“When the wind calls, you know that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.” -Vikram Oberoi
From Pisa our tour bus exited the Tuscany region of Italy heading towards Leysin, Switzerland. The trip on the way to this sunny alpine resort village at the eastern end of a famous lake was an eye candy – the changing colours of the fields, the terraced slopes with their vineyards, the inspiring mountain ranges, scenic villages and towns with their blend of past remnants and modern activity. But all those sights were just a bonus compared to these noteworthy landmarks of nature characterised by its great geographical diversity.
One is the Mont Blanc and I don’t mean that expensive pen, but the highest mountain in the Alps in the European Union. Mont Blanc means ‘white mountain’ due to its perpetual snowfields and glaciers was such an awesome sight. I have never seen a snowy cap mountain up close, It’s a like a ghostly presence that somehow seems mysterious about its manifestation that makes you feel truly in awe of God’s creation.
And second is the Lake Geneva the largest lake in Western Europe, so large, it has dual citizenship in two countries. 60% lies in Switzerland and 40% lies in France and if you’re so tired of just gazing at the vastness of this lake, go and have a taste by buying yourself a bottle of Evian. Evian comes from several springs near Evian-les-Bains, France, which rests on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Finally along the shores of Lake Geneva way we made a full stop for a tour and afternoon white wine in this rocky islet, The Château de Chillon (Chillon Castle). The castle looks like a fairy-tale fantasy one you can see in the periodic films set in medieval times. Over the centuries this castle was shaped by three noble families: In 1150 the first structures were built by Thomas I of Savoy and in 14th century the castle fell into disrepair and was primarily used as a prison. In 1536 the Bernese stormed the castle as part of a large uprising and freed prisoners from the castle dungeons. In 1798 the Vaud Revolution broke and captured the Bernese and the castle landed into the hands of the Canton of Vaud from then on up to this day.
As per wiki, this oval shaped castle poking into Lake Geneva was popularized by Lord Byron who carved his name (and I have a photo) on a pillar of the dungeon and wrote the poem The Prisoner of Chillon (1816) about François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician who was imprisoned there from 1530 to 1536. Also, the castle is one of the settings in Henry James’s novella Daisy Miller (1878).
And so I thought all castle dungeons are creepy but there’s nothing eerie about the chambers of this Château at all, It’s all clean and well lit as the rays of the sunset can pierce in through the bar windows. While in there I felt cold in some areas I reckoned that’s it’s must be the limestone structure that’s emits the chill or my consciousness of this place existence from the past and the purpose it served to people who had a damp and dark taste of imprisoned life.
The inside of the castle has four small courtyards our tour guide did mentioned that Chillon Castle wasn’t constructed ‘in one go’ – it was originally just a collection of 25 little buildings crammed onto the rocky island but you’ll see that each of the old rooms and outhouses have been connected to each other through a fairly ingenious network of internal and external passageways.
We stayed in Mercure Classic Hotel Leysin, It is a modern 4-star hotel in the center of the resort. There’s nothing exceptional here except it’s located on top of the mountain with a really good view of the town.