Well, I feel like a dumbass. My plans were derailed (har har) by Swiss public transportation yet again.
I had booked a guided walking tour this Sunday in Cully, just under an hour by train from Geneva. Due to track work, the train app advised that a bus would replace the second half of the journey, between the stations of Lausanne and Cully. Sounds simple enough, right?
It was after the bus left Lausanne that everything started to go south. We were 13 minutes out from the start of the tour in Cully — I was starting to get a little anxious — when the bus suddenly jolted to a stop. There was no PA system on the bus, so I could only hear the driver in bits and pieces. “Mesdames et messieurs… accident… Cully…”
Those keywords were clearly concerning; some of the passengers began to disembark, and others stayed and grumbled.
What I should have done was ask someone, “Did you hear what the driver said?” What I did instead was pull out my phone and try to install Uber as a backup option. I was reluctant to get off the bus, as we were in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday morning, and the cell reception wasn’t great. What if the bus took off without me, and I couldn’t find an Uber in the area? As I tried to type my credit card information into Uber, the bus roared back to life, and we were off again.
I was relieved — for only about two minutes. We did not stop in Cully. Instead, we set off in a completely new direction that took us further and further away, until it was clear we were plunging straight ahead towards Vevey, the final destination on the other end of the lake. I realized I had to ask someone for help.
I turned to the woman next to me. “Excuse me, madame,” I said, stumbling over my French and hoping she could still understand me, “is it that we are not going to Cully?”
She shook her head. “No, the driver said there was an accident, and the road to Cully is closed. We’re going directly to Vevey.”
It was too late to join the tour at that point, and it was also clear everything was a mess: the bus, the roads, the train. The circumstances were out of my control. I decided to lean back and just enjoy the ride to Vevey, a city I had never been to.
Vevey is known for primarily three things: the home of Charlie Chaplin; the headquarters of Nestlé; and a giant fork sticking out of the lake.
It was a peaceful morning, with handfuls of people fishing by the lake.
The way the light peeked through the clouds was poetic and lovely.
I thought it was funny how they installed a handful of random chairs directly among the rocks by the lake. I had never seen something like this before, but it’s a pretty neat idea, allowing you to be as close to nature as possible.
All the shops were closed on Sunday, so there was not much to do and see in Vevey. I took a half-hour bus from the train station to Chillon Castle, which I’d been planning to visit anyway after the tour I’d originally booked.
Château de Chillon
I first tried to visit this famous Swiss castle last year before Christmas, but arrived five minutes after they closed the doors. Having finally visited it this weekend, I would say that this is well worth the admission price and should be on any tourist bucket list for Switzerland.
The castle is huge and embodies so much local history. It was built up gradually over not years but centuries — from the 1100s to the 1500s. It has served as a military outpost, a checkpoint for collecting tolls, a mansion, and a prison. It was around when all the different cantons of Switzerland were small warring nations! It’s so fascinating how humans briefly appear and fade away like the wind, taking our wars, our grievances and our memories with us, but only these material objects are left standing throughout time.
There is a nice cafe on the outside, with a smoky cookout in the back. I’d like to stay for a meal next time, perhaps when my family is able to come visit again.
The castle is also extremely tourist-friendly. All the rooms are labeled with numbers, so you know exactly where you are and which chamber you should go into next. This helped make it easy for them to place floor markers all around the castle to direct traffic flow and make sure people weren’t converging face-to-face. There was also a sign for every room indicating maximum capacity. It was kind of funny seeing the evidence of the signs being adjusted, as the situation in Switzerland changed over time.
The creepiest part of the castle was the underground prison and execution chamber. I walked in and just saw a noose hanging from the stony ceiling, no big deal, just hanging. There were chains and posts. There was an exhibit about a man who had been held prisoner here for six years, chained to one of the large columns. He was just out of range of the floor-length windows that looked out onto the lake. Hearing the waves but not being able to see them, he became paranoid that he was being held below the lake.
After touring the castle, I did the same walk back to Montreux as I had done last year — a nice, calm promenade of about 45 minutes, circling the gentle lake. The colors were warm and lovely this time of year. I even saw a shiba inu!
Montreux is a charming little town, full of the most intricate and romantic French architecture imaginable. Definitely one of my top three cities in Switzerland!
Expenses (in CHF)
Geneva to Vevey train + bus – 12.50
Vevey bus to Chillon – 2.80
Chillon Castle admission – 13.50
Montreux to Geneva train – 15.50