In my second weekend in a new city, in a new country, I don’t know many people. But I refuse to just sit around doing nothing, so I planned a little adventure – nothing crazy, but far-flung, and – tá súil agam – a model for future behaviour.
Because I want an adventure…
Last week, having been invited for drinks by new work colleagues, I was chatting to some people I had just met. I was quizzing them on Bern’s seeming tranquility and whether anything trendy lay beneath the surface. As a joke I asked:
“Does Bern have a cool underground jazz scene, or anything…?”
One of those present, visiting from Lausanne, perhaps (but thankfully) taking my question too literally informed me that there was
, indeed, an entire jazz festival taking place just outside Lausanne the following week
, much of which was held underground; it was literally under the ground, dans les caves
– wine cellars in the village open up to the public and invite in bands. I didn’t need any more convincing that this was cool! The idea germinated during my first work week.
When Friday rolled around, despite some theoretical interest, no one was able to accompany me, so this would be a solo mission. Can I survive alone in rural Switzerland? One of the safest countries in the world? Yes (it turns out).
I did go to a book shop around the corner on Langässestrasse to get a cheap paperback to read and save my phone battery on the long solo journey. I got Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, appropriate given his impending 400th deathday anniversary.
I left at 5.30, just missed am earlier train from Bern main station, but got the 18.09 to Lausanne. It was raining and cold (unwelcome). At Lausanne, there were lots of soldiers in uniform with guns going home for the weekend – this is apparently nothing to be concerned about, according to my Swiss sources, but it is odd to see in contrast to Ireland. I waited here to change to the train to Grandvaux, one of the two stations that service the town of Cully, but which had more connections to get home if I needed to leave late.
I arrived at the bare platform at the top of a hill, looking down over the expanse of Lake Geneva (or perhaps I should say Lac Léman)! It is vast. There was meant to be a “car postale” connecting Grandvaux to Cully station, but I couldn’t see where it left from so I started walking… I could see the town below, how hard could it be! Pathways wound through what appeared to be fields and fields of bare vines…
I got a little lost in the maze of houses and vineyards and had to use GPS to find myself and then find some way to get down the steep, steep paths to the town without going on the winding roads which lacked footpaths. This was the point I realised that perhaps travelling 100 km with little research on my own in a new country in the drizzle might have had risks associated…. But in the end, I found the way downwards (and decided I would definitely take the free shuttle bus back uphill!) into the lovely jolie ville de Cully.
This French speaking town had been taken over by jazz. It reminded me of Miltown Malbay’s trad music festival, the Willie Clancy summer school
– except Swiss, and jazz (and
better served by public transport). It seems every business was open this Friday evening with a yellow bucket hung over the door indicating of it sold food, drink, had music, etc
. It was very well organised and signposted. I wandered around to get a feel of what was where. The town was full of enthusiastic people from all countries and there is still a week to go. In “Le Club
” tent, I saw the first act of the festival: Serbian quartet of rocky jazzmen, Eyot
(drums, bass, singing guitar and keys). Very good!
I wandered off when they finished and finally stumbled on the oldest building in town, Caveau Potterat, a quaint wine cellar/cave, which was packed with people. I squeezed in the door just in time to hear the start of “Swiss Yerba“, an old school jazz outfit that sounded straight out of a ’30s swing record: trombone, tuba, upright bass, banjo, trumpet, clarinet, scat singing and piano. I wanted to dance to the great tunes, but could barely move. People were everywhere, nearly hanging from the roof beams. This gig was in demand!
I eventually left to sample what else was on offer. I was hungry, so I got a beef baguette (with Parmesan topping, rocket, dried tomatoes, etc). It was 12CHF (! – I’m still getting used to the relative cost of things), but delicious and totally worth it. I then wandered into Das Schlagzeug and caught the end of a really out-there ‘ambient/experimental’ group (Trio Heinz Herbert) who stretched what I thought the definition of jazz was. However, I am certainly no expert! They were clearly working very hard to create the soundscape and rhythms they produced, but it wasn’t for me – too modern! Certainly showed the range of the festival – indeed ‘every type of jazz covered’. At this point, around 10 pm, everything seemed to be finishing up. So I went to the station, caught the postal bus up the long hill to Grandvaux and waited for the first of many trains to bring me homewards from my adventure. I was impressed with my memory of school French, being able to use it make inquiries with the bus, order food and drink and generally get around. If only my German (which is spoken in the city I now live in) was on par! Something to work on in the coming weeks. I got home at 2 am, 200 km round-trip completed -thoroughly satisfied and exhausted. I call that a successful micro-adventure.