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Switzerland - Déjà vu

Looking back on the inpact of my first visit to Switzerland


View Switzerland - August 2003 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Larry 10,000 feet in the Alps on top of Schilthorn

When I to took my first trip to Europe I was with my ex partner. He and I had not done a lot of traveling in the past other than family vacations with our individual families. He was scheduled to attend a conference for his job in France in the city of Marseilles and he asked if I wanted to join him on the trip. All I needed was my airfare and money to spend. The hotels would all be taken care of with his expense account for the trip. He said it was a three day conference and we could plan a weeks vacation around the convention. I was so excited. I wanted to see Paris. But the conference is in Marseilles he replied to me. Yes, I was aware that it was in Marseilles but Marseilles is in France and Paris is in France. It did not matter to me that they were at different ends of the country. They were in the same country. And I was not going to France or even to Europe and not see Paris. So we went to Paris and then on to Marseilles. For the next seven years we traveled to Europe each spring to attend this big medical conference in different cities and countries each year. These were my first traveling experiences outside of the United States. With each trip I was fascinated with the cities we visited. I learned a lot about the culture and the history of each country we visited. And with each experience I came home with a feeling of having discovered something new and wonderful. Nothing seemed familiar to me. I was a stranger in a strange land drinking up the knowledge and the beauty all around me. I never felt at home. It always felt foreign and fascinating to me. Then I went to Switzerland.

Switzerland was never on my dream list of places I wanted to visit. I never really thought much about Switzerland at all. It was just Switzerland somewhere in the middle of Europe. I was thrilled when his conference sent us to Italy. It was a real fantasy to finally get to see ancient Italy. Likewise with the Netherlands and Amsterdam, Cologne, and Copenhagen. But when he told me the conference was to be in Switzerland I was a bit let down. I was glad to be able to continue to take the annual trip to Europe. But I was not thrilled about visiting Switzerland. The only thing I really wanted to see in Switzerland was Piz Gloria the location where the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed.

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Piz Gloria above the village of Murren

We planned the trip with little excitement. Neither of us were especially thrilled about Switzerland. We made arrangements to stay in Bern the first few days. We planned day trips , Basel, Zurich, and of course Piz Gloria. The conference was in the remote village of Les Diablerets high in the Alps in the western French speaking part of Switzerland. So we knew we would be spending four days there. Then finally we would travel to Geneva for two last days and fly home from there.

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Les Diablerets

The strangest thing happened. The moment we departed our plane in Geneva I was spellbound. Something felt very comforting and very familiar. I could not quite figure out what it was or why I was feeling this way. We boarded the train in Geneva and headed to Bern. I could not stop staring out of the windows watching the villages and mountains go by. Switzerland just captured my spirit and I felt completely at home.

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Bern

The ten days passed way to fast. I wanted more time. I did not want to leave. To this day over ten years later I can still just close my eyes and be instantly transported back to Switzerland. I find it strange. I don't necessarily believe in reincarnation. And I have no ancestors who came from Switzerland. So there is no reason I should have felt so at home there. But who knows. Maybe I did live there in past life. Or perhaps my mother's German ancestors originated in the Swiss area and migrated up to Germany and I felt some connection through them

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Littlesam AKA Larry Sampson standing in front of the Samson fountain in Bern

Perhaps it's because there is a Samson fountain in Bern.

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The beautiful village of Murren

Or maybe I just fell in love with the beauty of the small villages.

I still feel like there is a piece of me left behind in Switzerland. I came home promising myself to return one day soon and spend some more time there. Maybe I will figure out the connection. Or maybe I will be more confused. But I do know there will be a certain satisfaction to be able to return and continue the journey.

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Chateau Aigle

And I know that a glass of wine from the vineyards at Chateau Aigle is waiting for me on my return. And perhaps there, all will be revealed to me. Switzerland deja vu.

(The original trip to Switzerland was in August 2003. I wrote this blog in 2015. Since then I have returned to Switzerland two more times.)

Posted by littlesam1 10:45 Archived in Switzerland Tagged mountains switzerland geneva alps bern basel aigle chateau_aigle piz_gloria les_diablerets Comments (0)

Castle in a Vineyard

Chateau d'Aigle in Switzerland

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I have been reminiscing about the many castles I have had the opportunity to visit in my travels. I have seen large castles on hillsides, historic castles with fabled pasts, and some small insignificant ones. But Chateau d'Aigle in Switzerland is one that stands out in my memory as one of my favorites.

Aigle is a very small Swiss village in the French speaking area of Switzerland. When my ex partner and I were together most of our traveling was related to his professional meetings. He had one each year in Europe and two each year in the United States. For some reason that neither of us understood there was a meeting he needed to attend scheduled in a remote ski resort in Switzerland in the month of July 2003. The ski resort was Les Diablerets. The small village was empty in July except for people attending the conference. We took a train from Bern to the village a Aigle. Aigle is located at the bottom of a mountain below Les Diablerets. Other than this business meeting there is no way I would have ever ended up in Aigle so I am very grateful to whoever set up the meeting. There were not a lot of travel web sites available yet so our research was somewhat limited for the trip. We did buy a couple of travel guides but none of them had any information on Aigle or Les Diablerets. So everything we saw or encountered was a surprise to us. And I did not yet have a digital camera so all of these surprises were recorded on film. I did not have the option to take multiple photos of things I saw. I had a chance for a photo, and then hoping it would turn out, before taking a photo of the next location. Luckily most of my photos did turn out alright and I have since digitized and edited them to make them look their best.

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The train station in Aigle

We changed trains at the tiny station in Aigle and took a very small mountain train up to Les Diablerets. On our journey, just outside of Aigle, we passed a small but beautiful castle. The castle sat in the middle of vineyard on the lower slopes of the mountain. It was breath taking. I knew the moment I saw it that I would be taking that train back down the mountain from Les Diablerets the first chance I had to visit the castle. So as soon as my ex's meeting commenced I took the first train the next day back down the mountain to Aigle.

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The green building contains a small bakery

I arrived in Aigle in time for lunch and I was quite hungry. I found a bakery located in the building in the photo above here. I met a very nice young woman who was working there. I wanted a ham sandwich, the kind they make in France with ham , cheese and a gherkin on a crunchy baguette. I walked into the bakery and could smell the bread. It was wonderful. I also wanted a chance to try out my limited French. I thought I was pretty good with few phrases. I tried to ask for ham sandwich and it must have come out all wrong because the young woman had no idea what I was trying to ask for and there was no English spoken in this village. So I tried to say it again and she still looked very puzzled. She tried to talk to me. I tried to talk to her. And neither of us were able to communicate with the other. We both laughed at ourselves. She finally let me come behind the counter and point to the items I wanted. When I started to point to the ham, then the cheese, she knew exactly what I wanted and made me the perfect sandwich. I left the bakery and walked over to bench in front of a church and ate my sandwich. I was surrounded by the mountains in a village where no one spoke English and I was having what I thought was the best sandwich ever. Then I just let myself get lost in the moment.

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The small road from Aigle to the Chateau

After finishing my lunch I found the road out of the village that followed the railroad tracks in the direction of the castle I had seen the previous day. Once again I let my mind wander and I was in my own little world again walking down small streets in a remote area of Switzerland.

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In the distance you can see the castle in the vineyard

I got to the vineyards and there in the distance was the castle. I had no information on it. I did not know if it was open to the public or not. I just knew I wanted to see it and take some photos. When I arrived I found out it was open to the public. And also I found out there was a restaurant inside and a small bar serving wine from the vineyard. And there I was. Sitting in an old castle drinking wine made on the premises, surrounded by the beautiful Swiss alps. And once again I was in my own little fantasy world. Suddenly some people walked in all dressed in medieval costumes. It was almost like I was dreaming. Apparently they were filming a movie or commercial inside the castle that day. It could not have been more perfect.

The castle dates back to the 14th century. Although it seemed romantic and ideal to me the day I visited it has not always been the most desirable place to visit. In 1804, the castle was acquired by the community of Aigle and until 1976 it was used as a cantonal jail. So it just goes to show one man's romance is another man's prison.

Posted by littlesam1 22:46 Archived in Switzerland Tagged trains castles switzerland vineyards aigle bakeries chateau_aigle Comments (0)

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