Lausanne

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Lausanne

A cosmopolitan and scenic Swiss city, Lausanne is one of two on Lake Geneva (called Lac Léman in French), the other being Geneva itself. Lausanne is one of the oldest settlements in Switzerland: its origins lie with neolithic lake-dwellers. The Romans called the town Lousanna, and built a good road. A section of it survives, and it marks the beginning of the Lausanne-Geneva highway. In the Middle Ages, Lausanne was an ecclesiastical city, ruled by the Catholic Prince-Bishops of Lausanne, who accumulated wealth for the town in trade, and built a great cathedral. Yet a Protestant movement swept the city, led by Guillaume Farel. Farel hadn't been successful in Lausanne at first and went instead to Bern in 1536 where he did succeed. The Bernese then conquered Lausanne and all of the Vaud canton. All the churches in Lausanne except two were destroyed in a wave of reforming zeal. The Vaudois people tried to regain independence in 1723, but were crushed by the Bernese. Vaud attained independence as a canton in 1803 and is mostly Protestant to this day.

Lausanne's motto, which you can see written on the cantonal coat of arms is Liberté et Patrie (Liberty and Fatherland). Lausanne is really two cities: the old town on the hill and the lakeside quarter below. The old town is quiet, well-maintained and pleasant. Its claim to fame is its beautiful Gothic cathedral where the last remaining town crier in the world still shouts out the hours through the night. The lakeside quarter is composed of parks, banks, hotels and offices, all designed in the instantly- recognizable style of Swiss Bankers' Baroque.

Curiously, the Swiss Merchant Navy is based in Lausanne. Even though Switzerland has no outlet to the sea (nor has it ever had), it still runs a merchant navy of 30 ships, giving it fiftieth place in the 111 nations which have a merchant fleet.

Most famously, Lausanne is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. It has been since 1915 when the founder of the Olympic Movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, established it here. In 1993 the President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, founded the Olympic Museum (just up the hill from the lakeshore) telling the story of the Olympics from the Ancient Greeks to the present day.

SIGHTSEEING

Gothic Cathedral  This impressive 12th century cathedral is one of Switzerland's finest and most beautiful Gothic buildings. In 1275 Pope Gregory X consecrated the cathedral which also served as the coronation site of Rudolph of Hapsburg, new emperor of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. In the 19th century, restoration began on the cathedral by architect Eugéne Viollet-le-Duc and it continues today. Much of the interior is severely streamlined with the exception of some choir stalls with detailed carvings, a rose window and the painted portal, all dating back to the 13th century. From the observation deck on one of the cathedrals two towers, you will get fantastic views of the city, Lake Geneva and the Alps.

Place de la Palud  This central square has been Lausanne's market place since medieval times. Located on the square is the Hôtel de Ville which was constructed between the 15th and 17th centuries and now serves as the seat of municipal and communal councils. Also found on the square is the charming medieval Fountain of Justice and the modern clock tower, which animates historical scenes with mechanical figures every hour on the hour from 9am to 7pm.

Musée de l'Art Brut  This museum, located in the renovated stables of the 18th century Beaulieu Château, was founded by French artist Jean Dubuffet to counteract the pretentiousness of the avant-garde art scene around him. It showcases works of art by the untrained minds of "non-artists." Prisoners, the criminally insane and the mentally ill as well as Jean Dubuffet himself make up the collection of art brut (raw art), often dubbed "psychopathological" art.

Palais de Rumine  A university, library and several museums are all housed in this neo-Renaissance building that was built in the early 1900s. The Archaeological and Historical Museum displays excavated finds from around the Lakes of Geneva and Neuchâtel such as the gold bust of Marcus Aurelius, tools from the Bronze Age and Greek pottery. The Fine Arts Museum focuses primarily on artwork reflecting the Vaud area. The Museum of Palaeontology has a collection of fossils. The Geological Museum features a mammoth skeleton and the Zoological Museum displays a collection of comparative anatomy.

Historical Museum of Lausanne  A bishop's palace until the early 15th century, the Ancien-Evêché has a 13th century fortified tower and a collection of historical studies of Old Lausanne. A 250-square-foot replica of 17th century Lausanne is also on display.

Olympic Museum  The intention of this museum is not only a means to pay tribute to the evolution of individual sports and athletes from ancient Greece through modern times, but to make visitors aware of the important ideals of sport, education, art, culture, unity and peace that founding father Pierre de Coubertin instituted in the modern Olympic games and the Olympic Movement.

PRACTICAL STUFF

Lausanne enjoys a temperate climate with its magnificent location on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). A mild north wind dispels any pollution, while lake breezes make the city pleasantly cool in summer. Autumn can bring with it the infamous wind called the Föhn, turning tempers bitter but giving a clarity to the skies which allows you to see for ever.

March  Temperature 36ºF to 50ºF
July  Temperature 57ºF to 77ºF
October  Temperature 45ºF to 57ºF
January  Temperature 28ºF to 39ºF

Synchronize your watches  Local time is 6 hours ahead of E.S.T. If it's 2:00pm in New York City, it's 8:00pm locally. Please note that Switzerland changes to and from daylight-saving time a few weeks before the U.S., so time differences still vary in March and October.

Money, money, money  The Swiss unit of currency is the Swiss franc. There is no better way than to use your ATM card to withdraw money in the local currency whenever you need it. You will never have a problem locating a suitable ATM machine. If you do need to change dollars (cash or traveler's checks) into Swiss francs, try to do so at a bank. You can expect a slightly higher rate of exchange for traveler's checks and you should always keep your passport handy. Bank opening hours are 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Banks are closed on weekends and public holidays.

The joy of servitude  Restaurant checks always include a service charge, but it's still customary to leave a few additional francs behind in a café and an additional 5% of the total bill in other restaurants. In the fancier restaurants, which pride themselves on their service, an additional tip of 5% to 10% is custom.

The mailman cometh  Mail service to and from Switzerland is reliable and inexpensive (unless you are sending a parcel overseas). You can purchase postage stamps at vending machines outside the post offices, some train stations, souvenir shops, newsstands and hotel reception desks. Post offices are usually open from 7:30am until 6:00 or 6:30pm Monday through Friday and 7:30 until 11:00am on Saturdays.

Please wait while we try to connect you  As usual, the golden rule is never to call home from your hotel. It will cost a fortune. Public telephones are easy to find and easy to use. They accept telephone cards that can be bought at hotel reception desks, post offices and kiosks.

The access code to put you through to an ATT operator from Switzerland is 0800 89 0011. For MCI it is 0800 89 0222.

TRANSPORTATION

Boat  The boats of the Compagnie Gernerale de Navigations ply the lake throughout the year, taking you to all the Swiss waterside towns: Montreux, Morges, the castle at Chillon and Geneva. Or, on the other side of the lake in France, to Evian, Thonon and Yvoire, a beautiful 14th-century medieval town.

Métro  A one-line (five stops) metro system runs from the train station to the town center (with elevators to Place St-Francois) and down to Ouchy on Lake Geneva.

Buses and Trams  Lausanne has an extensive network of buses and trams. The fare for a single trip is the same, regardless of distance traveled, and is valid for 60 minutes on Lines 1 through 50 of the urban network and the Lausanne-Ouchy Metro. Purchase tickets at the vending machines located at most stops or from the driver if you don't have the right change (a small surcharge is added).

Trains  There is regular train service between Lausanne and Zurich and Lausanne and Geneva, including direct trains every 15 to 30 minutes from early morning to late at night from Geneva airport. There are also several TGV (high-speed) trains running from Paris' Gare de Lyon. Reservations are required on the TGV.

FOOD

Although Switzerland offers a wide range of dishes, French, German or Italian cuisine dominates in the regions where those languages are most widely spoken. The most obvious food when you think of Switzerland is cheese fondue. This is a melted mixture of cheese, white wine and Kirsch (a cherry brandy). Using long forks, chunks of bread are dipped in the cheese mixture. Cold beverages should be avoided during and immediately after a fondue meal. It is recommended that white wine or hot tea be drunk instead. A huge variety of hearty soups are also available as well as freshwater fish, meat, sausages, potatoes fried with onion (rösti) and countless breads. Delicious desserts include bricelets (wafer-thin cream biscuits), fruit tarts which are sometimes eaten as a meal, a substantial Swiss ice-cream sundae or Swiss chocolate.

SHOPPING

When shopping in Lausanne, you will come across the obvious Swiss items, such as Swiss army knives, dolls in costumes, cowbells, Swiss watches, a variety of cheeses, clocks and Swiss chocolates such as Lindt, Nestlé and Tobler. Other notable souvenirs include antiques, music boxes, woodcarvings, jewelry, embroidered linens and pottery that has been hand-painted with simple designs. Most shops are usually open from 8am to noon and from 1:30 to 6:30pm Monday through Friday and Saturdays until 4pm.

HOLIDAYS

New Year (January 1)
Good Friday/Easter Sunday/Monday (late March/early April)*
Ascension Day (late May/early June)* Whit Monday (late May/early June)* Labor Day (May 1)
National Holiday (August 1)
Christmas Day (December 25)
Christmas Holiday (December 26)

* These dates will change according to the date on which Easter falls.

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