Somewhere along your journey to this far off place the thought might cross your mind that it’d be quicker to get to a remote jungle on the other side of the world than it is to get to Lausanne, Switzerland. The sensation is stronger if you don’t know French (or are forced to sit through Contraband).
From the U.S. you have to fly into a European hub usually Zurich or Paris. You then take a plane from there to Geneva. From the the airport in Geneva you have to take a slightly-longer-than-you’d-think train downtown where you have to take another train to Lausanne.
When you leave the train station in Lausanne through the front door, though, there’s the welcome sight of a quintessential European city with the requisite old low buildings and outdoor eating.
Lausanne is known at the Olympic Capital for two reasons.
There’s an Olympic headquarters that isn’t quite downtown near some old Roman ruins. It overlooks Lake Geneva in an area that leads to the University of Lausanne. The Lake is a happening recreational area that is sort of what would happen if Central Park met Lake Tahoe and created some fictional US place with relaxed drinking laws.
Closer to downtown there is Olympic Museum. Sort of. Well, it turns out it is still being renovated (Update: in 2014 it is probably open). It’s a large luxurious property that sits on the waterfront area befitting nice hotels.
In the meantime visitors aren’t out of luck. There is a boat in front of the property on Lake Geneva that has a basic archive of some of the feats of Olympics past. Admission on to the boat is free.
On the mainland there’s a Olympic gift shop where you can buy paraphernalia from Olympics past and present. While there, you can consider the question: Is it OK to buy something representing the London Olympics, like a T-Shirt without actually going to the London Olympics? (Answer: It is not)
The museum is near the section of Lausanne known as Ouchy which has ferries to other points along the water and is a nice place to stroll or eat Movenpick (“Swiss for Ice Cream” they boast in English on the carton).
Getting from the office to the museum and indeed anywhere in the city of Lausanne is easy because of the city’s excellent public transportation. Most hotels give you a free pass to use during your stay. Buses can get you from the outskirts to downtown. While, the Metro takes you uphill from the casual waterfront area of Ouchy to the city center and beyond. All of which becomes remarkably easy to navigate after a few days or, at least, however long it takes you to realize “Sortie” means exit in French and is not, in fact, a part of town.
Many of the best places to eat can be accessed near the Metro. The Great Escape is a happening place to hang out and watch sports. Meanwhile, fine dining is easy to spot everywhere in the city. Though with the prices in Switzerland everything feels like fine dining.
Those prices can be applied to their goods as well. Lausanne has a shopping district that forces you to get an exercise as you have to walk uphill if you want to go from store to store. You welcome the peace of finding a store on level ground to rest and shop and Somebodyisfromhere.com ended up with a Swiss watch and a Swiss Army Knife because he is cliche like that.
French is spoken in Lausanne and Geneva in Western Switzerland. Indeed, France is visible on the other side of Lake Geneva. For reference, German is spoken in Eastern Switzerland towards Zurich.
Switzerland’s most famous athlete is Olympian, among other things, Roger Federer.