10-13 November 2023
In 1990-91, I had the pleasure of hosting a young exchange student from Switzerland. She lived in my home for 10 months. In that time, not only did I gain a daughter, but I also befriended her parents. Through the years, we have continued to share company with each other. Whether we visit in California or meet in far-flung countries as diverse as Russia, Myanmar or Liechtenstein, it remains a pleasure to spend time with my Swiss family.
I arrive in Lausanne on my 79th birthday. I am older and so is Bea. Lots of time has passed but we meet as old friends with lots of memories to share.
The train ride from Zurich is one of spectacular beauty. The trees are a plethora of fall colors contrasted against vibrant green of fields. Snow drifts down the hills and covers the peaks of the distant mountains. Suddenly, we are traveling beside the blue-gray waters of Lac Léman. Occasionally, the sun peaks out or its rays light a path across the water. Within minutes, I arrive at Lausanne train station.
Although it has been over a decade since I last visited Lausanne, much is familiar. I quickly am reminded the city is built on hills. It requires a climb to reach our destination. Fourth floor apartment means more climbing. But a nice glass of wine, a wonderful home-cooked meal, and the view of the lake make it all good with this Swiss world.
The city is filled with churches and each seems to want to out-carillon the other. Not sure what is the reason for the bells at 11:20 am, but everyone stops conversations to listen. Actually, it is difficult to speak or hear over the bells. The city center Glockenspiel also plays its little story and children gather fit the event. Although temperatures are cool, it is nice walking through the street markets and listening to the church bells. Purchases include vegetables, bread and apples.
A short train ride northwest of Lausanne, Switzerland brings us to the small village of Cory-Romainmôtier. A peaceful walk through a forest of vibrant fall foliage, along a rushing stream, with the tinkling of cow bells and crowing from princely roosters harmonizing in the crisp fall air, we arrive at Kloster Romainmôtier.
Around 450, the monk Romanus of Condat founded a monastery at Romainmôtier. He then lived as a hermit for the remainder of his life. Pope Stephen II stopped at Romainmôtier in the mid-700s and placed the monastery under Rome’s direct authority and protection. It did not stop the future disagreements concerning its ownership.
In 929, the monastery was transferred to the abbey of Cluny, a wealthy medieval organization of Benedictines founded in 910 and centered at the abbey of Cluny, France. During the 11th to 12th centuries, the monastery experienced continuous expansion and the foundation of small priories on distant estates controlled by the abbey.
Conflicts over rights to property continued, even involving Beatrix of Burgundy, the wife of Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor from 1155-1190. It was about 1537 that the priory church was used for reformed services and sadly, the cloisters were destroyed. Many buildings were sold of converted to private mansions.
The monastery fell into disrepair and was rebuilt a few times. Finally, the priory buildings were restored in 1899–1915 and again in 1992–2000. Today, the abbey of Romainmôtier is a beautiful example of Romanesque and Gothic design.
It is a simple interior with multi-colored and soaring ribbed vault-ceilings. The center aisle is narrow; its pillars are massive. There are a few well-preserved frescoes and bright stained-glass windows. Up a narrow stone staircase is a small private chapel with organ. I can only think how the chords of any hymn would reverberate off the stone ways.
Outside is a wonderful garden, now dormant. A stately maple dominates the courtyard and towers. A cozy cafe is the perfect pause before returning to the train station.
Lazing in Lausanne
It is a lazy time around Lausanne, and I am loving it. Wet outside, dry and comfy inside among friends. I wear my wool socks purchased in Bolzano, charge up on warm coffee, and smell the apple pie baking in the oven.
Just living the life.