Yverdon : the town
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The central Place Pestalozzi is dominated by the broad-fronted Louis XV-style Hôtel de Ville and, next to it, the foursquare turreted château, built after 1260 by Pierre II of Savoy, occupied by the Bernese in 1536, and taken by force during the Vaudois revolution in 1798. From 1805 to 1825 the château housed an educational institute set up by the visionary reformer Heinrich Pestalozzi – Yverdon’s schoolchildren continued to be taught within the castle walls right up until 1974. Today it’s the home of the moderately interesting town museum (Tues–Sun: June–Sept 10am–noon & 2–5pm; Oct–May 2–5pm; Fr.6; SMP), for which you can get extensive English notes when you enter. Highlights include the castle chapel (room 2), modernized and now used for marriage services; a couple of impressive Gallo-Roman dugout canoes, on display in a high-tech setting below the doughty keep (room 4); a rather homesick Egyptian mummy in the Jew’s Tower (room 6); and a costume collection in room 7. Room 10 beside the exit is filled with Pestalozzi memorabilia.

Far more engaging, however, is the Maison d’Ailleurs opposite the chateau (“House of Elsewhere”; Wed–Sun 2–5pm; Fr.6; SMP; www.ailleurs.ch). This self-billed “museum of science-fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys”, housed in the old prison, holds a massive collection of some 80,000 items, with several hundred antiquarian books from as early as the fifteenth century (notably a 1631 Amsterdam edition of Thomas More’s Utopia in Latin), and several thousand paperbacks including an array of Asimovs in what seems like all the languages of the world. Recently under new direction, the museum is currently staging a series of changing exhibits on various futuristic themes, combining all kinds of posters, old sci-fi magazines, videos, Web-based material, sketches and unpublished drawings from Hollywood movie designers, and samples from its amazing collection of toys (1950s ray-guns, original Superman dolls, Star Trek and Star Wars figures, and more). You’re welcome to browse through their huge English library, and kick back in their “Giger Cell” – a room kitted out by Aliendesigner H.R. Giger – for a spot of solo literary journeying during the afternoon.

Yverdon is suffixed “-les-Bains” for its spa waters, 14,000-year-old mineral springs bubbling up from 500m below ground and rich with all kinds of curative properties, most notably easing joint pain and helping with respiratory problems. The water emerges at between 28 and 34°C, and is these days corralled into various indoor and outdoor pools about 1km southeast of the Old Town at the Centre Thermal, a state-of-the-art complex off Avenue des Bains (Mon–Fri 8am–10pm, Sat & Sun 9am–8pm; Fr.13). Over a thousand people come here every day to take the waters. Extras include a sauna to yourself (Fr.30), or use of the collective sauna and hammam (Fr.9), as well as massages (from Fr.55) and any amount of physiotherapy and inhalation courses. You can even drink the stuff, bottled and sold around Switzerland as “Arkina”.

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