After a double espresso from my own supply of instant coffee – and landlady Irene’s special brioche bread called cuchaule with jam and honey – Yannis, Rudy and I take the metro down the hills of Lausanne to a connecting bus, and then from the bus walk to Lake Geneva and along it for about half an hour west towards Yannis’ university campus that specializes in math, science and engineering called EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) The lake is still and its surface smooth, sliced through only by the swans and the competitive canoe racers.
We arrive at the campus from the south end, and its curved, cement sloping architecture offers a modern perspective on building design and space; inside, it’s no less impressive with glass walls, graded walkways in favor of steps… it’s like something you’d see on Star Trek – doors that open automatically once they sense a presence. This building is the new student center – with snack and juice bar, study rooms, bean bags on the floor for the sudden urge to sleep and the impression that one has entered the World of Genius. The rest of the campus is terraced and resplendent with greenery in flowerbeds, cafeterias, an essential post-exam bar called The Satellite, and a note worthy Innovation Park, whose buildings offer space for companies like Logitech, Intel, and Siemens, for example, to collaborate on new inventions.
We take the metro to the city center, and then part ways – I follow a map to the Old Town, where I meander along the narrow, hilly walk ways and into a Saturday morning market, vendors offering an array of sensual cheeses, eats, vegetables, fruits and breads and sweets…too tempting to pass up. I decide on a quick bite of something delicious with fruit, and walk through a flea market type of arrangement, where clothes to antique swords are up for barter.
I walk up a grand stone staircase into a museum on the same market square, enticed by its architecture, and find that once I’m in there an exhibit of artifacts through the ages is underway and open to the public. I see some interesting things that have been dug up, donated, discovered through the ages, but essentially it is a natural history exhibit and I haven’t stumbled across any special can’t-miss-this experience.
Back down the steps and into the sun, I walk further around and get acquainted with the old town streets, find the cathedral of Lausanne at one o’clock – just in time to hear the bells up close and full of vibration! – step onto the worn stones, weathered by centuries of believers, and feel the immediate peace, quiet and solitude away from the rest of the world outside.
Onward, then, to find some water and chocolate; use my google maps on the phone for nearby markets, find an Aldi, make a quick purchase and head over to a park, where I sit for a while in the cool shade of a grassy hill near fountains and flowers and an aviary of parrots. While there, another search yields a bar from where I can watch the French World Cup match and get a feel for local color and a cold drink. I am referred to The Great Escape, on Rue Madeleine 18, and towards 16:00 head over to claim spots at a table where a father and young son are playing chess. Here Rudy and Yannis join me, and young and old alike, from 5 on up, bring chairs and beer closer to the screen to enjoy 90 minutes of what will turn out to be an exciting and victorious win for the French. The bar refers to itself as “the ex pat bar of Lausanne” and indeed, a multitude of languages sound their way around the comfortable feel of an old neighborhood pub without any airs of pretension.
Following the match, we eat at a Chinese restaurant near the train station, where I eat soup comprised of broth, an egg, two slices of tomatoes, a few leaves of something green, and disproportionalty supplied with an abundance of noodles. Prepare to spend 15$ (The Swiss franc is approximately of equal value to the dollar) for something like this. Most things are triple what they would cost in Europe or the US.
Overall, Lausanne is hilly, streets under streets, clean, smells fresh, equips its busses with electricity exclusively and its metro with a self driving technology, has lots of flowers and happy people.