Morning and early afternoon on Wednesday, August 18 we spent in Fribourg (Freiburg in German). This town is a perfect model for Disney World for adults. It simply has everything.
It is the capital of a canton (like a state in US). It has upper town and a lower town. It ever has a river called La Sarine with steep carved banks on one side. It has a serene covered bridge and other bridges flying high into the skies. It has funiculars and endless stairs. It has an quaint old town and an easy access to a highway. It has multi-hour hiking routes right in the middle of it all. Cozy, narrow street and huge open squares. And reasonable, and available, and sometimes free parking throughout the city.
For us it was the first hidden gem that we found running away from crowds and high prices.
From Hôtel de Ville we drove down a very narrow Alte Brunnengasse to park right down the river near Pont de Saint-Jean. There is a free two hour parking there with a time card.
We decided to take a ride back to upper city on Funicular (2.30 CFR per person) and walk slowly down through narrow streets. They were just setting up shops and a stage for some kind of fair. Lots of activity on the streets. Free restrooms are clearly marked on the city plan. Not a worry on the horizon. Small interesting shops and restaurants are everywhere. It is a pure joy to be an observer and a tourist in a town like this. Our next destination was Montreux [montro:u] on Lake Geneva. The only reason for us to deviate a few miles from our circle was the grave of Nabokov. But one more time, it turns out to be fantastic place to be on your vacation.
We found the cemetery – Cimetière de Clarens – with GPS. We had the exact address printed in advance. But to our surprise no one knew, what we are talking about. No one knew about Nabokov, never heard his name, never knew that he and his wife Vera were resting here since 1977 an 1991 correspondingly.
He was a Russian and an English writer. He never got a Nobel Prize for Literature, but he was waiting for it. Another Russian, a Nobel Prize winner, someone Solzhenitsyn (he was 19 years younger) wrote a letter to Nobel Committee, suggesting Nabokov as an obvious nominee for the prize. Most likely Nabokov was touched and embarrassed at the same time. These two had almost met in hotel here in Montreux.
But can you imagine to live and die in a French-speaking Switzerland? And this is for a Russian and an English writer? For now it means obscurity. For future it means his remains will be moved one day. But, how quickly they forget, especially, if you do not represent their language.
His grave was hard to find. After some time, we spoke to a lady, who apparently was somehow associated with the Cemetery. She returned a minute later with a paper copy of a cemetery guide. Bu even with a guide, we spend good 5-7 minutes more before we finally spotted the famous writer resting place. As I said, writer should die closer to people who spoke his languages. Like Solzhenitsyn did.
And now it was time to find a place to stay – near the lake and under 100 CHF. We found it in Auberge de Jeunesse Montreux. Technically it is located in nearby Territet, but I only realized it now, when examining on the Internet. This Youth Hostel is located right on the lake. Our window was overlooking the lake, plus breakfast, plus only 4 people in the room. Plus free 5 hours parking with a time card. And all this for only 68CFH for both of us. That is my king of place.
What is amazing about Montreux is a complete absence of elitism and exclusivity. In many expensive resorts, you might notice, the closer you get to the water, the more condense the choking atmosphere of lush exuberance. No so in Montreux. The entire lake shore is open for public, and people are free to stroll and enjoy. It is care free, it is mild, it is inspiring. And to complete the picture, it is surrounded by mountains. It is a true paradise right in the middle of Europe.
Next morning we reset time on our time card on the car dashboard, and took a long walk along the Geneva lake. On the way we visited local CASINO – excellent restroom. We found their Tourist Info Office, and discovered even more interesting places to go for our next trip here. One of them was Rochers-de-Naye Via Ferrata. You would need to take a cog train to reach the beginning of the trail.
At the very center of the city, there is a shiny oversized hotel with bright yellow awnings – Le Montreux Palace Hotel. Nabokov lived here for 16 years. Front desk didn’t tell us the room number on the fifth floor, because it is currently being used by regular guests. Inside the hotel, it is a regular old, dark, stuffy place, almost like Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.
Outside, across the street, there is a hot shade-less green lawn with a lake view. Here you’ll find some statues of famous hotel guests, and Nabokov is here too looking for inspiration on a leaning chair.
Back on the road, we did not make any stops except at a Migros (local supermarket chain). Second time we are passing Lausanne and second time we are just flying through it. Next stop was Genève. We drove a lot in the city. We couldn’t find tourist info. We saw The Fountain several times from different angles. We crossed the river several times. We turned off GPS and almost give up. Finally, we found a parking, picked a city map at local SIXT branch and checked into youth hostel – Auberge de Jeunesse Genève – for 101 CHF. We’ve got our room on the sixth floor with a balcony, and a bit of the fountain view, and very narrow garage parking for 10 CHF extra. We ate at an Indian restaurant Little India for 39.50 CHF.