Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vevey: Charlie Chaplin, The Fork, Eminescu, the Chair and You; at Lake Geneva

Vevey. Not far from Montreux, on Lake Geneva. On the Swiss Riviera.

It deserves its accolades for surroundings. Charlie Chaplin came here to live, in 1953, with his family after being subjected to the witch hunts of the McCarthy era in the US. He was in his 60's then, see He died here in 1977, at age 88 or so.

Charlie Chaplin memorial, view toward Lake Geneva, Switzerland

  • Update to 2014:  The life of Charlie Chaplin is now memorialized in a new biography by Peter Ackroyd, see Financial Times review by Susie Boyt at  A "perilous and often frightening" childhood, with "disturbances and deprivations" -- humiliations and a mother's madness fostered in the child and adult Charlie Chaplin a multitude of defenses and drive for power and control, and the uses of timing and humor in his repertoire of mannerisms, the unexpected.  He once shared an apartment with Stan Laurel.  Through his work, he portrayed "a life in a world that may not be worth inhabiting".
  • By 1915, he was "the most famous person in the world" and at about age 25.

Charlie Chaplain contemplates The Fork, Lake Geneva, Vevey, Switzerland

Now: The fork in the lake.  Apparently this commemorates the tenth anniversary of a food museum across the way:  Henri Nestle started his powdered milk factory here in the 19th Century.

Lake Geneva has been settled for thousands of years, but the earliest Celtic tribes left no written records.  Start, then, with the Romans in the first century BC, if you need writing. Romans, then Burgundians, then Dukes of Savoy, Reformation and Revolution.  And an international role in its secret banking, alleging neutrality in order to maximize profits from that, then League of Nations and United Nations at Geneva, and the Red Cross. Switzerland in a nutshell, or bank vault.

 Look at the changes in boundaries among groups claiming this area throughout history, at ://  Many forks in those roads.

Giant fork, Lake Geneva, Vevey, Switzerland. Commemorates food products museum.

Now, for romance.

What other visage is that, which now presents its solitary self to mine wandering eyne?

A romantic poet, bigger than life, also gazing soulfully out to Lake Geneva's far shores. Mihai Eminescu, 1850-1889. Ah, so young, she sighed.

Mihai Eminescu, Romanian poet, Lake Geneva, Vevey, Switzerland

Read his poetry, aloud, standing and gesturing in front of your own mirror. Do three a day. Start at :// Did your life improve? No? Do it again. He appreciates you. He really does. The one entitled, "Desire" however, must be whispered.

The melancholy one.  I have been searching....

Vevey, Lake Geneva, Switzerland: Mihai Eminescu, or M. Eminovici (Eminovitch)
 Here is a brief biography - see :// died in Bucharest, after 5 years of paralysis. but no information is given about its origin.

There's a place for you, as well, while you read, or contemplate.  Sit here, at the Lake, in a formed chair bolted to the rock against the storms.

Chairs on the rocks, Vevey, Lake Geneva shore, Switzerland

At first, they look like some form of sea bird. but have faith.  Those are two little chairs just for you; and just a solitary bird beside. Just watch your step.  No railings. Just clamber down.

Chair for you, bolted to rock, Lake Geneva shore, Vevey, Switzerland

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yverdon-les-Bains: Heinrich Pestalozzi, Educational Reform.

19th Century Educational Reform
Heinrich Pestalozzi
Yverdon:  Spa and a Castle Academy
From 1805 to1825, the Savoy Castle at Yverdon-les Bains, was used as an educational institute, set up by Heinrich Pestalozzi, reformer. It houses a museum now. Even since that time, it was used for a school in various ways up to 1974.
His educational method was structured: move the student from the simple to the complex.
Start with observation, then consciousness, then speech, then measuring, then drawing, then then writing, then numbers, then calculating. The whole person. See the ups and downs of Pestalozzi and his method at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bern, Cathedral Facade. Judgment Day. How the deed was done.

Castration was commonplace in the medieval and ancient worlds, with the procedure producing male vocalists who sang in the range of female alto or contralto, or who could then guard the ruler's women without the ruler fearing intrusion.  Cyrus the Great had only castrated men in his personal service, including doormen.  The "third sex" -- a reference term. It served to make them more tractable; or was used as punishment.

How was it done?  There, upper right, above the pointed arch, an imp with nippers. Judgment Day.  The losers.

Bern Cathedral facade, parade to doom
See the implement at Archeology Odyssey November-December 2004 at p.56, article The Cruelest Cut, Castration in the Ancient World, For a contribution, obtain online access.  There is a bronze castration clamp shown, from ancient Londinium,

Some priests, the Gallae, did it to themselves, dedicating the act to Cybele, Phrygian goddess of nature and fertility.

See more of Bern at posts 10/09 here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Geneva - Vegetable Tour and Pet Recycling

 Geneva - the Less Serious Side

Have we got a bus for you.  Spotted near the Red Cross Red Crescent Museum:  The VegaTour.  Is this for vegetables, vegetarians, vegans, or other erstwhile Pommes de Terres aux Couches? Oh, heck.

The real Vegetable Tours turns out, apres computaire, to be the fine Czech Vega-Tour Company, see ://  We meant no harm, but international travel does result in some funny intra-linguistic gymnastics.  

Next linguistic shenanigans.  

Tired of your pet?  We have a solution, for the inconvenient petit barkaire, and at our hotel.

Le petit woof? Un exchange, peut-etre. L'hotel pour tout les problemes du touristes.

Geneva - Whimsy at the Bottom-Proppers, St. Peter's Cathedral Choir Stalls. Real folks.

You are now in St. Peter's Cathedral in the Old City in Geneva.  Barren, clearly stripped down (in 1539 or so)  from its fancy Roman Catholic origins.  There are lots of places that just look vacant, where did the inhabitant of this niche go? But that is what the Reformers did.  No more distractions allowed. Do away with the corruption, see :// This is religion and we are serious. 

Still, slip up to the choir stalls; see the places set for the elite to meet, and find these. Splendid wood carvings. There are elegant canopy forms, and two rows of places for people.

Now, look a little closer:  These are ecclesiastical bottom-proppers; bum-proppers to the unschooled, like us.  You can sort of stand-sit at your place.  You look like you are standing and get the credit for it, while you are really well supported where you need it during long, long services.  They are highly imaginative, the wood carver's art at its best.  And showing real people, not just the saintly conventional ones.

This is what they look like, captions ours and not theirs:

There is a hinge at the bottom sides, no pun intended, so the entire seat can be folded down straight, and made into a seat proper, not a propper.  Look at the shelf support built in.

Ecclesiastical carved bum-props. Excellent.  Ordinary people in carvings.  More excellence.  There was a period where the great artisans no longer remained anonymous.  See this ring of everyday faces in Croatia, the St. James Cathedral at Sibenik:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Geneva - St. Peter's. The Fancy in a Reformation Church. Theological Inconsistencies?

Indulging in the Fancy
In a Reformation Church

At St. Peters, Geneva, the main church is stripped down from its earlier grandeur - showing the simplicity of the Reformation 1536 -- but attached is a lovely, lovely chapel.  It makes you so glad that there remained an eye for beauty, color, elevations.  There are stained-glass windows in the main church, and not just here.  Cold stone needs some bling to make the wearied mortal sing.

This is an ancient site, with archeological evidence of Romans and pre-Rome.
Small tour of this unexpected jewel:

Ceiling of Chapel, annex to St. Peter's Cathedral, Geneva.

Then step back into the main church, and look up there, also.  More fun.  What if we prefer the stonecarvers and the woodcarvers to the theologians?


Friday, July 16, 2010

Geneva - Founts of Water and Theology. Tall and Wet , to Deep and Dry

From the Tall and Wet to the Deep and Dry.
Geneva Offers Both, but Humorlessly.
I. Fountain Jet at Geneva
Tall and Wet

This is the tallest fountain in the world. Hoo, thought we, but we did enjoy a fast and legal parking spot (still, watch for the meter demon, and take no chances) and a stroll by the water at Lake Geneva. Get a fine overview of Geneva at :// The fountain is a drive-by attraction, broadly visible, and no real need to get out. So we aimed for the Old City, and found an unexpected hassle to find a parking lot there.

Why is the Old City not better marked for tourist cars already in the downtown, and going in ovals and circles and trapezoidinal helixes with the one way boulevards and other turns, and yearning to breathe free by finding the right access street to find the history. And once in some big underground garage, there is a goodly walk, and it is hard to keep bearings. Not car-friendly, and the Old City is elusive. Hard to hone.

II. Theology at Geneva
Deep and Dry
Oh my.

Geneva,  like many modern places, has an odd, disembodied relationship with its religious past.  Here are the Great Reformers, in an outdoor park, Le Parc Bastion, and the site does not even name them.  We will.  May we introduce, here at the Reformation Wall, ://  The task was re-forming Christianity from the elaborately constructed Roman Catholicism it had become, to another, less dogmatic, less riches-focused, etc. form, while demanding deep sacrifice in fluff. Is that so? What happened then?

Guillaime (William) Farel, First Preacher
John Calvin, Leader of the Reformation Movement, see ://
Theodore Beza, who succeeded Calvin
John Knox, friend to Calvin, and the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland

This is very austere stuff.  Here is an advance look at St. Peter's Cathedral, once Roman Catholic, then purged of most of the fancy, and Protestant. From one extreme to another. Both, and a mid-ground, unstable against those who foist.

Sit. Up. Straight. Don't make me tell you again. Hiss.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Geneva - International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva is sobering, inspiring.  The organization addresses not only natural disasters and wartime, but also ongoing political issues, such as treatment of political prisoners, prisoners of war.

Focus exhibits change every few months.  The photographs, vignettes, settings, show the vast reach of the services.  See ://  No organization will be perfect in reaching all it is intended to do, and using funds without reproach, but this one is filling a gap no other group touches in scope.

Note the slogan:  "Our world is in a mess.  It's time to make your move," at the banner at the Museum.  That is the organization for the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. The message is to start with simple gestures; don't wait for the big one to be stepped out and unrolled by others.  Individuals count.

1919 - just after WWI.  The International Federation was started.  American Henry Davison proposed forming a federation, after the war years of highly successful activity by a number of humanitarian groups. The first post-war focus was improvement in health for people in the torn nations. There are now 186 member societies, after the first handful.

But it was a Swiss, Henry Dunant, in 1859 who began the idea itself, after a specific battle, the battle of Solferino. See :// organized local inhabitants to treat wounds, feed and clothe the soldiers. An international committee was formed, also with Dunant, in 1863.  See the history at ://

The American Red Cross:  see its work and the global network at ://  Get practical with the disaster response laws, at ://

Juggling options.

We thought we would park between the Red Cross Museum and the Palais des Nations, the United Nations Conference Center, see the nice Google map here, and how logical it is to park on the nice road between, instead of the parking lot all the way over to the bottom right.  So we did, but the time to do the UN is too long, over two hours, and we got a not so nice ticket.  Switzerland does not know how to do credit cards to pay for les infractions horribles, so you have to do an expensive wire transfer if you don't have an extra day to find out what to do.

Sponsored Links

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent are across from each other.

But, if you are pressed for time as we were, skip the UN in Geneva (takes too long, security measures are understandable but stifling, and groups plod) -  look up photos of the UN conference room and fine murals, and enjoy the grounds but go instead to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum across the street.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Geneva - The UN. Secretariat Building, European Headquarters. Le Parking Ticket.

United Nations European Headquarters
War and Debate Issues Made Visual
Secretariat Building

The Three-Legged Chair.  Landmines maim, kill, but for some, a life goes on.  See the three-legged chair at the entry area for the UN in Geneva, symbolizing the movement against anti-personnel land mines, the ones you step on. Once.

The idea of the chair: Paul Vermeulen, Handicap International, Geneva. Creator of the chair: sculptor Daniel Berset.

Originally, the chair was erected in 1997, to support progress on the Land Mine Treaty, see it at ://  It went into storage a while, now is back.  Who has signed? 152 countries.  Who has not?  42, including the United States.  See ://  What makes the news more than this?  BP may be corraling and burning sea turtles as it burns off oil in the Gulf, see yes, that is important, see investigation and lawsuit at ://

But so are the some 15,000 children a year who step on land mines, even in countries not at war, where the things remain sub-grass, or in-toy.

Logistics in visiting the UN. 

There is a parking lot, but it looks like overkill if you want a quick visit, see ://  There is also street parking but beware.  You may pass the big lot hoping to find one that you can be in and out of faster, and cheaper, but then can't find easy way back around, and instead you see a space. So you street it.

The  book says the tour takes an hour, but you plan to go faster. Then you find it takes an hour just to get through the reception-identification-phototag not-quite-strip-search maneuvers, then more time to wait for a tour in your language and yes, you have to go by tour; and then the tour itself.  You've lost nearly a morning. And the walk back to your car takes more time, and voila. Un billet du Monstre aux Affaires Criminalistique Touristica!  See FN 1

The main conference room.  

Very impressive, but somehow at this UN you see no women among the dignitaries.  No women in the pictures of famous groupings of problem solvers.  There must be some, but clearly not given prominence in the OPTICS.   Is that why the UN has been criticized for posturing, ineffectiveness? 

The murals.  These are thought-provoking and moving. There are many of them.  See a photostream at //  It takes time to absorb, focus on each element, figure, idea. That is the reason to take a picture. The guide keeps moving, and you have to stay with the guide. You. Have. To. Stay. With. The. Group.

Why do all of these now remind me of what it was like to cope with that parking ticket. See FN 1. And don't get us going on concealed landmine pay-go stations invisible invisible around the corner. Was there one anywhere? We looked!  Pay-go is excellent, but too widely spaced. Sometimes far around the corner from the street where you are.

There I am, in that mural up there, lower right.

The grounds.  The grounds are a fine set of walkways, views, places to meander and relax. There are xhibits, display signs. Peace monuments. This is Japan's. See more at ://  Read the tributes to Hiroshima at ://  There are peace bells, peace gongs, around the world.

Geneva Swiss Police and Hertz can't work out how to take a credit card for a parking ticket.  Is this for real?

FN 1  

Le Parking Ticket Theatre Farcicale. 

There be ironies. You are in Geneva, money country of the world, where gnomes squirrel away billions under the sidewalks, and they won't let you pay a parking ticket by credit card.  If that weren't so pathetic it would be funny. Switzerland?  Switzerland!

You know you need to pay your $40 parking overstay, but see what happens. We were flying out the next morning and the ticket gives no place for your credit card info and simple mail-back. You have 30 days to pay, so you send your $40 in leftover Swiss Francs and Euros with proof of mailing but those obviously disappear in the mail room (don't even try).  So you contact the police and ask to pay by credit card. If you do a wire transfer, as they request, that is another $30-35.  So try to process the credit card. Hertz has properly identified you as the ticketee, no problem, but they add 40 Swiss Francs plus 3.05 VAT for the courtesy.  And keep doing another bill, and another, all for that so-called administrative fee. You ask again to use your credit card. Hertz says they can't do that. And send another bill.

So you call the police at Le Parking number they give, to ask them to take your credit card, but you can't understand the string of words that trill on after the Bonjour, and then get put on hold. Add to your bill the cost of an international call. While you try to get someone to understand how credit cards work, the 30 days goes by and another $30 penalty is added for failure to pay within 30 days.  That takes another $30 wire transfer. And Hertz charges you 43.05 Swiss Francs for notifying you as their costs per month.  So you ask them please just use the credit card they already have. 

No, this is Switzerland, and we don't do credit cards?


All they have to do in the Geneva police and Hertz is put in a place on the ticket-return for your credit card information. You authorize that payment as soon as you get it at home, for the amount and the charge origination.  You can call your credit card company and authorize it, and when it comes through, then you change your card number to be safe.

Of course, then Hertz (they keep notifying you) can't collect the administrative fee of 40 Swiss Francs plus the VAT tax of 3.05 Swiss Francs more. Look what they get by obstructing means of payment - the  fee they add to their notices to you, on top of the Geneva parking amount and then the Geneva penalty after 30 days and 30 days etc.

But why is Hertz even sending notices?  All they need to do is give your name and address, which is fine, and appropriate, and then let the police do their jobs by the police letting you pay by credit card.  No, Hertz wants a fee of several Swiss Francs each time they send a notice.  This is ridiculous.

So:  Parking gnomes?  Voici le plastique!  Geneva. Is anyone listening? We know some French but not a lot. Try this. C'est le moderne methode de payment.  Le credit card.  Le. Credit. Card. Again?  Geneva.  Voici le moderne methode de payment.  Le ....  Oh,  X@#!X*

The International Conference Center, see ://  Will all those who want to go to war with Geneva's police department, Le Parking Groupe,  please meet on Monday and get back to all renters who tried to pay with credit cards and are told no.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nyon - Sights, Chateau Up and Rive-side Down

 The Sights of Nyon

Nyon, you have a lovely castle.

This is a small chateau town.  In the 13th Century, Counts of  Savoy began building their castles, and the one here is built atop Roman ruins.  See :// 

Start uptown, for the view,

 At Yverdon-les-Bains, where there is another Savoy castle, we learned that the Savoys liked the square format, and some calling it the Savoy Square. The shape lends itself to various performing arts events.

No-one could easily creep up unseen at this towering site. Now there are nice walkways.

This is a nearby large house (when does it become a chateau?), see it to the left of our top photo, where the eye immediately goes to the Chateau de Nyon, all white. Time for this one to come out of the shadows. Not everyone has replastered and whitewashed.  Good.  We like the ones that show some age.

Get a full walk-around show on Nyon and its streets and buildings at ://

Take the elevator down.

You can also walk the winding way back down to the riverfront area, the Rive. That is where our little hotel was, bless it.

Look closely as you walk the rest of the way to the riverfront, and find Roman ruins - there, a structure, a part of wall. Some columns. Julius Caesar established the colony here and called it Noviodunum,  after he had finished with his conquest of Gaul.