Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 12 - Lausanne

Lausanne - home to the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in Switzerland. Work began in 1175, and apparently remains unfinished to this day, although you cannot tell from the splendour and grandour of the church. At one stage of it's history, it was like the mecca of Switzerland, with more than 10 times the population of Lausanne swarming upon the town each year to pay their respects to God.

One of the more interesting facts about the cathedral is that it still employs a nightwatch man. In centuries gone by this was a common feature, with the main job of the watchman to keep an eye out for fires which could easily destroy your average medieval town built mainly of wood. As the years went by, and wood was replaced by stone, most nightwatch men were replaced by telecommunications and local fire authorities. Some forward thinking folks even went crazy and installed those new-fangled smoke detector thingies. Wild times!

But not in Lausanne. Every night their nightwatch man is required to climb up the 153 stairs to the top of the belfry, scan the surrounding countryside for telltale plumes of smoke, and if all is good he then has to yell out at the top of his voice "C'est le guet; il a sonné l'heure!" (this is the nightwatch - the hour has struck).

153 stairs. Even in the middle of winter. Every evening from 10pm until 2am. Poor bloody sod.

Lausanne is also home to what seems, at the time, like the world's most angled shopping strip. If climbing hills of 45 degrees to get your consumer fix is your thing, then Lausanne is the place for you! Except, of course, if you are the nightwatch man. I suspect he's rather over climbing up and down.

1 comment:

  1. Kim Hood12:40 am

    I am thoroughly enjoying my vicarious travels with you. The photographs are wonderful and Grumbles looks like she needs a name change!


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