian who works for the Canadian government, but spent a summer in French Polynesia on a course-mandated “field study” about the revival of ancient Polynesian tradition. Basically that’s a fancy way of saying that he surfed and hula’d the summer away.
- Finland: Not his real name, but his nickname. The reason for this is that he speaks 7 different languages fluently, and without a trace of any of the other accents. The real kicker: he can speak French with a Quebequois accent and a French accent. To an English speaker, that is the equivalent as the ability to speak with perfect articulation English in the way that a person from Great Britain would, and then someone from Australia
Most of the students decided to go out around midnight, but the three of us were so tired that we stayed in with plans to sleep. We didn’t get far, though. Soon after getting into our PJs, a kid named Pablo brought out his guitar and played Spanish rock, Eric Clapton, Santana, and a little bit of Jack Johnson. He wrote down a few bands “I’ve got to try” if I want to learn a bit of Spanish by listening to songs. After Pablo’s encore around four in the morning, we finally slept…
In the morning, we woke up with one thing on the mind: Montreaux. ‘D’ had read about Chillion Castle in a guide book and really wanted to go–‘ML’ and I didn’t argue. We awoke early and hopped a local train from Lausanne to Montreux (took about 1 hour). I wasn’t sure what to expect, so when we approached the castle it took my breathe away.
The castle is perched right on the edge of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps–I felt like I was stumbling upon a best-kept secret, as we were among the only ones there early in the morning.
We spent the morning wandering around the castle. We were one of about 7 people in the entire building, which was mix between eerie and VIP. We spent about 4 hours wandering around around the corridors and courtyards of the castle. From the outside, the castle looks so inviting, as if Cinderella’s less-famous twin lived here. From the inside, though, it was rather creepy. From the dungeons to the moat, it can definitely give you the chills. [25-year-old Aimee’s note: If you’re looking for more on the history of Chillion Castle, click here.]
After hanging around the castle, we wandered along the lake and around Montreux. Montreux has a mild micro-climate, so we were able to enjoy the beautiful flowers and palm trees that grew at the foot of the Alps.
After wandering about the town a bit more, we took the train back to Planet Bleu in Lausanne. On the way home, I couldn’t help but be grateful for such great travel companions–from random Italian feasts in Swiss apartments to meandering through a castle straight out of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series–they make it seem more like home here.